Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean— the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down— who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
When I watch a movie, stream a TV show, or read a book that I think is extraordinary, I usually will devour every review I can find; research, sometimes exhaustively, the artists associated with it in the hope that a touch of their genius might somehow touch me; and look to talk with others about what they thought of the work.
Not so with Derek DelGaudio’s lyrical masterpiece In & Of Itself on Hulu. I don’t want to know anything about DelGaudio or about how this production came into being or about how he did what he did in the final few minutes of the show because I fear I will not only ruin the magic for myself by trying to reduce it to its elemental components but also will demonstrate that I have understood nothing about the film’s sacred message. So you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
It has been nine years since I started ruminationville, and if you have followed me during this time you would know that each January I reflect here on the previous twelve months. At the beginning of 2020, my daughter and I spent some days together in Upstate New York, and, from my point of view, they were glorious. How could we have known then that in several weeks’ time the world would be gripped by a raging pandemic — one that would send us all scrambling for the relative safety of our individual cloisters and that would leave us humbled by the staggering chutzpah of a microscopic virus, which, by the beginning of 2021, would kill upwards of 400,000 souls in the US alone?
And how could we have known then that Donald Trump, the Devil incarnate, would deliver a year of selfishness, corruption, lawlessness, and violence that would eclipse all that we had to endure for the previous three years from this monster and his sycophants? (Or for the previous four years if you count the moment when, in stunning vainglory, he descended a golden escalator that took him to the basement of his eponymous New York tower.)
But if these past few weeks have shown me nothing, they have revealed the importance of locating in myself an enduring core of kindness and good will that I can hold up like a crucifix to those who would destroy our peace (including, of course, the Satanic base of murderous, racist, anti-Semitic Trump fans who on January 6 rampaged through Congress and terrorized those who were there to earn a living).
It would be a lie to say that I have not had to contend with monsters in my own head who internally (and, occasionally, externally) spew their particular, profanity-laced versions of hatred against this unspeakable evil. Indeed I have. But it is equally true to say that my own darkness is no match for the love I feel for the world itself.
At the least I can tell you that, throughout my years on Earth, I have held within my heart a glinting thread of hope (for what is love if not everlasting hope). And this has been true no matter the various calamities that have found me — or me them. There is much that I cherish — but nothing and no one more so than my daughter. This is a love without end. My love for dear friends who have offered nothing but positive regard across our many seasons also endures. Even the confusing love I have carried for a man who in 20 years has never once shown me a moment of genuine kindness, even that love remains — though I confess it is a love that has tried to flee whenever my back has been turned.
This past weekend, Maryland birders were delighted to see a male painted bunting in their home state. They were especially thrilled because, according to an article in The Washington Post, this beauty, “known for its kaleidoscope of colors,” is typically seen only in Florida and elsewhere in the south. As has been true wherever humans benefit from plundering Mother Nature, we enjoy the gifts she gives us at her — and at our own — expense: “[T]he painted bunting is one of several species included in a recently published study from the National Audubon Society demonstrating that climate change is causing a shift in birds’ ranges during winter and breeding seasons.”