A FISH IN THE TREE
SCULPTURE AND PHOTOGRAPH BY
ONE MORNING I saw a stickin atree. Curved and broken, it lay across a forked bough about six feet out from the trunk. The buds had yet o open so I could see the whole of the stick, black against a red sky.
The tree itself, a young ash, stood in a park near my
home. Late that winter I’d walked past it a dozen times.
But I’d never noticed the stick. And this was no slender
twig. It was a hefty, light-blocking chunk cracked o=
from the interior. No one around here would have
called it a log exactly, though there are places on Earth
where it would have enjoyed that status and, thus appreciated, perished long ago under a soup pot. In any
case, it looked so exposed and awkward among its
more delicate neighbors that I was surprised I’d ever
missed it. How had it come to so unlikely a perch? Had
a child hurled it up from below, or had it fallen from
above, storm-dropped like a toad? Whatever the means,
it looked so utterly settled into place that I assumed it
must have been there a long time. Perhaps the child,
if it were a child, was just now lighting a cigarette and
merging into tra;c. Perhaps the wind, if it were a
wind, was just now bu=eting the cli=s of El Capitan. I
let the possibilities come. I added the stick to my life.
There is just no end of things to wake up to.
Earlier that winter, I’d begun walking again. Each
morning at dawn I went out for a turn through the
neighborhood. It was welcome disruption to a life lived
mainly under rooftops. And, as much, spiritual exer-
cise. Considered spiritually such walks are less an act
of leisure or fitness than they are a practice in seeing.
They restore an elusive perspective, the e=ect of which
recalls a favorite cartoon: beneath a curbside view of a
tin can and discarded tire, one reads, “Milky Way, close
up.” I often imagine my walks as two circles of concur-
rent experiences. One circle is external and sensuous —
footfalls and birdsong, rain—the physical journey; the
other circle is internal and imaginal—ponderings and
conjectures, dreamscapes — the figurative journey. Now
and then these two experiential circles overlap, form-
ing a mandorla. In their slender overlay I occasionally
encounter an interfusion of both worlds: the imaginal
strikingly present in common things. In a state forest
I once came upon a pallid balloon, which must have
sunk from the sky, and was then standing on its string
deep in a shaded ravine, or the indigo dragonfly near
a marshy rail bed, who had floated in among the cat-
tails to alight just so on the tipped equator of a bobber.
Each such outward encounter enters my awareness as a
private symbol in the public sphere, one whose revela-
tions are insistently partial and whose emanations lift
like vapors from the lowlands of my inner walk. As years
pass, these interfusions abide in memory. Whenever I
consider my place in the vastness of space and time, they
appear. They are the iconography of my quiet hours.