Ghosts and Other Invisible Things

mysterious bird prints
mysterious bird prints

I haven’t met many people who won’t admit to experiencing moments of transcendence — like — when your baby was born or that time when you saw an ugly weed poking out of broken cement transformed into the Flower of the World. It is that feeling of being connected to something bigger, deeper or more beautiful. When the ego is washed away and temporarily replaced with a sense of awe and wonder.

Seeing a woman wearing high heels not only run after a bus but overtake it kind of does that for me. I once put my feet into a pair of those contraptions/torture devices. Not only was I unable to walk but I think I permanently damaged several bones. A person wearing such things who not only can find her centre of balance but also move both legs at top speed cannot be a mere mortal. Goddesses! They walk (without teetering) among us!

But I am easily amused.

For example, last week I took my husband on a parakeet hunt because I was dissatisfied with the blurry shot included in a recent blog post. We didn’t find any even though I know the spot where they nest and some of their usual foraging grounds. It is a good thing I know about grocery stores. If we had to rely on my hunter-gatherer skills we’d go hungry. Frequently.

What We Found Instead

Field mice. Well, nearly. We saw the ghosts of field mice. Tiny shadows flitting from burrow to burrow. Almost faster than the eye could see. What were they doing up in the middle of the day? They are normally nocturnal. Were the mice we saw the equivalent of the kinds of people who flit from shadow to shadow in the dead of night?

I found one dead mouse lying near a burrow hole. Out of respect I did not take a photo. My husband said quietly that field mice do not die of old age. We left the body where it lay. The mouse community presumably has its own rituals and routines for such things. Just as bees do.

It felt weird seeing how that colony of despised creatures flourished despite human presence. The field where they live is surrounded on all sides by new construction. They can only be temporary residents until one day a bulldozer will push them out and away. Before you think this post is going to be all about being sad or disappointed let me just say …

I found something else.

I found I didn’t care that I didn’t get a nice photo of a genuine Texas Deer Mouse. And I wasn’t devastated at the transitory nature of their mouse paradise.  I was reminded instead of someone’s blog post where he wondered about those moments when we experience the numinous. He had left organized religion behind and yet still experienced moments of divinity. What should he call that invisible presence?

I realized I had a small answer to that. I realized the name is not the thing. It could be enough just to live it and know it is there. We don’t have to grasp or own or save everything.

* Allen Ginsberg’s poem in full after the break

In Back of the Real

railroad yard in San Jose
I wandered desolate
in front of a tank factory
and sat on a bench
near the switchman’s shack.

A flower lay on the hay on
the asphalt highway
–the dread hay flower
I thought–It had a
brittle black stem and
corolla of yellowish dirty
spikes like Jesus’ inchlong
crown, and a soiled
dry center cotton tuft
like a used shaving brush
that’s been lying under
the garage for a year.

Yellow, yellow flower, and
flower of industry,
tough spiky ugly flower,
flower nonetheless,
with the form of the great yellow
Rose in your brain!
This is the flower of the World.

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30 thoughts on “Ghosts and Other Invisible Things

  1. Debra I have those moments every day when I pick up my camera and look at my world…something will catch my eye and I will be in awe trying to catch a fleeting glimpse in the lens to preserve it…and even if I can’t I still experienced it…those are my fond memories…those times and images on my brain’s lens.

    I was brought up Catholic but cast aside formal religion for a spiritual life….one of my own making and I have never looked back. Lovely thoughts here today.

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  2. Moments of Transcendence – just was thinking of this the other day. A couple of years ago, my brother and my niece were visiting and we (wife, son and myself) were driving north on the NJ Turnpike towards the Cloisters (The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval museum located in northern Manhattan). We were in our white SUV equipped with three rows. I was sitting in the front passenger seat. I then heard a voice (I seem to recall it being my saint’s [St. Theresa of Lisieux] voice) tell me: “pull down your cap.” I immediately did so and exactly while I was doing that, the entire windshield exploded in my face. Evidently, a wheel (tire and stuff in the middle) came off a Jeep that had been traveling southbound, bounced a couple of times, and then came down right above me. There was a metal bar that was above the wind shield. It bent but did not break immediately above my head. There was two inches between where the metal bent and where my head had been. I had glass sticking out of me everywhere. Everywhere except around my eyes. My eyes had been shielded by the cap that I had just lowered. To me, that was transcendence..

