I’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude again. I read it every so often – usually after a long period of rain in the Pacific Northwest. The book acts on me like a tonic. I love the way the inhabitants of Macondo, the village Garcia Marquez creates for the novel, see ordinary things as wondrous. A magnet, a magnifying glasses, a cake of ice – the ordinary is extraordinary. Sure, a young woman can float off into the sky – but ice? Ice is a miracle.
Here’s how Garcia Marquez describes the moment a gypsy giant brings ice (hidden in a pirate chest!) to Macondo:
Disconcerted, knowing the children were waiting for an immediate explanation, Jose Arcadio Buendia ventured a murmur:
“It’s the largest diamond in the world.”
“No,” the gypsy countered. “It’s ice.”
Jose Arcadio Buendia, without understanding, stretched out his hand toward the cake, but the giant moved it away. “Five reales more to touch it,” he said. Jose Arcadio Buendia paid them and put his hand on the ice and held it there for several minutes as his heart filled with fear and jubilation at the contact with mystery
It’s easy on a day-to-day basis to allow the mystery or ordinary things to sink below the surface. But part of the joy of reading Garcia Marquez is that wonder is refreshed. We come away ready to see the world with new eyes.
The photo of the bird above, taken by the wonderful AP photographer Robert F. Bukaty, has the same effect on me. How unexpected it is – the bird’s breath in the cold Maine air, the frozen whistle. That photo is a poem.
Which reminds me: April is National Poetry Month. I’m going to read some poetry. And write some poems. I might go out and play with magnets or buy a magnifying glass or hold an ice cube in my hand. I’m going to try looking with fear and jubilation at what surrounds me. Christopher Fry, the British playwright, once said that poetry “is the language by which man explores his own amazement.” I’m going to go exploring.