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Monday, January 17, 2011
Building rip rap
For Gary Snyder, rip rap is a cobble of stone laid on steep, / Slick rock to make a trail for horses / In the mountains.
It's also his first book of poetry, first published in 1959. To use its own line to describe it, it's like drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup / Looking down for miles / Through high still air.
If you are from sea-level, tidal country, rip rap's construction is similar, but the cobble of stone is to battle the river, arrest erosion, save the shoreline.
For a kid in a canoe, rip rap conjured up castles.
If they are available, rip rap might be made out of stones nearby. If there are none around, you bring them in.
The mind wanders. A million
Summers, night air still and the rocks
Warm. Sky over endless mountains.
What if we built a rip rap of lines and thoughts and verses, those we've found that hold meaning, interspersed with those we create, to shore up our minds and souls, to make a trail leading to...
All the junk that goes with being human
But what is it that falls away? What is it that goes with being human? The unsettled mind, maybe. The dwindling of the modern attention span. To be human is to oscillate like a fan.
A clear attentive mind
Has no meaning but that
Which sees is truly seen.
And that's what Snyder is to me. Clarity. Clean clear lines and thoughts. Drinking snow-water from a tin cup. Building a rip rap with our thoughts, re-imagining the word between mountains and shoreline.
* italics are Gary Snyder's words from Rip Rap.