Morning Symphony

The vertical blinds that cover my kitchen’s sliding glass door are closed against the glare to the east.  On this clear July morning, the heat already has started to build.  The air conditioner thrums just outside the window.  Cool air from the register makes the blinds flutter slightly.  Thin lines of sunlight dance across the floor, moving up and down in a graceful pattern like piano keys.  I wonder what music they’re playing.

A soft rag-doll figurine perches on her wooden stand atop my kitchen counter.  She’s holding a Cornucopia in one arm, representing the bounties of the harvest, while her other arm points to the closed blinds in a mute reminder that there’s a whole world to be found out there.  She stands surveying the cabinet doors and blank-faced appliances of her domain with the confident air of Hestia the hearth goddess, reduced by today’s commercial society to a bit of kitsch on the Formica.

It was not all that long ago, on the scale of our evolutionary timeline, when our ancestors gave their hearth-gods the place of honor in their humble dwellings.

From a Wiccan perspective, the universe operates in primary process, without opposites: the negation of a thing is still the thing.  Andrew Lehman also has written about the possibility that the universe may have some form of consciousness, whether primary process or something else.  But one needn’t hold pagan beliefs or literally look upon the universe as a sentient entity to recognize that our modern way of life, no matter how far removed from nature it may be, hasn’t swept away all of the ancient traditions and subconscious expectations that grew out of a simpler way of being.  When we close ourselves away inside our climate-controlled boxes, we’re not negating the constraints of season, daylight, and wilderness under which humanity evolved.  On some level of the psyche, there’s still an expectation that our summers will be hot, our mornings will be bright, and our homes will look out over verdant natural surroundings.  In an ever-changing world where, for the first time in history, no aspect of our environment can be taken for granted, we’re left wondering how the random bits and pieces of life can be made to fit together.

Consistent with our particular modes of thought, we have different ways of dealing with the uncertainty of the modern world.  Some of us add structure to our lives by keeping familiar objects close to us, arranging them in precise patterns, and maintaining regular personal rituals as we go through our days.  Others feel anxious mainly because of social rather than physical changes and react by trying to rearrange society into more familiar patterns, such as through evangelism or political activism, while regularly taking part in group rituals.  Such efforts to rearrange society can involve scapegoating minority groups as convenient targets of blame for today’s cultural changes.  The world wouldn’t be such a scary place, this line of reasoning goes, if only there were no immigrants taking our jobs, or gays having the audacity to marry each other, or autistics wanting equal rights and accommodations.

The solid square corners and plain white walls of my kitchen speak of permanence and simplicity, like a monk’s contemplative cell; but even if I could sit at my dinette table all day pondering life’s mysteries, which of course I can’t, the fluttering vertical blinds would still be there to remind me of the unpredictable world on the other side.  My little rag-doll hearth goddess stands smiling with her fruits of the harvest, a symbol that has lost its meaning in an age when anything can be bought at the supermarket year-round.  I drink my tea and listen to my imaginary piano symphony, wondering how the ancient world’s rhythms and the new melodies of our age can be unified in a coherent whole.

It’s all out there waiting, she says, with her silent gesture toward the world beyond the covered glass door.  Waiting for us to learn to hear it.

on 07/14/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 2 Comments | Read More

Comments (2)


  1. Mark Stairwalt says:

    “Only that day dawns to which we are awake,” said our old autistic Uncle Hank. “There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

  2. Gwen McKay says:

    Some of my New England ancestors were great admirers of Thoreau and of his fellow-travellers. My maternal grandfather was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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