Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Way to Rainy Mountain

Recently I finished N. Scott Momaday's book—and find myself reviewing the material over again for further insight, seeking information to emulate in my own writing. In particular, Momaday's sectioning of the passages into three chunks helps evaluate the multiple themes running throughout the pages. The middle section: The Going On, for me is the most profound.  On a personal level it addresses issues of endurance, survival, perseverance.

Within the prose piece numbered XII, the closing paragraph deals with the topography of the Kiowa landscape in Oklahoma. He writes:

There are meadowlarks and quail in the open land. One day late in the afternoon I walked about among the headstones at Rainy Mountain Cemetery. The shadows were very long; there was a deep blush on the sky, and the dark red earth seemed to glow with the setting sun. For a few moments, at that particular time of the day, there is deep silence. Nothing moves, and it does not occur to you to make any sound. Something is going on there in the shadows. Everything has slowed to a stop in order that the sun might take leave of the land. And then there is the sudden, piercing call of the bobwhite. The whole world is startled by it.
This brief entry (unknowingly?) recapitulates the themes seen in the Japanese haiku traditions—I am thinking specifically of a modern verse composed by expatriate Richard Wright who created numerous poems based on the traditional notions of the poems. His number 200 reads:

          A silent spring wood:
     A crow opens its sharp beak
          And creates a sky.
In his case the poet-writer is locked in awareness limited only to himself. The crow, acting out of natural instinct startles the poet into awareness of the surrounding landscape, and thus "creates a sky." The poet-speaker moves from a state of individuality to focus on the full world, and in a sense into a loss of ego, connecting with an aspect of the Divine.

For Momaday, he shows himself locked in meditations after visiting the Rainy Mountain cemetery—concentrating on images of his relatives who have passed on before him. The bobwhite's cry shakes him into awareness of his surroundings, motioning him back into the reality of living, plus startling the whole landscape into a new awareness.

For both writers it is important to point out each shows aspects of nature as outside influences on their own personal experiences. The focus remains on the natural elements and not on the writers. In this manner, they strategize their writing so neither writer "possesses" the action.

So of course, this also brings to mind Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his poem "The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem, April, 1798" — here the poet speaker recounts a moment in nature where he finds a multitude of birds:

And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,
And one low piping sound more sweet than all
Stirring the air with such a harmony,
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,
Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed,
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full,
For Coleridge, the flock of birds (with their "bright, bright eyes") act as animal guides, a collective representation of how Nature will outlive any actions of Humanity. This in itself spirals his awareness away from his individuality to take in the whole experience of the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment