Some men do their work on the ground, others in the sky.
I labor in the sun over my chicken run. I cut gussets for the corners to keep it square; stake out the perimeter so I can run a string between the stakes to make it level.
Above me, a little bit closer to the sun but hardly so, other men cut mind-boggling turns, dense and muscled, leaving eddies of torqued thunder in their wake. They skate around the corners of the sky. They string together clouds as points on a course; they howl, shriek, climb, dive.
The Blue Angels are in town and have been in town for most of a week. Does anybody not know this? I've been busy, so today is the first day I've had the luxury of watching them, the privilege of hearing them. One jet in particular is deafening. This must be the one that sends my brother's cat burrowing under the bed.
Their (omni-)presence has come up in conversation with friends, housemates, people at work, but today is the first day I've really watched. Everybody has an opinion, but I've been struggling to come up with my own.
A formation of four comes arcing directly overhead, so low I can see the helmets of the pilots, so coordinated they're like fingers on a hand.
What I think is not so simple. I realize I think one thing, and FEEL another. I think: waste of fuel; I think: emblem of empire. I think: someone has a genitalia complex.
But what I feel, that's a whole 'nother story. The sound arouses something primal in me. It terrifies me. I feel small. I also feel astonished, humbled, saturated with a sense of awe. The presence of the jets elicits the same expansiveness of being I experience when confronted with a natural wonder that defies categorization, defies one's attempt to put it in context, diminish it to a containable thing, or give it a relative scale; like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or the trees of the Hoh Rainforest. When one cannot contain something witnessed, one is forced to expand to take it in; or submit to being absorbed in it, and thus become part of something bigger.
I might even call it a spiritual experience.
The funny thing is that my cousin and his friends are just inside, playing jazz piano, spicing it up with some djembe and even a bit of didgeridoo. This is a remarkable concurrence of events. Overhead the not-gods hurl their might across the sky with god-like confidence and might, their war cries god-fierce. A tightly-knit cascade of notes alights from the piano and comes skipping through the air. The djembe speaks in low grunts, like an old, wise savage. All is wrapped in the continuum of the didg, which seems to suggest that none of these things are alien to this world, not even the fighter jets. Who are we to decide what is natural?
But do I agree, folks? I don't know, I just don't know. Am I amazed? Yes, and I think it's good to be amazed. But is it possible to be amazed without all the force and fuss? All the howling and shrieking and climbing and diving? Yes. And I wish more people were receptive to it.
It's why I garden. I suppose it's an exercise in listening. It makes me sensitive to subtelty, and as I grow more sensitive, I notice more marvels. I am more easily amazed.
Though the Blue Angels leave me reeling with awe, I should hope that I don't always need such gross stimulation to encounter such awe. I will continue to work in the quiet corners of my life, and meet the world there, too.