My father emails me a Chris Hedges’ article, “Death of an Oracle,” about the recent death of poet Gerald Stern. I toss a few slivers of bark on my stove’s embers and listen while my cat stares out the window at two cardinals in the twiggy mock orange. The birds are brilliant crimson in the merciless November gray.
I’ve just submitted a 100-word story of Thankfulness to the zillion and more that the New York Times will receive this week. Mine is precisely 100 words, drenched with gratitude and, honestly, rage. My little cat flicks his tail at me, as if asking if I, too, see that pretty bird my cat would like to hunt. Indeed, I do. The birds are wise enough to understand the merits of glass and peck away at the grass, unperturbed. Sunday morning, and my list lies on the table. A long week looms ahead. As I listen, however, a kind of peace settles around me, and not simply because of the warming fire. I’m reminded that I never sought a life of blandness.
My cat yawns and naps. The cardinals disappear. I brew another pot of espresso. My brother’s coming for Thanksgiving, bringing steak and endless conversations about the utterly mundane, like Wordle, the downright silly, and gritty existential pondering about the afterlife. November is looking up.
If the Buddhist’s job is to be detached, I think that the artist’s job is to be both detached and attached.— Gerald Stern