Thursday, August 30, 2012


After posting yesterday's meditation on the "irreplaceable solicitude of the particular," it occurred to me that it's time to pull up stakes and return to New England. Here, in this little village on the westernmost fringe of Europe, it's all particulars. Which suits me fine, but must surely make for excessively idiosyncratic reading for those of you who are kind enough to visit.

But then again, perhaps not. Each one of us navigates a life with attention to the general and the particular. A sailor needs a sextant and a star. He also keeps his eye on that streaming ribbon at the top of the mast that indicates the unpredictable vagaries of the wind. Which is to say -– oh, never mind, you know what I mean.

There is a line from a poem of Robert Pinsky: "I live in the little village of the present." Our townland here in Ireland is named Ballybeg, "little village." A half-dozen houses suspended in time. Sitting here in my studio on the hill, wrapped this morning as most mornings this summer in mist and rain, there is only the present. The morning glories on the sill. The steaming mug of coffee. My companion, the cellar spider, Pholcus phalangioides, under the bookshelf. The shenanigans in Tampa and Charlotte, and the murderous turmoil in Aleppo, hardly exist. On Mars, Curiosity zaps rocks and sniffs atoms, confirming the universal constants of nature. Here, in Ballybeg, there is only the present and its gathering of particulars.

So bear with me. In two weeks time I will be back in New England, in the house on busy Main Street, television blaring, three months of science journals waiting to be read, and a view that extends from the big bang to forever. Pinsky, whose poems dote on particulars, confesses in the poem quoted above his longing for "The great metropolis where I can hope/ To glimpse great spirits as they cross the street,/ Souls durable as the cockroach and the lungfish."

The cockroach and the lungfish, those living fossils, that like so many protein-building segments of our DNA insinuate our "little villages" –- yours and mine -- into the great metropolis of universal space and time.