On a recent morning, looking out a kitchen window, I saw a cardinal in my winter-ravaged garden.  The sight instantly filled me with a vitality of feeling that paused me, poised me, suspended over time.  That red knot of energy, that rubied spot of gladness, that pulsing heart amid the purgatorial gloom, recalled for me the bloom and color that had been driven deep and dormant by the earth’s backward tilt, to await the summoning shout of spring.  That cardinal was a rumor of redemption irrupting into the fallen present.  It was the beauty of innuendo.  It was a thing given me from beyond me, a stop-and-pause-to-reflect thing, an evocative moment to linger in and experience wonder at. 


That wonder made me feel gratitude, and that gratitude made me feel reverence.  Not gratitude to something but about something; not an owing or indebtedness, not an imposed obligation, but a state of being, a style of feeling a moment’s wholeness, an urgent tug of attunement, a succouring inspiration, a quickening and a homage, an impulsive heart-leap of nowness and thisness, an attentiveness so intense it transports the seer inside the seen.  And not a reverence that is religious in a doctrinal sense, not a matter of practice and ritual, not a worship exactly, but, rather, an attitude or stance, a recognition and receptivity, a willingness to be beckoned by the sacramental in the everyday, to lift our heavy eyelids and see the mystery and magic the world discloses to us continually, to experience respect, deference, veneration.


We need gratitude, I think.  Our lives too often seem immutably mutable, constitutionally vulnerable and subject to immanent wounding, to weariness and fault, to vagrant hope, to encumbrance.  We too often feel potshotted and potholed, too often metered by the poetics of adversity, too often unmustered and unsettled, too often marionettes to motions not our own, too often homeless in our consciousness of ourselves, spectral presences in our own lives.  We too often pound the kick-drum of self-rebuke.  Our per capita output of regret seems astonishingly high.  Like bubbles, we are always balancing inner and outer pressures, seeking an equipoise to preserve a membranous self that often feels sketched in outline, partial, waiting to be filled.  We fear we are subplots whose connection to the governing theme of a larger story is disturbingly unclear.  We yearn to pronounce ourselves, sound ourselves out, write our narrative in bold block letters, and yet, too often, language fails us, the words point elsewhere or otherwise.


And yet, and yet.  The world to some extent echoes our thinking about it.  We need gratitude, not to deny the sad existential truths, not to turn a blind eye to the shearing hurts that beleaguer us, not to slough off the dark otherness of our lives with thoughtlessness or the anesthetizing bright-sided optimism of Irving Berlin’s “I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”  No, we need gratitude to see fully, to cultivate mindful notice, to avoid what Aldous Huxley called our “almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”  We need to ask ourselves the questions Mary Oliver poses in her poem “Gratitude”: “What did you notice?”  “What did you hear?”  “What did you admire?”  “What astonished you?”  “What do you want to see again?”  “What was most tender?”  “What was happening?”  Answering those questions, Oliver says, will “shake us from our sleep.”


We can catch our breath, catch a moment, catch ourselves. I believe we can be wise.  We can balance the ledger’s debits with credit entries.  I found one several mornings ago.  A cardinal in my hiatused garden; a vermillion throb that, for as long as I bore witness to it, banished the drab and droop, the blighted and bedraggled, the parched and shriveled, the matted crust left by melted snow .  I regarded it, as the physicists say, as a fine-structure constant.  Indeed, I’d like to think a strange and wondrous physics was at work that morning.  A tensile force bound the particles of cardinal and me into a tight nucleus of sensibility.  It was hardly a fearful symmetry.  It felt marrow-deep.  It was a souvenir against forgetting.  And I did the only thing that seemed appropriate.  I said, “Thank you.”

Views: 167

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on March 31, 2015 at 7:19am

grateful for this, too

Comment by JMac1949 Today on March 31, 2015 at 7:30am

"...The world to some extent echoes our thinking about it..."  Nothing like a brilliant flash of red against the wet grey desolation to call our attention to why our lives can be expressions of hope and joy, despite all seeming evidence to the contrary.  R&L ;-)

Comment by M. C. Sears on March 31, 2015 at 7:44am
Grateful this moment, your words and the first coffee of the day
Comment by Dr.Spud44 on March 31, 2015 at 7:45am

"It was the beauty of innuendo."  I loved that phrase in particular.  The single best thing found to combat clinical depression is- gratitude.  Stellar prose, Mr. Jerry.  I enjoy snapshots like this for to stop the world at quiet moments and enjoy being alive is so peaceful and gentle.  

Comment by koshersalaami on March 31, 2015 at 9:30am
I have a strange hunch that you could have written this as a haiku.
Comment by Arthur James on March 31, 2015 at 9:57am


too long for haiku?


Pope just picked red-

dressed cardinals to

help run the papacy.


Red dressed-robed

Cardinal Demerew

Souraphiel from

Ethiopia was seen

at a Bird Feeder.


A Bird Watcher

Yelled ` A Red

Cardinal is at

the Bird Feeder!


Her couch-sitting

blogger? He said:

If Ya's seen one

Cardinal Ya's

See them all.!


But? It was the

Ethiopian real

Papal Cardinal.

He was picking

out Sunflower

Seed at the back-

Yard Bird Feeder.


She was ignored.

Cardinal went

BACK - Bach -

to the Vatican

to listen to who?

van Buran or van

Jon S.? no- Jest

van Beethoven?

Comment by alsoknownas on March 31, 2015 at 10:12am

I take a little time after work nearly every day to watch birds. It takes patience and a lack of expectations, two elements which are noticeably not part of my usual work day.

In an urban setting I have observed dozens of species in the backyard ranging in size from an Anna's Hummingbird to a Peregrine Falcon. Overhead I've seen Osprey, Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron on their way to and from the Columbia River.

Comment by Arthur James on March 31, 2015 at 10:21am


Comment by Stephen Brassawe on March 31, 2015 at 11:33am

Did I ever love reading this one out here in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful spring day. It expresses spirituality in that best sense of that work, more akin to poetry than to prose. It matters not a whit that I am a bit more skeptical than you about our species' ability to acquire wisdom generally speaking. I do believe that some few particular units of that species can do so. I offer this piece as my Exhibit A in support of that proposition

Comment by Jerry DeNuccio on March 31, 2015 at 2:10pm

Jonathan:  Thank you!

JMac:  “brilliant flash of red against the wet grey desolation”—what a wonderful visual and tactile image.  You point is elegantly stated and thoughtful.  Thank you for that.

M. C.: I’m always amazed at how my mood instantly perks up when I hear the Mr. Coffee machine gurgle and the first drips of coffee make their way into the carafe.

Dr. Spud:  Thank you for the kind words.  I did not know that gratitude was such a powerful antidote to depression, but now that I think about it, it makes sense.  Thanks for enlightening me.

kosh:  What an interesting idea; unfortunately, I have no talent for poetry.  In more talented hands, though, I suspect you’re right: the animating idea of my 700 + words could be reduced to 17 syllables, and probably be more dynamic for the economy of expression.

Arthur:  For some reason I simply did not make the association with the red-clad cardinals of the Catholic Church.  How could that have escaped me?  Oh, well, sometimes the associative machinery of my mind coughs and sputters rather than vrooming.

alsoknownas:  I keep binoculars on a kitchen windowsill to watch birds, squirrels, and other assorted critters that populate the backyard.  I’m interested in watching their movements, their routines and habitual behaviors as well as the quirky ones.

Stephen:  Thank you so much for those generous words.


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