Wink of Eternity

Now looking at the wikipedia entry for Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, where there is a museum devoted to prehistory mentioned in the article I have just read, which was about the discovery of some two hundred footprints made by Neanderthal children, perhaps in a sort of prehistoric preschool, eighty thousand years ago. Before that, read article on super bolts — powerful lightning bolts which generally strike in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean Sea, a thousand times more powerful than regular lightning bolts. Before that, an article on “cleaner shrimp”: how they manage to avoid being eaten by the fish they “clean” by means of an identifying dance. Was reminded I had been moved to look up shrimp. Was reminded how a customer had said she had eaten a crepe filled with shrimp at an event at the Eden Center, and I told her, you just made me recall I’d been meaning to look up the etymology of shrimp. I can’t recall what had initially put the word shrimp in mind as something I would look up. Customer, I recall, hadn’t gotten bubble tea at the Eden Center, which is one of those things you hear of people doing at the Eden Center. (Shrimp seems to come from an Old Norse word meaning thin and was used in English to describe a small person very early on and an especially small person might have even been called a shrimplet, according to my source.) (Old Norse was a Germanic language.) Before that, read an article on “forgetting in mice.” The authors of a recent scientific journal had located a sort of chemical I think it was, or neuron, that arose during sleep which was responsible for the jettisoning of unneeded memories. I was most interested in the early part of the article, which concerned the unusual case of a man who never forgot anything, but would recall random numbers he’d been shown twenty years previously, and my attention drifted as I went on to read further of the specifics of the study. The article said that this man who never forgot had difficulty with abstract concepts and figurative language, which caused me to think of myself as being like him though to a lesser degree, a lesser version of the man who never forgot: for I had a good memory, I’d been told, (good but prone to lapses, good but not immune to embarrassing cases of misremembering) but was not so good with concepts. Montaigne, I recalled, expressed he had a very bad memory and I wondered if that might have been a key or otherwise related to his great genius. Now looking up Caribbean Monk seal. Initially my investigation into the range of pinnipeds (which are seals and related life forms) revealed they were not to be found in the Caribbean, which puzzled me, as I was sure that was where the poem had been written, but then I happened to glance, scrolling through the page, that there once had been this so-called monk seal in the Caribbean, which had been declared extinct in the 1950’s, and perhaps it was a seal of that sort that Hart Crane had been thinking of in the concluding line of his poem Voyager II, which is:

The seal’s wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.

Spindrift is the spray from the tops of waves. Spoondrift is an alternate spelling of spindrift. Now back to the monk seal page to see from the image there if the gaze is “wide”, if the gaze is somehow suggestive of spindrift, but the image available is not ideal for making such determinations and before I check the wider web for an image, I am moved to scroll down still further and read the details of its extinction. “The Caribbean monk seals’ docile nature and lack of flight instinct in the presence of humans made it very easy for anyone to kill them.” (Now I’m sad, feel sad: men clubbing these trusting creatures on the beach — our very selves). On top of that, overfishing of their habitat led to the starvation of those not killed for their blubber. I’m made to recall Melville’s idea that the whale, whose blubber we also of course sought, and seek, could never be brought to extinction because they would just hide beneath the ice caps, an idea which seems especially naive now that ice is melting so markedly at the poles. Now that we are literally making the poles melt along with hunting or otherwise driving so many animals toward extinction. Nothing is safe from us, it occurs to me to say, aside from what are probably our worst enemies, microbes of various sorts; the existence of these latter we indeed actively promote, it occurs to me to say — our overuse of anti-biotics, superbugs, and the like. Google images reveals a surprising number of contemporary images for a seal that’s been extinct, its “wide gaze” maybe suggested by the wide separation between the eyes. It occurs to me too that the ‘gaze’ of the last line might be contrasted with the ‘wink’ of the first:

–And yet this great wink of eternity


Voyages II: an experiment in redemption.

%d bloggers like this: