WONDER

streetIn reading The Spell of the Sensuous, I am re-learning wonder. Our back yard has become a wonderland, a menagerie. I sit cross-legged on the floor of our Great Room with its larger-than-life picture windows, drinking tea, a foot from a window I have opened just enough to hear the sounds from the bird feeders just three feet on the other side. It is pouring rain, and thunder is rumbling across the sky. I am watching a grey squirrel and three black squirrels, a chipmunk, a rabbit, a noisy group of six grackles, puffing themselves up to twice normal size as they announce themselves at the top of the feeder stand, two lovely epauletted redwing blackbirds, two house finches, two mourning doves, a crow, a tiny nuthatch, a slate-coloured junco, a cardinal, and a multitude of chickadees and sparrows. They each respect and respond to the pecking order of their own species, but seem to ignore the other species, getting within inches of each other as they jockey for open perches on the feeders and the prime space below the feeders where seed is scattered by those above.

I am learning to hear not only the sounds of each species, but the distinctive sounds of each creature. The cardinal is pecking for seeds half-heartedly in the grass, well picked over by the earlier visitors that morning. A few feet away, the junco digs vigourously in the grass, unearthing seeds packed down over the winter. The cardinal watches, head cocked, at this strange behaviour, but a few minutes later I see it, too, scratching in the grass, comically, clumsily, successfully, the morning’s new lesson learned.

The grey squirrel and the black squirrels took only a few weeks to master the squirrel baffle, but did so differently. The grey squirrel leaps up on the baffle, wraps his paws around the feeder pole, and steadies himself before pulling himself up onto the wooden feeeder. By contrast, the black squirrels take a long running leap, clear the baffle and scramble paw-over-paw to the top of the feeder pole, then climb head first down the polycarbonate feeder, suspend themselves at an angle from the top perch using their hind paws and scoop the sunflower seeds from the lower openings into their mouths with their front paws. Between them, they made short work of the earlier, plastic feeders, the chewed pieces of which I still find all over the yard. But now I watch one black squirrel spin his paw deliberately and repeatedly clockwise on the lower perch, deftly unscrewing the metal feeder insert from its polycarbonate cylindrical backing, taking no more than a minute to wind the metal nut along the full two inches of thread, and then prying out the metal insert and exposing the now much-more-accessible seeds to himself, many of them tumbling out onto the heads of his family waiting below. Yesterday I found three of the four metal inserts on the ground, and the metal nuts scattered nearby. I thought I had tightened the nuts well when I reassembled the feeder last night, but obviously tonight I will need to use a wrench. I still have it relatively easy — my neighbour has had his feeder pole, which he had triple-braced and pounded two feet into the ground, systematically toppled by a pair of industrious raccoons in less than fifteen minutes. And another neighbour’s beautiful handmade wood feeder was destroyed by a pair of clumsy, amorous, fifty-pound wild turkeys which decided to perform their mating dance on top of it.

The thunder is loud, almost continuous, and somewhat alarming to me in its volume, especially since under the low thick grey clouds no lightning penetrates to warn of the next crash. But while the squirrels don’t seem to be crazy about the heavy rain, and scatter for cover in the nearby spruce trees, the birds are oblivious to the bluster, and one of the finches splashes joyously in a puddle. For crows, communal bathing is a favoured social activity, accompanied by a variety of ritual behaviours including end-over-end aerial manouevers, claws locked together in a wondrous sky-dance.

When you can’t imagine, you can do anything. You can end the world.

If we could imagine, really imagine, what it was like to be a crow, soaring above the world, care-free, astonishingly aware, senses alive in a way that we bored, distracted, abstracted, sensually dulled humans can no longer conceive, if we could put ourselves in the claws of a corvid, surrender to the spell of the sensuous, we could never return to, never again tolerate, the imaginative poverty, the prison that our culture has captured us in. If we could free ourselves from that, if we could imagine such an utterly different way to live, to really live, what could we do? What would we do?

I wonder…

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4 Responses to WONDER

  1. Keiko says:

    I think I’ve been living that way, like your crow, as that was one of the reasons to move out of New York. I’ve been painting on sight, spending hours and hours in one spot, in the woods and in the field, sharing the space with all creatures. Not surprisingly, it induces a trans-like state, almost like Nirvana where I feel I have died and my soul is floating and dispersing in the air. But it’s not the bucolic peacefullness that you might imagine a plein-air painter experiences. It is intensely blissful AND scary and deeply disturbing. It makes me realize we are but a speck in the history of the earth, and there is so much, so much out there that none of us will ever even get a glimpse of. At the same time, I feel an intense pleasure in giving myself in completely to the surrounding universe.I have traded many things in order to place myself in this state. I have no job, money or security. I don’t imagine many people are willing to do that… (nor would I recommend it.)As for my bird feeder, I had to take it down because a bear kept visiting it!Thank you for your insight.

  2. Jon Husband says:

    Hi, Dave. I have found wandering around in Europe for three-plus weeks has done wonders for my sense of wonder. I shouldn’t be surprised – the same thing has happened to me before.What I marvel at is that in certain places there is an obvious capability with effiiciency when and where it is bnecessary, very nicely balanced with a good sense of the rhythyms of daily life and the importance of conversation and connection.I am truly fearful of the unmitigated and unmediated focus on efficiency and productivity in North America – which I think is actually camouflaged by an over-earnest search for formulas (and simplified formulaic language – “Best Practices” for example, an excellent concept often misused, or a Balanced Scorecard without a Strategy Implementation Map).Time, wonderment, and acknowledging that in the long term sociology trumps technology, efficiency and productivity – this is what I notive when I practice “me depayser” (taking myself out of my usual context).I remeber your posts expressing admireation/fondness for the Netherlands – I have just spent two weeks wandering throughout almost all of Amsterdam, inner ring and outer ring, walking and talking with people. What a civilized plavce – we North Americans are really so barbaric with our continuous emphasis on “what can you do for me” transactional mentalities.

  3. Indigo Ocean says:

    I wish I had read this entry before I responded to your last one. Dave, you do have a sense of the sensuous. Are you kidding? This piece carries the magic of the “good story” you were seeking in another entry and it does so because the writer of the story, you, hold within you the magic. If you write the story from that magical place within yourself, you will touch and ignite that within the reader. What is unfolds to be will be different for each reader, but the spark is carried by the writer — or not.The transformative magic of the sensuous is carried by this entry because it is a part of you. Perhaps your challenge is not in experiencing this as your entry of 4/21//04 suggested, but rather in framing the experience in a manner that fulfills you. At least, I’m not sure now what your disatisfaction was with your ability to connect with life sensuously. It seems there in you, from my point of view.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Keiko: Thank you for sharing this. Readers, please check out Keiko’s great new Salon blog. How did it ever escape my attention for so long?Jon: Isn’t Holland wonderful?! Every time I visit I come home refreshed, more open, believing that perhaps making civilization work isn’t impossible after all.Indigo: Thanks for continuing our discussion of this offline. For those who haven’t discovered her site, Indigo is a New Age therapist who, unlike many of those who promote and hawk ‘alternative’ ways of healing, has done her homework and assessed and combined alternatives that work, and are powerfully transformational. She’s earned the title ‘professional’. I am hoping to learn much more from her.

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