Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Duckweed

"Love, we are a small pond," says Maxine Kumin in one of her wonderful poems that celebrate New England nature. It is a delicious metaphor: The pond as tender affection, touching skin, the scratches that leave no scar, the mouths that gobble. "The blackest berries fatten over the pond of our being," she writes, exuberantly.

So exuberantly that even here, in the tropics, in winter, I am carried back to the autumn pond. Turtles sun themselves on whatever solid perch protrudes above the surface of the water. Dragonflies dart above the alga mat in copulatory flight, their iridescent bodies locked in valentine embrace. Mallards waddle into the muck from the muddy bank. And the duckweed! That skin of granular green, the partings and closings, the hiders and grazers, speak to us of our own protoplasmic origins, the pond water of our blood, the ancient urgings toward feeding and reproduction.

And love.

We need to keep in touch with those things -- the duckweed, the ducks, the dragonflies, the gush of life -- lest we forget what touch and sight and sound and scent are all about. Even love is in danger of being made into a virtual reality -- those flickering bits on a TV screen or Internet monitor -- stripped of sensual fullness.

Our drawing toward each other was cradled in the pond, nurtured on the tangled bank, perfected in the same urgency of seek and join that causes the dragonflies to bend their bodies into a heart-shaped kiss. The pond is more than a metaphor for our lives; our lives are steeped in it.