Friday, January 15, 2010

Rootabaga Dhamma

It began with a simple Facebook post I made while I was still at work. The end of the day was approaching, so for my status I posted that Richard Harrold “hears the weekend creeping up on him.”

Marnie, who writes the fabulous Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret (formerly known as Enlightenment Ward), commented on my status with, “on little cat feet.”

It was like, OMG! Carl Sandburg! What memories from childhood were immediately called up. Her comment was a reference to the Sandburg poem “Fog.”

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

When I was a kid in school learning about poetry, this poem was my absolute favorite. And not just because I love cats. Well, maybe it is because I love cats, because the visual it conjured was so immediate and meaningful.

I have always been troubled by poetry. I can appreciate and love a good poem, but I’ve never been able to write one, and that frustrates me.

But I digress.

There was another work in the Sandburg canon that I recalled, and that was “Rootabaga Stories.” I recall loving these stories, but to be honest, I can’t remember what any of them are all about. All I can recall is a sense of happiness, a sense of mystery, and a sense of discernment.

So I went to Wikipedia to find some information on Sandburg, and I found the entry on the “Rootabaga Stories.” And there was this description of Potato Face, a character from the stories.

“ is in Rootabaga Country, and in the biggest village of that country, the Potato Face Blind Man sits with his accordion on the corner nearest the post office. There he sits with his eyes never looking out and always searching in. And sometimes he finds in himself the whole human procession.”

When I first read this, I thought to myself, “This is Dhamma.” The description goes on.

“In fact, he sometimes indicates that when he needs an animal or fool not yet seen or heard of, he can make it for himself and give it a character so it is real to him, and when he talks about it and tells its story, it is like telling about one of his own children. He seems to love some of the precious things that are cheap, such as stars, the wind, pleasant words, time to be lazy, and fools having personality and distinction. He knows, it seems, that young people are young no matter how many years they live; that there are children born old and brought up to be full of fear; that a young heart keeps young by a certain measure of fooling as the years go by; that men and women old in years sometimes keep a fresh child heart and, to the last, salute the dawn and the morning with a mixture of reverence and laughter.”

After reading this, I felt supremely happy.

Thank you Marnie for this memory.

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