Wednesday, September 25, 2013
This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor's window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door --
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor --
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.
- Billy Collins
This has long been one of my favorite poems by Billy Collins. In it, he abandons his usual sardonic and even sarcastic style for an "open heart" admission of a state of boundless love for the universe and all in his surroundings, no matter how minor or trivial. Remarkably, his vision of his world as beautiful and demanding devotion is similar to that of many saints or in fact any of us who undergo profound inner spiritual transformation. In that state of consciousness, everything draws us with its own hidden beauty, and we feel, rightly, that we and it are one.
Collins compares (correctly) this way of perceiving to the tempests and trials of human lovers, where emotions and resentments rule. He calls his poem "Aimless Love," for as a "nonbeliever" (I think), he is unable or unwilling to connect his own experience with a divine source.
For many of us, this state of unconditional love and merger with all that surrounds us is the ultimate gift of the mystical experience, for it connects us in the most profound way with "heaven on earth."
Here is a quote from John Blofield ("The Secret and Sublime") which describes this kind of awareness:
(For the sage) "hand in hand with anxiety and fear, ugliness is put to flight. Gems sparkle on dusty roads, puddles appear as pools of lapis lazuli, tough weeds acquire fragile beauty, dung takes on the charm of delicately mottled amber."