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QUINTESSENCE

Breathing Time


Much happens when we're not there.
Many trees, not only that famous one, over and over,
fall in the forest. We don't see, but something sees,
or someone, a different kind of someone,
a different molecular model, or entities
not made of molecules anyway; or nothing, no one:
but something has taken place, taken space,
been present, absent,
returned. Much moves in and out of open windows
when our attention is somewhere else,
just as our souls move in and out of our bodies sometimes.
Everyone used to know this,
but for a hundred years or more
we've been losing our memories...
- from "Window-Blind," Denise Levertov

It seems to me that we breathe time. That time is partly the stuff of oxygen, water to the amphibious, sun to the chlorophyll-seeking leaf. Heedless of from where or whence the abundant moments pass, we breathe in, exhale what is now past, and move on.

I was running beneath the maple trees this morning - towering expansive ancients that guard the park allees, in the French style, along the gentle climb up the South Hill. I felt myself inhaling the openness of life as I traveled the shady streets. My heart pumped blood, my legs and muscles propelled me through dimensional space: in and out I breathed the quiet trees. Today's poem, the beginning of a work by Denise Levertov, came to mind as I passed through pools of cool shade, hot white sun. More moves in and out of us than we are aware. I breathe the maples: their leaves breathe me. Earth and water filter across a slim unknown in which everything, a revolving door of shape-changing molecules, shares custody of this experience we call life.

I continued my run and my feet struck the hard pavement, aware of the rebuff of manmade surfaces. The difference in the way my feet traveled earth the week before, running the giving dirt along the lake shore, jumping roots of towering pines, following the twist of deer trail. Never alone but held in the organic equation of nature. On the asphalt the equation changed, I became solitary, making my way across the surface of a road designed to stand fast against change, against the erosion of time. No longer in the solar stream, the flow of ions through my body, time passing through beats of heart and muscle and thought. It felt lonely to leave the trees for the vaulted and impenetrable constructions of anti-time.

An ocean of time. Breath propels consciousness as we consume life in awareness, in sleep, in lovemaking, laughter, sobs in a darkened room. Draw life deep to the core as trees do. Exhale. Again. An unlimited ribbon of gilded molecules loop through us and out to the stars. Breathe.

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