Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Wallace Stevens wrote that a man could be taller than a tree. Here’s how he put it:
I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.
The proportions of human space are distorted by the senses. That’s one reaction. Another observes the relation Steven’s discovers about size and how we measure it. What impulse, in addition, sends us off to measure ourselves against trees? It’s an odd thing. Let me stand against a tree and consider my measurements in relation to something grand and massive or let me stand against a tree and understand where I am. Because sometimes this can be difficult to do.
It would appear to be a meaningless or simplistic action. Perhaps like writing a poem or a story. Sometimes we see things we don’t want to see; sometimes images come that we hadn’t considered in a flash or in the car or while pecking at a line, something significant, disturbing, colorful, grand. A beetle becomes a turning planet. The stripe of a finger through dust becomes the top of a giant letter J or someone having just pushed through a pesticide cloud.