Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Is This Stuff We're Surrounded By?

One thing I'll say about Winter sunshine: It may not warm as much as I wish, but it sure does illuminate. The quality of light in Winter is so different, so much more stark and revealing than the warmer sunlight of Summer. This morning, G/Son and I were getting him dressed for a foray out into the bitter cold and a drive from Nonna's house back to his house. We were in my guest room, which has SouthEastern windows and the sunlight was pouring in. G/Son likes to jump on the bed in between articles of clothing, so it can be a lengthy process: put on undershirt and underpants/jump on the bed; put on sweatpants/jump on the bed; put on shirt/jump on the bed; put on socks, well, you get the idea. Finally dressed, G/Son got down from the bed while Nonna was folding up his pajamas and putting them into his overnight case.

Suddenly, clearly enchanted, he cried, "Nonna! What's this stuff we're surrounded by?" I looked down, saw him looking all around, and said, "What? Do you mean the walls and the wallpaper?" G/Son said, "No, Nonna! Look into the sunlight! What's this stuff we're surrounded by?" The smile of wonder on his face was one of the loveliest things that I've ever seen. I knelt down so that I was on the same level that he was and slipped my face into the ray of Winter sunlight in which he'd been standing. And, then . . . I saw. Tiny specs of dust, raised by G/Son's jumping on the bed, were floating in the sunlight. Aware of a teachable moment, I said, "Oh, I see! What do you think it could be?" G/Son said, "We're surrounded by it. Are we always surrounded by it?" And I said, "Yes, we're always surrounded by it, but we usually only see it in certain kinds of sunlight. Some people say it's dust, but that just gives it a name; it doesn't answer the question, does it?" G/Son was slowly turning around by now, hands out in the universal gesture of wonderment, and he said, again, "Nonna, what is this stuff we're surrounded by?" I said, "Well, I think it's a little way of seeing just how much wonder and magic is around us, all the time. I think the sun shows it to us some times to remind us how wonderful our world is. A long time ago, a man named Gerard Hopkins wrote a poem about it. Would you like to hear it?" G/Son looked up as if just remembering that I was there, and said, "Yes." So while he stood, and looked, and slowly turned in the sunlight, I went into the kitchen, grabbed the correct book of poetry, and read him "God's Grandeur".

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I don't think that he got more than the feeling; he stopped for a minute and said, "Are we surrounded by it even at night?" and I said, "Even at night. And, a few times in your life, when the Moon is full and the air is warm, you'll see it even then." G/Son said, "I will?" and I said, "I promise."

Picture found here.


Teacats said...

Oh My Stars thank you SO much! Just a simply lovely posting -- we are surrounded by magic and light! Of course at MY house -- sometimes it can be called simple dust! LOL! Just teasing! Your grandson has a marvellous strong and viable soul! He "sees" -- and his soul rejoices!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

nanoboy said...

Or, as one of my plant pathology professors said, we are in a constant shower of spores-- fungal sex constantly pouring upon you.

Kate said...

Best. Nonna. Ever. May all children (and parents) have such a wonderful influence.

Aquila ka Hecate said...

Bless the boy.
Bless, bless, bless him.

Terri in Joburg

Mama Kelly said...

Reading this made me smile as it made me remember being quite young and being equally fascinated by dust motes hovering the beams of sunlight. Thank you for the reminder that the magic I saw then is still with me now.

Medusa said...

One of my favorite poems. Gerard Manly Hopkins sure knew what to do with words.