we shall not cease from exploration / and the end of our exploring / will be to arrive where we started / and know the place for the first time.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Hungry Eyes, Hungry Mind
A tired pile of student quizzes lies haphazard, halfway read on the desk in front of me. I yawn large and the back of my head touches the headrest of my too-comfortable chair. Though I am surrounded by colleagues, I lose consciousness for a moment, and start back into awakeness, unaware whether it's been five minutes or fifty. The third cup of coffee did not have the effect I had hoped; it is time for more drastic measures. Make it bright, dazzling, and cold.
In one dramatic swoop, I leap up and grab my coat with the hope that the bright, stinging cold of the outdoors will revive me. As it happens, it does - but not only this. Rather, it awakens of the eyes of my heart, goads me to beauty-hunger again. It takes just a taste of it, and my appetite is back again to raging. The framing of a single leaf by the white winter rays. A pussy willow stalk, half consumed by swirling autumn winds brings to my mind the other day- when all the air was downy with their shedding summer coat in the park. It had been like a warm autumn snowstorm, flurrying over the marshlands of Loring Park. Oh, how I wish I would take the long way home more often.
The swelling on one plant looks familiar, but I cannot recall why exactly. I see it, and the impression on my mind is that there must be a bug inside somehow. Why do I think this? A bit of knowledge planted long ago, as it happens - like the grub of the gallfly, who plants his seeds deep in this plant and lets it swell in reponse. I pull up a chair next to a fellow teacher after my brisk, brief adventure outdoors and he reminds me of the story. Yes, this is a goldenrod plant, that's what I had recalled. I get new details, too. Apparently, the larvae of the gallfly secretes a substance which functions almost like a localized steroid, creating the abnormal growth that we see. He also takes advantage of the warmer autumn days to dig a tunnel of escape for the springtime through the bulge - a backdoor, since he'll be too sleepy and weak come next spring. Finally, he releases an antifreeze substance from his body, which insulates his winter home. Wouldn't that be something - if we could skip the Home Depot trip and just open our mouth and shoot out window insulation film over our windows?
We ended up dissecting it on my desk and found the grub (which unfortunately arrested the fly's life cycle, but helped my own along). It had already dug a tunnel through almost to the outside, but not quite breaking through. We marveled at the spongy, corky structure, the thought, the design so intricate.
Sometimes you just have to push aside the piles of paper that you think are necessary in order to doing something immediate and beautiful.