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QUINTESSENCE

Adjectives of Scale


Basho said: avoid adjectives of scale, you will love the world more and desire it less.
- from "Vintage," Robert Hass, Human Wishes, 1989

Outside my window is a world that of late I have classified in terms of weather. Partly in restless frustration with the challenges of winter. The days like today I can not run outside, impossible in snow-cone slush 8 inches deep down the streets. Winter is just so extravagant in her moods. When I think about the line of Basho quoted in the Robert Hass poem, I am reminded that the twin Sybils of hyperbole and grandiosity dilute the subtleties of what actually is. It is this last idea - to see, appreciate, and love what is - that speaks to me. Winter is outside my door. In a forceful palette of fog, ice, snow and cold, the many shades of white and gray force me to look more closely. To see what is really there. The red berry. The speckled Harrier hawk at the bird feeder, how the icicle reflects light like a frozen waterfall.

Adjectives of scale. We might speak of love. How the gentle comfortableness of long and nubby love feels like a well-worn sweater, hugging the heart with familiarity and belonging. The Velveteen Rabbit is perhaps the virtue of being loved by and loving "what is." Love is not a show of strength. Love displays itself not just in flushed cheeks and shades of rose, but in kitchen burns and paper cuts, gray hairs and tired backs. The fresh cup of coffee set by your elbow. I believe we find joy when we begin first with accepting what is, and then finding what this means to us. From there, understanding unfolds in a path of quiet gratitudes. Love the world more and desire it less. Words that settle me in the center of a patient heart.
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