Be present with your want of a Deity and you shall be present with the Deity. Thomas Traherne
Sometimes I lose you. Say you are a puppy and I’ve left the door ajar. Or I’m due someplace and can’t remember where. In my sticky-uppy hair and ripped work shirt, I ransack the place to find my datebook. Gone. Or I’ve dropped my glasses and I’m crawling on all fours to swab the floor with outstretched hands. I mop blindly, my heart stuttering with fear.
Don’t tell me you are not a puppy. I know. You’re not some destination. But I want to tell you what it’s like to hunt, although the words are clumsy. Vapor. What it comes to: You are the sky, the boat, the oars, the water. You are the soul that longs to row and you’re the rower.
First, use four similes to describe the lake: Grinnell Lake is like . . . a threshold . . . a turquoise . . . wings arching open . . . a nest.
+++ At the end of the boardwalk over red-rock streams, beyond the suspension bridge, the waterfall, the long hike, my feet on fire empty into the lake: home. Icy aqua iridescence, perfection of mountains, these trees.
Now use four metaphors: the lake is . . . reality . . . exquisite balance . . . a window . . . a cup filled with sky.
+++ In the lobby of the grand hotel miles below hang beautifully framed old photos. Grinnell Glacier, a wisp above us now, was enormous a century ago, its lake many times smaller.
How can we protect the earth but by drawing close, by falling in love? The lake is the glacier melting too fast. The lake is the waters from Jesus’ pierced side. The lake is the face of the love that saves us. How can we love the earth but by falling . . . in?
There’s not much I don’t know about you— yellow, red, sweet—grubbed up roots and all. Essential for a vigorous cuisine, alerting the sense—the crackle of your paper brown outer skin, your translucent inner sheaths like vegetable undergarments, your pungent heat rising from sharp steel and cutting board to my blurred eyes, your precise circles against the wood, before the sizzle in the buttered pan.
Reluctant to relinquish our intimacy your sharp essence clings to my fingers, like a reputation. Hours later, in the dark, you season the air around my hands, I’ll stud you with stars of cloves to bury in the belly of the bird before roasting. Or nestle your pearls with a stalk of mint among the green peas. If I leave you too long in the pantry, your patience exhausted, attenuated, soft at the center, you send up green spears through the mesh bag that call out chop me, make a salad, I am delicious.
How do I interpret my own layered membranes, like growth rings? I try to peel away the layers of my onion heart, never getting all the way in.
No one understood my nightly need to be reassured I’d wake up again the next day. Eyes closed, I saw no sheep but the tufts of pampas grass looming silver like a solitary path. The scroll hung above me, a verse in five and seven, its flowing hand thin and illegible—I still knew it was about our life not lasting very long. How is it that adults were okay with such a prospect? In July, bamboo blades rustled against paper cranes and prayer strips; I wondered how I’d made the cut, when I wasn’t a boy my father wanted, wasn’t a koi princess my mother said would magically turn her tail into a pair of legs. I looked for the fabled rabbits on the moon, a family of them taking turns to pound rice into pearly cakes along their dark, elliptical orbit.
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).