Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Smear and the Smudge

                    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

                    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

                And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell…


    Wanderer by day, music teacher by night— an unusual schedule here in Clarksville, Tennessee (where the “last train” is nowhere to be found) teaching my Jazz Course at Austin Peay University. Staying with two fun Orff colleagues who are off to work each day, leaving me free to explore. The newly-built sub-development neighborhood where they live doesn’t have sidewalks or any paths into the surrounding woods, but I did discover there is a park nearby with an inviting walk along a river. But to get there, I had to walk a half-mile down a four-lane busy road with a narrow shoulder and a steady stream of big SUV cars and trucks streaming by. Not fun.


     Besides the roar of their engines and the worry about them hitting me, there on the side of the road was all the detritus of our human consumption. Beer cans, cigarette butts, plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, wrappers— not a square foot left unlittered. As well as a deer carcass that had been hit by a car. 

    So Gerard Manly Hopkins poem (excerpt above) sprang to mind. The smudge and smell of our industrial civilization everywhere, the natural world bleared and smeared by our endless toil to produce stuff, some of which we need, much of which we don’t. But Hopkins continues and exhorts us to remember that “nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things” and when I finally arrived at

    the park and walked along the river, I could begin to feel Hopkins’ first line of his poem: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Not the God of the churches I passed who seem intent on feeding our folly, our ignorance, our self-complacency in accepting the evil we (helped by the churches) have created. Instead, the God that is a convenient shorthand for the divine presence within and behind and animating all things bright and beautiful—the river, the trees, the plants, the animals, the human beings who wisely choose to inhabit their own divine presence, authentically, compassionately, free from dogma. 


     I breathed in the flowering cherries, the bare-branched trees preparing to bud into Spring, the distant call of the mockingbird. And then had to take the return   trip down the highway. Back to the smear and smudge. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.