I just survived the Great Blizzard of 2016 from a cabin atop a mountain in western North Carolina. When the snow and wind stopped we emerged into a soft, untouched world. Tall snow-heavy pines. Layers of Blue Ridge mountains now white. Silent.
Two days later I could finally drive down the mountain to a friend’s home and there, on the twisting creekside road, two red cardinals suddenly crossed in front of my car. Piercing red. An event lasting no longer than two seconds.
I should mention that I am currently artistically lost. Me, who once gave lectures on what to do when lost. I am more than lost. Psychically molting, I am the lobster who has outgrown a shell and shivers naked behind the coral arch, waiting for something dreadful to happen, or, in more hopeful moments, the caterpillar turned to mush with absolutely no brain to even invent a conception of the future. Every assured being amazes me—tree, bird, human—how can anything have such strength, bones, shell, wings, purpose?
Those two seconds of red birds flashing magic in front of my car’s first post-blizzard trip pierce this mush. But, I argue, what will it possibly matter if I try to put words to this tiny, tiny, startling moment?
Cardinals’ wings cross,
quick red threads stitch tree to tree
on snowbed’s white quilt.
Later, THIS quote crosses my Facebook (oh, inadequacy!) feed:
“The world is full of magic things
patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
In the dark the mush tremors slightly.
So I try again:
Startled red wings cross—
two sudden cardinal threads
stitching winter’s quilt.
Yes. Yeats speaks to ME on Facebook, of all godforsaken places.
Artist wakes artist.
I suddenly realize:
This is what we do to form the long bucket brigade to save each other.
Red flashes, flick, flick,
Two cardinal threads cross-stitch
The slow falling snow.
This is the advice I heard deep inside the molting mush: forget everything, every longing for meaning or contribution, for riches, for applause. Simply do this:
Grow your senses sharper.
Yeats told me. On Facebook.