The way God squandered Himself had always hurt her; and annoyed her too. The sky full of wings and only the shepherds awake. That golden voice speaking and only a few fishermen there to hear; and perhaps some of the words He spoke carried away on the wind or lost in the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the boat. A thousand blossoms shimmering over the orchard, each a world of wonder all to itself, and then the whole thing blown away on a southwest gale as though the delicate little worlds were of no value at all. Well, of all the spendthrifts, she would think and then pull herself up. It was not for her to criticize the ways of Almighty God; if He liked to go to all that trouble over the snowflakes, millions and millions of them, their intricate patterns too small to be seen by human eyes, and melting as soon as made, that was His affair and not hers. All she could do about it was to catch in her window, and save from entire waste, as much of the squandered beauty as she could.
--Suddenly the bus driverstops with a jolt,turns off his lights.A moose has come out ofthe impenetrable woodand stands there, looms, rather,in the middle of the road.It approaches; it sniffs atthe bus's hot hood.Towering, antlerless,high as a church,homely as a house(or, safe as houses).A man's voice assures us'Perfectly harmless. . . .'Some of the passengersexclaim in whispers,childishly, softly,'Sure are big creatures.''It's awful plain.''Look! It's a she!'Taking her time,she looks the bus over,grand, otherworldly.Why, why do we feel(we all feel) this sweetsensation of joy?'Curious creatures,'says our quiet driver,rolling his r's.'Look at that, would you.'Then he shifts gears.For a moment longer,by craning backward,the moose can be seenon the moonlit macadam;then there's a dimsmell of moose, an acridsmell of gasoline.
Time and time again I am astounded by the regularity and repetition of form in this valley and elsewhere in wild nature: basic patterns, sculpted by time and the land, appearing everywhere I look. The twisted branches in the forest that look so much like the forked antlers of the deer and elk. The way the glacier-polished hillside boulders look like the muscular, rounded bodies of the animals- deer, bear- that pass among these boulders like loving ghosts. The way the swirling deer hair is the exact shape and size of the larch and pine needles the deer hair lies upon one it is torn loose and comes to rest on the forest floor. As if everything up here is leaning in the same direction, shaped by the same hands, or the same mind; not always agreeing or in harmony, but attentive always to the same rules of logic and in the playing-out, again and again, of the infinite variations of specificity arising from that one shaping system of logic an incredible sense of community develops…Felt at night when you stand beneath the stars and see the shapes and designs of bears and hunters in the sky; felt deep in the cathedral of an old forest, when you stare up at the tops of the swaying giants; felt when you take off your boots and socks and wade across the river, sensing each polished, mossy stone with your bare feet. Felt when you stand at the edge of the marsh and listen to the choral uproar of the frogs, and surrender to their shouting, and allow yourself, too, like those pine needles and that deer hair, like those branches and those antlers, to be remade, refashioned into the shape and the pattern and the rhythm of the land. Surrounded, and then embraced, by a logic so much more powerful and overarching than anything that a man or woman could create or even imagine that all you can do is marvel and laugh at it, and feel compelled to give, in one form or another, thanks and celebration for it, without even really knowing why…
Think of a globe, a revolving globe on a stand. Think of a contour globe, whose mountain ranges cast shadows, whose continents rise in bas-relief above the oceans. But then: think of how it really is. These heights are just suggested; they’re there….when I think of walking across a continent I think of all the neighborhood hills, the tiny grades up which children drag their sleds. It is all so sculptured, three-dimensional, casting a shadow. What if you had an enormous globe that was so huge it showed roads and houses- a geological survey globe, a quarter of a mile to an inch- of the whole world, and the ocean floor! Looking at it, you would know what had to be left out: the free-standing sculptural arrangement of furniture in rooms, the jumble of broken rocks in the creek bed, tools in a box, labyrinthine ocean liners, the shape of snapdragons, walrus. Where is the one thing you care about in earth, the molding of one face? The relief globe couldn’t begin to show trees, between whose overlapping boughs birds raise broods, or the furrows in bark, where whole creatures, creatures easily visible, live our their lives and call it world enough. What do I make of all this texture? What does it mean about the kind of world in which I have been set down? The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is a possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek.
Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a world to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light…unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous…we don’t know what’s going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.
Entering by a wide gateway, but without gates, into an inner court,surrounded on all sides by great marble pillars supporting galleriesabove, I saw a large fountain of porphyry in the middle, throwingup a lofty column of water, which fell, with a noise as of the fusionof all sweet sounds, into a basin beneath; overflowing which, it raninto a single channel towards the interior of the building. Althoughthe moon was by this time so low in the west, that not a ray of herlight fell into the court, over the height of the surrounding buildings; yet was the court lighted by a second reflex from the sun ofother lands. For the top of the column of water, just as it spread tofall, caught the moonbeams, and like a great pale lamp, hung highin the night air, threw a dim memory of light (as it were) over thecourt below.