“Everything “human” seems to drift away…” — Peter Handke, Crossing the Sierra de Gredos.
My mom sent me an email saying, “Sending a story for the month of June . . . If you like it, you might write a commentary — nihilist, anarchist, whatever. . .”
I guess she thinks I’m an anarchist or a nihilist, which is true and not. I mean, if a nihilist believes in nothing, I’m actually sort of the opposite. I believe in everything.
Of course, as a writer, and amongst my writer pals, we joke, “People are always coming up to me and telling me what I should write about. Like I don’t have my own ideas.” But this time, I sort of thought, why am I not writing what my mom tells me to write? I mean, if I’m an anarchist, why do I have this idea of status and hierarchy where my projects are somehow more important than another project? Why do I feel my lifetime of devotion to writing as a means to understand the world and myself in it somehow means that what I have to write is better? I mean. . . seriously, I’m laughing about that right now!
So here is Emily’s story.
I want to tell you about an unusual experience I have had with dragonflies. First, I present a passage (condensed) from Peter Handke (writer of the movie “Wings of Desire” about angels incarnating on Earth), reference below.
“she, the large human being, had been standing there motionless for some time, and then the small flying creature, the dragonfly, was hovering there in the air, directly opposite her…, both pairs of wings whirring so rapidly that they remained invisible…, eyeing her…, coming closer to her from minute to minute and ultimately drawing her into the dragonfly planet…” (I will call this dragonfly Dragonfly One)
Sitting in my beach chair at Lake St. Catherine last week, I am reading these words and look toward the lake. “Dragonfly planet” is orbiting in my mind. Suddenly a dragonfly, let us say, Dragonfly Two, appears out of the greenery close to the water, hovers in front of me for five or six seconds and flits back into hiding. Then appears again, and again and again, each time closer, hovering eye to eye. Then, as tour de force, Dragonfly Two flits out to perform a perfect “loop-the-loop” before my eyes, 30 degrees from the horizontal. Dragonfly Two has re-enacted and embellished the story I had just read.
There is more! Several days later I am sitting with a book club friend in my backyard under the shade of a large lilac shrub. Over my head a clothesline runs from the house to the shrub. I read aloud the dragonfly passage from Handke’s book, adding to it my experience at the lake. My friend watches me with unusual attention, even fascination. As I finish, she says, “Do you know there is a dragonfly over your head?” I lean back and look upwards beyond the brim of my large sun hat. Yes, on the clothesline just above my head is Dragonfly Three, who my friend assures me, has been there for the entire dragonfly reading and storytelling.
In a letter to R.H. Reynolds in 1818, John Keats wrote, “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us — and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject.”
I’ve been thinking about this idea of “subject.” In my own work I’ve been reading about light. Is it a particle or a wave? And I’ve been thinking about the miraculous poetry of our lives. Isn’t the phrase “poetry in motion” redundant? And aren’t we, and everything else in the universe inexplicably particle and wave form? Martin Buber said, “All life is encounter.” If so, then aren’t we a continuous dynamic encounter with all particles in a wave form like some crosshatch pattern across the oceans of the universe? And then aren’t we a dragonfly doing our best to holding on?