May 7, 2005

startling beauty

Today the sun set behind clouds without spectacle or color. The white sky faded through a gray gradient over the lush green of the golf course while we sat inside enjoying freshly cut tenderloin and chocolate covered strawberries and sharp conversation with elegantly casual, newly met friends. I lamented the pending lack of a sunset, and the bartender agreed and pointed out that often it is very nice from their windows. She stood facing the bar and me, her back to the gray sky.

As these things often do, this dinner became a long exercise in listening to one particular person discuss how wonderful and clever she believed herself to be. I already was engaged in enduring a mild stomach ailment and didn't really want to talk anyway, so I persevered in silence, sneaking glances at the darkening grayness outside, the occasional putter finishing the 18th green, and the low necklines of the women at nearby tables. Smiles and knowing nods kept the words flowing from across the tablecloth.

Short, squat cups arrived just after the used plates departed, and shortly coffee was brought to give them something to hold. Mine stood like a coliseum, a faded ivory bowl on a white field with glass votives sparkling on either side. Steam waltzed with the candlelight upward until both dissipated into the faded, watery twilight. Motionless and deep brown, reflecting the overhead lights in its shallow stillness, the coffee waited and released its flow of gray-white steam, not unlike a panther with eyes half-closed, twitching its tail in a tree.

I was startled. I had arrived marveling at the enormous view and disappointed that I would not see sweeping crimsons and pinks and lavenders across the sky. I sat now with an intense, lustrous beauty of white and brown and glass and fire and stillness and motion, all within inches of me, covering no more than perhaps a square foot of cloth. In that moment of awe, in that instant when simple, mundane things reveal their utmost essence all at once, that is like touching God, swimming in Nature, seeing the Tao.

tracks in the tall grass
deer feet tramp them down at night
not unlike canyons

No comments: