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Cassandra Falke & John Keats: One Sublime Moment

William Hilton the Younger. (British National Portrait Gallery)
Poet John Keats

Cassandra Falke recounts a sunlit moment shared with a coyote, above Santa Fe:

"We probably all have secret places. One of mine is a rock ledge on the southwest side of Monte Sol, or Sun Mountain in Santa Fe. One evening I snuck away to my ledge between classes. I was new to the West and new to St. John’s College.  I was equally awed by the great works we were reading and the environment in which I found myself. I had come of age in the sheltering landscape of Appalachia. The exposure of the desert startled me, and so did the vastness of all I had yet to learn. The profundities of Aristotle that we studied were like a code. The text contained everything, logical and complete, for any person who could crack it.

But my sunlit ledge was different. The view over Santa Fe at that moment, with pinks and tans and greens in just those shades, seemed only for me.  But then I became aware of another presence by me. A coyote had approached on my right, confident that my ledge was his ledge. Seeing me, he lowered his nose and bent his right forepaw in something between a sniff and a bow. Then, he straightened up to his full height, with his ears alert, his chest thrust forward, and with a patience so profound that he need not call it patience, he looked at me. I didn’t move. I wanted nothing more than his approval. Then, curling into a perfect circle of himself, he lay down, more complete than all I had yet to learn."

John Keats's poem, "On the Grasshopper and Cricket," rejoices in the songs of insects around him, both in the summer twilight and in his winter home:

"The poetry of the earth is never dead:
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
  In summer luxury,--he has never done
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never.
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills."

(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 4/8/15 & 10/14/15. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)

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