Who loves the rain And loves his home, And looks on life with quiet eyes, Him will I follow through the storm; And at his hearth-fire keep me warm; Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise, Who loves the rain, And loves his home, And looks on life with quiet eyes. ~Frances Shaw, “Who loves the rain” from Look To the Rainbow
No jump-starting the day, no bare feet slapping the floor to bath and breakfast.
Dozing instead in the nest like, I suppose, a pair of gophers
underground in fuzz and wood shavings. One jostles the other in closed-eye luxury.
Light chaff and falling leaves or a pair of feathers
on the ground can spook a horse who won’t flinch when faced with a backhoe or a pack of Harleys. I call it “horse
ophthalmology,” because it is a different kind of system— not celestial, necessarily, but vision in which the small,
the wispy, the lightly lifted or stirring threads of existence excite more fear than louder and larger bodies do. It’s Matthew
who said that the light of the body is the eye, and that if the eye is healthy the whole body will be full of light. Maybe
in this case “light” can also mean “lightness.” With my eyes of corrupted and corruptible flesh I’m afraid I see mostly darkness
by which I mean heaviness. How great is that darkness? Not as great as the inner weightlessness of horses whose eyes perceive,
correctly I believe, the threat of annihilation in every windblown dust mote of malignant life. All these years I’ve been watching
out warily in obvious places (in bars, in wars, in night cities and nightmares, on furious seas). Yet what’s been trying to destroy
me has lain hidden inside friendly-seeming breezes, behind soft music, beneath the carpet of small things one can barely see.
The eye is also a lamp, says Matthew, a giver of light, bestower of incandescent honey, which I will pour more cautiously
over the courses I travel from now on. What’s that whisper? Just the delicate sweeping away of somebody’s life. ~Gail Wronsky
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14-16
Some days I am dreaming awake with wide-open eyes. There is a slow motion quality to time as it flows from one hour to the next to the next, and I can only take it in, watching it happen. Life becomes more vivid, as in a dream — the sounds of birds, the smell of the farm, the depth of the greens in the landscape, the taste of fresh plums, the intensity of every breath, the reason for being.
There is lightness in all things, as the Creator intended.
Yet much of the time is rush and blur like sleepwalking, my eyes open but unseeing. I stumble through life’s shadows, the path indiscernible, my future uncertain, my purpose illusive. I traverse heaviness and darkness, much of my own creation.
Two whistles, one for each, and familiar sounds draw close in darkness— cadence of hoof on hardened bottomland, twinned blowing of air through nostrils curious, flared. They come deepened and muscular movements conjured out of sleep: each small noise and scent heavy with earth, simple beyond communion…
…and in the night, their mares’ eyes shine, reflecting stars, the entire, outer light of the world here. ~Jane Hirschfield from “After Work”
It’s tempting to fall into this fathomless well –
Their eyes are what I see first,
This retinal magnet drawing my own into
Such incalculable depths.
Yet I’m merely reflected like starlight;
Only dancing on a mirrored surface
When I long to dive in deeper~
To be so lost I must be found.
…whenever you mark a horse, or a dog,
with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure he is an Aristotle or a Kant,
tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries in man. No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.
They see through us at a glance.
But there is a touch of divinity ….
and a special halo about a horse… ~Herman Melville from Redburn: His First Voyage
There are some animals (and people) who will not look you in the eye. It may be a reluctance to appear too bold, as direct eye contact can imply, or it may be a reluctance to expose too much of their own inner world and feelings.
Because eyes don’t lie.
But when you can empty yourself into another being’s eyes and feel both understanding and understood, that is a touch of divinity at work. The eye is a mirror, a gazing ball and a collecting pool, and we reveal, reflect and absorb when we really take the time and gather the courage to look deeply into one another.
I want to remember us this way— late September sun streaming through the window, bread loaves and golden bunches of grapes on the table, spoonfuls of hot soup rising to our lips, filling us with what endures. ~Peter Pereira from “A Pot of Red Lentils”
I cherish the moments that are most basic, plain, and simple and have the best chance of happening again. I’m not talking about exotic travels, nor the extravagant meal out, nor the once in a lifetime experience. My most cherished moments are everyday, and I store them up to fill the decades full.
Most cherished of all is “that look” that says “I want to look into your eyes forever and get lost there.”
I am lucky enough to know what that feels like. I get that butterfly in the stomach feeling anytime it happens. My husband held my eyes with his from across a room early in our relationship, and over thirty five years later, he still holds them when he looks at me, even over bowls of soup at the kitchen table.
And I look at him just that way as well. The eyes say what words cannot. The eyes don’t lie. The eyes never change even though the years bring gray hair and crow’s feet.
It is what endures. I want to look at you forever, just like this, just as you are, wherever you are because of who you are.
Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch, Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark, Shoots dangled and drooped, Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates, Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes. And what a congress of stinks! Roots ripe as old bait, Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich, Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks. Nothing would give up life: Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath. ~Theodore Roethke “Root Cellar”
I tug on the handle of the heavy root cellar cover to lift it to one side in order to descend the steps to the underground room that serves as a year round natural refrigerator on our farm. At the bottom of the stairs, I open the thick sealed door to permit a shaft of sunlight to illuminate the inner darkness–there is always a moment of wondering what I might find on the other side in such a mysterious place. A rush of cool earthen air blows back at me as if displaced by the light that has rushed in. Until I snap on the lights, it is as secret as a womb harboring its precious cargo. This place smells of dirt and moisture–the lifeblood of the fruits and roots that tarry here until it is finally their turn to be brought up into the light. Potatoes, onions, apples, pears, nuts all resting and waiting, as if suspended in time.
It has been awhile since my last visit. As the lights blink on, I blink too in unbelief. There had been a startling transformation, as time no longer stands still as it had through the winter. Long white arms, almost waving with enthusiasm, were reaching out from the potato bin in a desperate searching plunge through the blackness. In this dark place, their blind eyes must sense a better place and have set out on a mission to get there. The naked shoots are so entangled one with the other, it feels voyeuristic, as if I were witnessing something private and personal.
I gather them up, apologetic for causing them a moment’s doubt about their destiny. A trench must be dug, so they are placed gently at the base with shoots pointed toward the sky, and the dirt swept over them in a burial that is more commencement than coda.
And so the eyes have it, having reached for a light not seen but sensed.