Journal of the Movement of the World No. 7
This broken stem that for you I loved
from The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
[more on my book blog & Fortnightly]
. . . I was having breakfast and looking at the bouquet on the kitchen counter. I don't believe I was thinking about anything. And that could be why I noticed the movement; maybe if I'd been preoccupied with something else, if the kitchen hadn't been quiet, if I hadn't been alone in there, I wouldn't have been attentive enough. But I was alone, and calm, and empty. So I was able to take it in.
There was a little sound, a sort of quivering in the air that went, "shhhh" very very very quietly: a tiny rosebud on a little broken stem that dropped onto the counter. The moment it touched the surface it went "puff," a "puff" of the ultrasonic variety, for the ears of mice alone, or for human ears when everything is very very very silent. I stopped there with my spoon in the air, totally transfixed. It was magnificent. But what was it that was so magnificent? I couldn't get over it: it was just a little rosebud at the end of a broken stem, dropping onto the counter. And so?
I understood when I went over and looked at the motionless rosebud where it had fallen. It's something to do with time, not space. Sure, a rosebud that has just gracefully dropped from the flower is always lovely to look at. It's so artistic: you could paint them over and over! But that doesn't explain the movement. The movement...and we think such things are spatial.
In the split second while I saw the stem and the bud drop to the counter I intuited the essence of Beauty. . . . I have been incredibly lucky because this morning all the conditions were ripe: an empty mind, a calm house, lovely roses, a rosebud dropping. . . . Because beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It’s the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death.
. . . does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance?
Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying. (pp 272 - 73)