Music of the Spheres

The Silence of the Stars

When Laurens van der Post one night
In the Kalahari Desert told the Bushmen
He couldn’t hear the stars
Singing, they didn’t believe him. They looked at him,
Half-smiling. They examined his face
To see whether he was joking
Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
Who plant nothing, who have almost
Nothing to hunt, who live
On almost nothing, and with no one
But themselves, led him away
From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
And stood with him under the night sky
And listened. One of them whispered,
Do you not hear them now?
And Van der Post listened, not wanting
To disbelieve, but had to answer,
No. They walked him slowly
Like a sick man to the small dim
Circle of firelight and told him
They were terribly sorry,
And he felt even sorrier
For himself and blamed his ancestors
For their strange loss of hearing,
Which was his loss now. On some clear nights
When nearby houses have turned off their televisions,
When the traffic dwindles, when through streets
Are between sirens and the jets overhead
Are between crossings, when the wind
Is hanging fire in the fir trees,
And the long-eared owl in the neighboring grove
Between calls is regarding his own darkness,
I look at the stars again as I first did
To school myself in the names of constellations
And remember my first sense of their terrible distance,
I can still hear what I thought
At the edge of silence where the inside jokes
Of my heartbeat, my arterial traffic,
The C above high C of my inner ear, myself
Tunelessly humming, but now I know what they are:
My fair share of the music of the spheres
And clusters of ripening stars,
Of the songs from the throats of the old gods
Still tending even tone-deaf creatures
Through their exiles in the desert.

[from Traveling Light, by David Waggoner]

No Foraging Friday today. I am busy foraging in the kitchen for essentials and looking for my luggage. We are headed up to Shasta County, where I can’t wait to fall into the arms of SUMMER. I will baptize myself in Whiskeytown Lake, ingest a cleansing diet of Northern California beer, do my best to keep Leo away from the 80 billion foxtails, wash my bones in the Pitt River, dream with my better half of the most abundant future we desire and introduce Fern to the wonders of playing in a sprinkler.

At night, if it ever comes during these long mid-summer days, I hope to drink in the celestial music and let my soul leap from one point of light to another.

See you on Tuesday. Happy Father’s Day and Summer Solstice!

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4 thoughts on “Music of the Spheres

  1. i love that song, i found it while i was still in cali and it always reminds me of the few good parts about living there. πŸ˜‰ what a poem. you know, i looked at it in my reader at first and went, ah i don’t have time to read this passage… then i thought, well i bet mary only picks amazing passages, i’ll read it. yeah. slow down, huh? humbling. what i want most for quinn is that he can remember how to hear the music. for most of us it seems like a skill we have to consciously re-learn. “Then two of those small men
    Who plant nothing, who have almost
    Nothing to hunt, who live
    On almost nothing, and with no one
    But themselves”
    funny how they are the ones who can hear it without trying.
    i think i still have some of the memories. as quinn’s dad would say “he has the clan memories” (i think it’s a clan of the cave bear inside joke).
    anyway enough of my rambling. have a beautiful vacation.

    1. ha! thanks for the vote of confidence mb! the passage was something that i too, had to slow down to read, zipping along through my emails…it’s truly captivating and does beg the reordering of priorities. i tried to listen for the music this weekend. i thought i may have heard it, but it also sounded a lot like the soundtrack to “wings of desire” so maybe not. πŸ˜‰

      the clan memories! i love it. i haven’t read that book in years…it’s so awful i bet it would be great to read again. xo

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