I might have been sitting on an agreeable rock or lying under a Chinese Tallow tree, one of our few Texas Gulf Coast trees that can be counted on to scatter scarlet and gold leaves in the Fall.
I might have traveled a few hundred miles north to woods that were a childhood delight for me when the leaves turned.
But I only traveled to the Medical Center. I only lay on a hard, narrow table under a computerized tomography scanner that rotated around my body, assessing my lungs – a painless procedure that is a tool for detecting and identifying problems in my body. I have done this many times before because I have nodules in my lungs that need to be monitored plus some respiratory difficulties. But when I looked up from my narrow perch, this time I saw this illuminated image. And it took my breath away – in a good way. It made me smile, and I thanked the technician for this gift.
I thank God for the natural beauty which someone photographed. It takes little imagination to shut out all the antiseptic environment in that room and be transported to “light pouring down into the woods and breaking into the shapes and tones of things.”
The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.
But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.
—Billy Collins, The Art of Drowning