The Earth is the Lord’s


I chew a cigarette outside while waiting for water to a boil in a blue pot on an electric stove. Squirrels and robins surround in jittery flits that make me feel like a cartoon princess. Traffic hums by in street quaking fashion, and old men whistle at pretty girls crossing the street. It’s morning. Lick the dew off my chin. Feel the clothes against my arms. Rub the back of my hand against my face.  Morning. Sunlight drips to the earth and collects in pools at my feet. I toe it, lap it up, paint stripes of it under my eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made, I will hoist it up, fly it from a branch, be glad in it. Witness the world.

Color! I have a friend named Dylan who once asked me once if I thought we would ever be able to create new colors. I told him that I didn’t think that was really a color question as much as an eye question. “Then,” he asked, “Will we ever be able to create new eyes?” 

I take to a cup of boiled coffee in my apartment nook of bay windows, looking out over a sleepy intersection peopled with dog-walkers, cop-dodgers, and skinny kids with bikes. There’s a pizza place. There’s a Mexican market. There’s a hair salon and a pastry shop. A blue bike is tethered to a street light with rope. There’s a row of apartments with neighbors who I know or don’t. Dave sits on his front steps, drinking scotch out of a coffee mug. Carla’s on her porch, watering plants out of a teapot. The Ferguson’s are bundled up on their lawn chairs, hacking great yellow blobs of phlegm into their front yard. There’s a homeless man milling on the corner who I have not seen before. I take note, because I have some experience with the homeless. There is also an older girl holding hands with a younger one, plucking dandelions.

And we are, all of us, separate strands strung down to God Himself. God spins and spins, twisting our strings, winding us together into a fine, firm cord.

Everything is outside this window! I gulp in great gulps, I cram it all into my eyeballs, looking out and seeing it. Nothing is boring in a miracle, nothing beneath my notice. See bricks instead of a brick wall. See air instead of empty space. See branches instead of trees, twigs instead of branches, buds instead of twigs. See the world in pieces, a billion tiny pieces, and the stuff of it is so hard.

When I was young, I amused myself on car trips by picking the tiniest detail from the oncoming scenery and focusing all my attention on it – an askew shaft of pussywillow or an askew sprig of grass. It thrilled me to think that no one had ever done just this before, had never given such rapt attention to this single, particular nook of creation. We’d drive by it at seventy miles an hour, and my eyes fastened on a twig as if hooked by a line, and I smiled.

I learned later that Hassidic Jews do something similar. Creation can be hallowed, goes the thinking, by exercising just the sort of focus of will that I was mustering as a boy. Concentrate with your very spirit on a thing, any thing, and it can – under some conditions – be redeemed from the mediocrity of the mortal coil. There may be something to that, but a question: just what in creation itself is not already hallowed?

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