10 July 2011

Ouzels, Honey Bees and Purpose

I'm re-reading Painting Water, a yet-unpublished novel by Greg Keeler.

My head is 10 inches beneath the flight path of a very purposeful swath of honey bees.

Since this swarm arrived from Boulder two weekends ago, I have been mesmerized. Common interest rules the hive. Bees have a genetically hard-wired purpose. They work for the common good, then die. It'd brutally unceremonious.

In Trash Fish: A Life, Greg Keeler longs for the clarity of purpose a water ouzel has as as it dips it head and dives into a chilly Montana river.
"If I knew my life like an ouzel knows a river, instead of longing for rehearsals, I might wander in and out of surfaces and alien environments, at home with water, air and earth. Love would be as easy as diving off a rock, and death would be as familiar as the moon seen from underwater. Yes, in ouzel mode, I might shoulder the pain and wreckage I've inflicted on myself and those I love as an ouzel shoulders the current - not so much as a burden but as a way of staying in place where everything else is moving."
While Greg is shouldering pain and wreckage in ouzel mode, I am in bee mode – more specifically, drone mode -- hoping to find purpose beyond the male end of procreation.

I am taking my time re-reading Painting Water – savoring it like I let dark chocolate melt in my mouth, or like I sip my way through the layers of a Speyside scotch. I savor the occasional scotch, like I savor an emotionally raw memoir like Trash Fish, or a melancholically lyrical and brilliant novel like Painting Water.

If I had to choose an excerpt from Painting Water that encapsulates my profound connection to Greg Keeler's work, it would be from the preface of the book. In the preface, the novel's protagonist Clinton asks for the reader's indulgence saying,
...I have never been successful in the charting of my intentions and the life that eluded them, either in theory or in practice.

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