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Monday, December 15, 2008

Walking with Ruskin

- Robert Cording

Each day I walk for an hour or two,
what started as exercise now a matter
of devotion. Or, less grandly:
walking gives me something to do,
a kind of discipline since I don't know
how to move toward any of those
big intangible goals—wholeness, God,
forgiveness, justice—but I know how
to walk. Sometimes I bring Ruskin along.

Despite his holy striving and cloying
superlatives ("the greatest thing
a human soul does in the world is
to see something" or "art springs from
the most profound admiration"),
I like the way he forgets himself
in his concern for what is particular
about an eagle's beak or the green-brown
coppery iridescence of a pheasant's feather.

He's teaching me a kind of readiness
for what comes along as it pleases:
a line of ants carrying the remains
of a red emerald butterfly, or
a brook in winter moving under ice
like the one-celled life found in a drop
of water under a microscope.
I like to compare notes with him,
to count the shades of blue

on a kingfisher's back or the three
different kinds of wing feathers,
but I'm still learning to look at things
with Ruskin's respect for fact
and his love for what's being seen—
this beetle, say, that's crossed our path,
its two topside eyes ringed in white,
the lacquer of its shell a depth
of black and darkest greens.

Today, the late July pond water looks
like used car oil, and the roadside grass
is a pointillist study of greens
and the bright white coffee cups of
Americans who run on Dunkin'.
Ruskin and I are looking at clouds,
a kind of medicine. Ruskin says,
they calm and purify, if only because
the sky is large and we are not.

And if I'm always half-thinking of
my credit card debt, or if I'm seven
to ten years of mortgaged life
away from retirement, I go on
crouching down for a beetle
that doesn't care if it's seen, though
my seeing it makes the day more real
to me. Nothing much, but something
I'm always thanking Ruskin for.


2 Comments:

Blogger victor said...

Crystal, this "Walking with Ruskin" reminds me of when I was in school, grade five I think.

Anyway our teacher asked the class to write something titled our favorite pet and she gave us about an hour for whatever reason and then it had to be turned in.

At that time, I couldn't think of a favorite pet to write about but I wrote and wrote and at the end I closed it by saying that anyone who wanted to see my pet would need to come home with me and see it for themselves.

I can still imagine the teacher sharing my story with other teachers and because of my closing, it gave me a very good mark and really made a few other teachers smile.

Although, I still can't remember what else I really wrote about my so called pet, my closing I could never forget.

Am I off topic again? :)

4:39 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor,

You sound right on topic - the poem says Ruskin said that "the greatest thing a human soul does in the world is to see something."

5:04 PM  

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