White-paper heron wings against a blue sky.
Blue sky nestling in puddles between the stubbled rows of last-year’s corn.
The rows of last year’s corn green with new weeds against the borders of the bare trees.
The bare trees broken, here and there, by the sudden lavender-pink of a red-bud in bloom.
“His Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary Screwtape,” of infernal residence, warns his nephew Wormwood against allowing people to truly enjoy things for their own sakes: “I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for country cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of attack.”
Thus armed with the enemy’s plot, I set out with eyes peeled to foil the devils in their devilment, catching glory from fragments of broken glass in the burnt shell of a house, from the foam thrown up by the agitators on a waste-water treatment pond, from the white blooms on trees up the long hill that is our Broadway.
And why is it so hard to live open-eyed and open-handed, to reach out for the things that are real, that are true, that delight? Why is it so easy to simply settle for a vague nothing?
Screwtape has words on this, as well, he says: “. . . Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.” (Internet browsing, anyone?)
I came home from the open-eyed afternoon feeling alive and glad, with a fresh stock of loveliness — for, oh yes, as Sara Teasdale says, “Life has loveliness to sell” — and why do I ever settle for droop-eyed afternoons?
The white-paper bird was in the sky this afternoon, and the sky was in the field, and a Japanese Maple was putting forth tiny crumpled red leaves. Spring arrives; my soul puts forth tiny crumpled red praises; the devilment of devils is foiled.
*Screwtape quotations taken, of course, from C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, which, it happens, I am reading for the very first time this month.
©2013 by Stacy Nott