Doctor Who, the adventurous time-traveling British sci-fi hero, uses a phone box to explore the cosmos in his extraterrestrial adventures. The TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) looks just like a traditional blue British phone box, but the interior is much larger than its exterior—it is in fact a spacecraft with all the bells and lights and whistles. Because this powerful time machine looks like a phone box, it blends with its surroundings.
The quotidian is gateway to the profound.
In the movie American Beauty—which won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography in 1999—the most captivating five minutes of the movie involve the lilting flight pattern of a plastic bag caught in an updraft in a dirty alley. That lyrical unplanned (free) movement mesmerizes, whereas all of the actions of all of the characters are deeply bound with suffering.
Release, through a random plastic bag.
You can open an entire world, paying attention to the quotidian. A seemingly everyday item can be the linchpin, the secret door, the portal to understanding. We’ve all watched dust motes; remember when that was the most fascinating thing happening in school?! How about a bike wheel, window glass, a bee sneaking into blossoms, laundry in the breeze, a bird feeder.
Let's visit that bee in blossoms . . .
When Janie thinks of her young years, she remembers exactly when “her conscious life” began.
“It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard. She had been spending every minute that she could steal from her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery . . . She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid . . . Oh, to be a pear tree—any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her?”
Lordy, what a sumptuous world arose from a bee in a trees-worth of spring blossoms.
Now let’s visit that laundry . . .
Love Calls Us to the Things of the World
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks
From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.”
—Richard Wilbur, 1956
And lastly, as a gift to you and all humanity, the birdfeeder . . .
which hangs just outside Wendell Berry’s study window. Plain language, plain sparrows, plain writing day. But are these birds or are they his poems, or they the spirits of all of humankind?
Window Poems #7
Outside the window
is a roofed wooden tray
he fills with seeds for the birds.
They make a sort of dance
as they descend and light
and fly off at a slant
across the strictly divided
black sash. At first
they came fearfully, worried
by the man's movements
inside the room. They watched
his eyes, and flew
when he looked. Now they expect
no harm from him
and forget he's there.
They come into his vision,
unafraid. He keeps
a certain distance and quietness
in tribute to them.
That they ignore him
he takes in tribute to himself.
But they stay cautious
of each other, half afraid, unwilling
to be too close. They snatch
what they can carry and fly
into the trees. They flirt out
with tail or beak and waste
more sometimes than they eat.
And the man, knowing
the price of seed, wishes
they would take more care.
But they understand only
what is free, and he
can give only as they
will take. Thus they have
enlightened him. He buys
the seed, to make it free.