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    1. Wow. That kind of exceeds transcendence — more like intervention. -So- glad you were ok. I remember you telling me about your wife’s mini cooper accident, too. You guys really ought to stay off the roads. They are WAY too dangerous.

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  3. Lovely post. And yes even non- religious people have moments of transcendence. The experience of the numinous is not confined to people with gods. Are you familiar with Wordsworth’s ‘ Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’? I love the part where he says how as a child he was intoxicated by nature but that in maturity he heard in it ‘ the still sad music of humanity’ .. .. He felt: ‘ a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused. Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, and the round ocean and the living air. And the blue sky , and in the mind of man: A motion and a spirit that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought and rolls through all things.’ I don’ t think this is necessarily a divinity; but an awareness of the connectness of everything on our planet. Anyway, it has nothing to do with the fairy tales which are the basis of most religions.

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    1. You always rock my world, Chloris. I almost used Wordsworth’s lines instead of Ginsberg’s! I am in total agreement with you. Maybe if people stopped and paid attention to what they really feel and experience (rather than whatever it is that is being taught in those Fundamentalist bible classes) we would have a lot more reverence for this beautiful world.

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  4. Moment of divinity. Yes. They’re hard to explain, and yet you want to share them somehow, even when you can’t. You’ve communicated this very well. I had several of those moments last spring/summer/fall. Trying to find ways to post about it. Sometimes the photos and the words simply can’t do the moments justice. Thanks for this thoughtful post. :)

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    1. I appreciate your encouragement. Thanks. I just popped over to see your blog and I have to say it is just beautiful. I am looking forward to reading more!

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  5. A beautiful post, Debra. I love reading you.
    We can’t help it, I think–this business of control. We always feel like we have to fix things–whether necessary or not. Too often, we damage and unbalance when we interfere. It is the rare person who understands that sometimes, it needs leaving alone.

    I can’t add anything to what Texas Deb has already stated–she and you, are “spot on.”

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    1. Thanks, Tina but don’t get me wrong — (muahahahha) I still want to fix things! Something has to be done about the gun toting, anti bag ban, pro heritage tree cutting guy hosting the ball tomorrow. But yeah, in the big picture of things surrendering can make a lot more sense.

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      1. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think you’re absolutely correct to “fight the good fight “–as individuals and in community, we fight to right wrongs. I was thinking of your willingness to let the mouse be –
        at that moment.

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  6. A very insightful post which I greatly enjoyed. Regarding the dead mouse…I found a dead bird, an Inca Dove, in our yard the other day. I don’t think birds die of old age either! I did bury it, though. In the past I’ve just moved them to a spot behind the fence so I didn’t have to see them every time I go outside. I decided to change that habit for the new year!

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    1. Sorry to hear about your dove. I think they are adorable. I usually do something with bodies on our property mostly out of the practical concern of the smell and because yes seeing a dead body disturbs me. Frequently though there isn’t much to move thanks to the floating vulture cleanup crew.

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  7. Great observations – and you’ve managed to get a handle on those small moments most of experience but find hard to describe. C S Lewis also managed to catch this in his book ‘Surprised by Joy’. love your empathy

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  8. Thought provoking post Debra. I spend some time with my sister debating what mindfulness is, I like your thought of not needing a name to relish the moment.

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  9. You are spot on about our frustrating and unnecessary human need to grasp and own and save. There is such a sharing of power in assigning a name, a sense of co-creation that comes into play. It potentially represents an impulse, however feeble, to believe we’ve joined into something we’ve observed, rather than accept we were not part of, but rather witness to. I go round and round in my head about the difference…

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    1. That idea has been swirling around my bathtub of a mind lately. I think the need to own comes from a sense of alienation — feeling separate from creation. And yet we are undeniably part of the whole.

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