The Sacred Desecration

My mind was at peace because I was running. A body in motion is a thing of grace. The body moving at speed, a million synapses firing at once. It was once common for Sioux Indian messengers to lope nonstop for a hundred miles or more. Our bodies were made for running. I try and remember this as I glide through the cattails in the mornings. My trail is flanked by reeds and marsh. Alone in the tidal estuary I am the first and only man and running is my blessing, it is my prayer. I speak to the one I call God of course but I speak also to the ravens and the ducks. I greet the egrets and the blackbirds and the American Kestrels, who are the one of the few birds that can hover in place like an insect. These are my only witnesses. The body of a man, brightly colored in its disposable skins. The body of a man oddly colored; like a messenger of old, only seeking messages and not bearing them.

I saw it then, there at the turning point – the place I turn around, the loop that sends me back home, but also the turning point in my prayer. What I was asking for in that moment was strength, courage and the conviction that God’s will was the same as mine. And that’s when I saw it. It was like a jewel clipped to a stalk of grass. I did something then I almost never do. I stopped running. I truly believed that some young girl had lost her golden barrett. It must have fallen and been picked up by a passerby who stuck it to a thistle stalk so that its owner might retrieve it should she walk this way again. But as I drew closer I saw that it was no man-made thing for no man could make such an intricate treasure as this. A green dragonfly, frozen, and bespeckled with dew. I assumed that it was dead.

They are symbols of transformation. Creatures born in water who then, miraculously, metamorphize, and take to the air, where they are among the greatest of all nature’s hunters and the fastest fliers in the insect world. The Zuni’s revered them as spirit guides. They carved their images onto rock faces and painted their symbols on pottery. The dragonfly carries prayers to the spirit world. Would this one carry mine?

I am frail, more frail than this, these frozen wings. I am often grounded by fear and doubt. I wait on my grass stem for the sun to rise to warm my blood so that I can fly again. Waiting is my weakness. If only I could learn to be still. I know that the dragonfly is not dead, only dormant. I watched it sparkle, and I breathed my warm breath on its wings. I watched them flutter, slowly, as the sun rose higher and the radiated heat from a trillion neutron bombs detonating and reabsorbed, detonating and reabsorbed, streaked across the space we call the heavens. This prehistoric creature lives the exact same life cycle, the exact same life, that it has lived over and over and over again for 300 million years. It is a living wormhole, a tiny time machine that knows nothing of our calendars, our clocks. The illusory structure of our grids and numbers. Our problems. In this moment, in this now, is the accumulated magic of epochs, one branch of DNA speaking to another. A few proteins here, a few rungs of the ladder there and viola, a human being meets a flying insect, outside of time as they’ve always been. This is real. This is truth.

Out there, beyond the grasses, beyond the borders of this sacred space, nothing else exists. Even this record is a blasphemy. The photograph, a desecration. Beyond direct experience all is approximation. Yet here I am, approximating miracles. Hoping against hope that you too, will see.

o O o


7 thoughts on “The Sacred Desecration

  1. Annie Dillard’s got nothing on you. This is beautiful writing with a beautiful image. You remind me how wakeful I used to be and that I can be again if I just slow down and connect. “…a living wormhole…” —that’s what this piece is for me. It connects me to the reality I used to live in. Thank you.

    • Oh Robert, you blaspheme my gal! Joking with you. Thank you. It’s amazing to me how late in my life Annie came in. It was as if I was channeling her all these years. She wrote Pilgrim when I was 5 or 6 years old…so, if I may ask, are you no longer in this ‘reality’? What happened? Big questions for a blog comment. Are you on Facebook?

      • It sounds like we have some things in common, which I’d enjoy delving into with you. I’m on Facebook: Bob Kozman in Portsmouth, NH. If you send a friend request I’ll respond.

  2. I have known Clark for many years, though I don’t see him much anymore. Terrific guy. I don’t know Dave Cohen, but then, I don’t get out much.

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