P.I., Opening


Co-ordinates: My 72 seasons app informs me that we are in shoukan (Minor Cold). It feels awfully cold, however, all of a sudden. The tradition assures us that though Major Cold is coming, the shock of Minor Cold is worse. “Freeze in Minor Cold,” goes the saying, “melt in Major Cold.” On the hill peaks this morning there was a little snow. Smoke seemed to be rising from the slopes as the sun lit them, then clouds rolled over and completely obscured all trace of hills. Ten minutes later, the hills were all “TA-DAH! Ha ha, bet you never knew where we were hiding!” It’s been a day of snow flurries, interspersed with bright blue sky and sunshine.


Introducing P.I.

I am training my heart to pick up and attend to poetic instants (hence, P.I.). This phenomenon is beautifully laid out by Gaston Bachelard who describes poetic instants, language in relation to time, at length and in detail in his essay ‘Intuition of the Instant’, but also, more satisfyingly and succinctly, in the short essay ‘Poetic Instant, Metaphysical Instant.’

Poetic time is vertical; it plunges, it plumbs. Right into the living waters. What I like about the instant is that, stayed with, it can lead, as many anam cara will know, to an apprehension of depth, to an encounter with something true to Life. Bachelard wrote: ‘If our hearts were large enough to love life in all its details, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer . . .’. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about the plundering aspect, but, yes, if we meet, say, poetry, frankly, sometimes it does have the effect of smelling salts, upsetting our sleep, and causing such a snap in us that we awaken, quite different. Our habits in routine, in perception, our set, our round of What is Known may suddenly inhale something unexpected, utterly novel. One theo-poetic philosopher (Richard Kearney) has described the instant as ‘lacuna, gap, aperture, caesura [that] invites us to replace the élan vital with the élan vocal, [to] replace mute determinism with the liberty of poetic speech, the power to say “yes” or “no”‘.

The gaps, yes …

The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock–more than a maple–a universe.

So writes Annie Dillard.

Being a follower of Poetic Instants (as any P.I. – private investigator – knows 😉) is to be sensitive to what arises and stakes a claim on your attention. It is to be aware of how the instant ‘sprouts’, which is the very flaring forth, the frothing, of creation itself. The French call this jaillisement. It is in these charged moments where we receive time’s gift.


10 thoughts on “P.I., Opening

  1. Reading this, I’m transported to my peaceful place, perusing my new 72 Seasons app (thank you for introducing me to a new and wonderful experience), saving the pdf of Bachelard’s essay which I found online for later, and resting in a cozy gap. What beautiful , lyrical writing, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that app great? I love it so much, all the beautiful things that are integrated: art and poetry and photos and food, and refreshed every 5 days or so. It never gets ‘old’. Would that we could bring our attention to this kind of liveliness and beauty right on our doorsteps, as it were!

      Thanks, Susan, for the kind comments. Enjoy your cozy gap!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I left this post open in a tab for what seemed like days, waiting for enough time to concentrate on it. This is the first time I’ve heard the moments, the instants, referred to as gaps or spaces… except for the time I heard Fr. Meletios Weber speak about the Jesus Prayer, and how to stay focused while praying it – how to listen to God’s silence, and not have thoughts intrude constantly. He said to pay attention to the spaces between the words.


    • Thanks for this beautiful and thought-provoking comment. Yes, the silence between words of prayer are indeed sacred spaces. (Perhaps, even, the holy of ‘holeys’?! 😉) I’m all for breath and all for silence! All conscious breathing spaces can remember us to ourselves: that we are, that we are not separate, that Love is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My goodness, I just read another reference to spaces and gaps, in Listening Below the Noise by Anne D. LeClaire:

    “Musicians are particularly articulate on the importance of silence, both in the process and in the score. ‘The notes I handle no better than many pianists,’ said the musician Artur Schnabel. ‘But the pauses between notes — ah, that is where the art resides.’

    “My friend Jane Lowey told me, ‘My work with music and choral directing has taught me the deepest respect for the emptiness between the notes. Of course, there is no music without the silence. It is silence that actually gives life to sounds. Sometimes I think of the choral work as “the voice, the circle, and silence.”‘”

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    • Oh, Gretchen, that is brilliant: yes! Reading it makes me wonder how we might train ourselves to attend the spaces, aurally, as the musicians suggest, as does your earlier comment on prayer.

      I’m thinking as I write of those black & white drawings used for tests of perception (are they called figure-ground forms?, I’m not sure) that, looking at the white parts you see one thing, and at the black, if you can shift your seeing, another.

      Japanese art, calligraphy in particular, makes use of ‘negative space’, a kind of visual silence, an emptiness which is also a plenitude. (It’s possible that my post on Toko Shinoda addresses this – it’s been a while since I wrote it and I don’t clearly remember 😉)

      Thanks so much for the share! In paying attention to the P.I. lately I’m very aware of how dominantly (not completely, but…) visual I am.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This really is beyond me, although that quotation from Annie Dillard is one I’ve known and appreciated for years. I do agree that, in the end, it comes down to attention — witnessing the world as it is in its surface, its depths, and its connections — and gap-stalking is as good a name as any for that sort of dedicated life.

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  5. Pingback: Keeping Watch | Orientikate*

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