Wednesday, March 13, 2013

`An Element of Elfin Coincidence'

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. A few clouds in heaven do come together into the staring shape of one human eye. A tree does stand up in the landscape of a doubtful journey in the exact and elaborate shape of a note of interrogation. I have seen both these things myself within the last few days.” 

There was nothing doubtful about our drive to Brenham, midway between Houston and Austin, the birthplace of Blind Willie Johnson. The land is gently hilly, a pleasant break from Houston’s vision-limiting flatness. We saw fields of cows, horses and goats, and copses of oak rimming ponds, more like mud holes in the ongoing drought. Hawks were busy. We toured the Blue Bell Creamery. It was my third visit to an ice cream factory (Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont, Tillamook’s in Oregon), and I don’t eat ice cream. 

At the Antique Rose Emporium we bought pots of gerbera, Cheiranthus allionii, blackfoot daisy and blue lobelia. The boys swung on a robe swing hanging from a live oak. A male Northern mockingbird perched at the tallest of each tree he visited and seemed to follow us around the ground. A mockingbird’s repertoire is like Ulysses, with each chapter told in a different style. His Latin name is splendid: Mimus polyglottos. One of his songs sounded like the squeak of a rusty windmill, another like the trickle of water in a down spout. My sons and I whistled the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but he never joined in. He was longing for a mate but remained solitary throughout our visit. 

“Nelson does die in the instant of victory; and a man named Williams does quite accidentally murder a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide. In short, there is in life an element of elfin coincidence which people reckoning on the prosaic may perpetually miss.”
[The quoted passage is from G.K. Chesterton’s “The Blue Cross” (The Innocence of Father Brown, 1911). It is the only place in the story where the narrator employs the first-person singular pronoun.]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I saw a young mockingbird open his beak and say--nothing. He hadn't yet acquired a vocabulary.