I am fearfully made and I imagine the sleek curves of my kidneys and the round red onion shape of my bladder. I will never see those parts with their perfect forms, their elegant overlaps sealed in my skin. All I know is their transparent function, or its change, or that blind nerve dance we call pain.
I will never see those long pale ropes that take my food and turn it to steps or speech. All I know is the wonder of containing such exchange, that lets the morning eggs and the noon bread rise as song in the kitchen, laughter in the back yard, rise as indignation, care, or grieving, rise as love or longing or belated thanks.
I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in college. J.D. Salinger’s book, published in 1951, has sold more than 65 million copies and still sells 250,000 a year. Catcher became required reading for a whole generation. The antihero of the book, Holden Caulfield, remains a cult hero for some.
This winter I had the opportunity to observe a Caravaggio painting upclose and often: his Supper at Emmaus (1601) was on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago from its permanent home in London’s National Gallery. From the Century offices, it was only a few steps across Michigan Avenue to see this vibrant, dramatic painting.
Wee Agnes Sawrey widdow & Dorothy Tyson Spinster do severally make oath yt ye Corps of Margaret Tyson of Gryzedale in the Parish above s’d beeing buryed the first of Aprill 1696 was not put in wrapt wound up or buryed in any shirt sheet shift or shroud mad or mingled with Flax Hemp or any Coffin lined wth cloth or any materiall but what is made of sheep wooll only according to a Late Act of Parliamt made for Burying in Woollen. In witness herof wee the saide Agnes Sawrey & Dorothy Tyson have sett our Hands & Seals. Aprilis, Ano Di 1696. —Parish document in St. Michael and All Angels Church, Hawkshead, Cumbria
In Norway when you die, they clothe you in a gown of purest white. Egyptians sucked out organs, layered presoaked linen strips around each desiccated limb. It matters what you wrap a body in.
I am one of the few that walk the footpaths on the fell today who put on wool against the sharp October air. The scattered sheep are unimpressed. Warming these hills with active tongues, they are unaware that Parliament, to buoy the trade, once ruled that only wool could be the spun and woven garment of the dead.
Agnes and Dorothy held to the law, picking softest weave of shift or sheet or shroud to lay against the body of their Margaret— like the Marys in the story, who laid his body out, washed and oiled, and put, wrapt, wound up, and buryèd each limb in swaddling clothes to match the ones his little body wore in Bethlehem—the cloth he wore to meet with life and fight with death— he who newborn slept among the shepherds and their silent, woolly sheep.
Thesis: What we commonly think of as Miracles, are mere Synchronicities, felicitous accidents, startling coincidences; Whereas that which we call common is actually miraculous. Whoa; let’s approach this slowly from the side, as we would Edge up shy and careful to a sleeping wolverine. Wolverines Are good to start with, come to think of it—I mean, consider A wolverine carefully. A whopping big one weighs less than Half the dogs you know, not to mention those two obese cats, Yet bears and cougars and even the most stupendously stupid Men back away from wolverines. They have been revered by People who know them well for years beyond counting. They Own their place. They were designed by immeasurable years. There are only a few of them, compared to, for example, ants. Are they not miraculous? Do they not inspire a reverent awe? Can any of us make any of those? No? Can it be that miracles Are things which we cannot comprehend or construct? Hawks, Elk, porpoises, children, damselflies, quasars—the list cannot Ever end, because every time we discover something, we also Discover more that we don’t know yet, isn’t that certainly so? So that which is miraculous is quotidian. While the occasional Inexplicable recovery, the avoidance of death and mayhem by The thinnest of margins, that only happens on occasion, right? So because it isn’t quotidian, perhaps it isn’t a miracle. Listen, I know your brain is buzzling right about now—it’s happening To me too. But the thought that miracles are normal, isn’t that The cool thought of the day? Let’s remember that until dinner, You and me, and then savor the miracles with whom we dine.
The discovery of a Philistine cemetery outside the walls of the ancient city Ashkelon on the southern coast of Israel may provide clues to the origins of the ancient Philistines. A team of scholars is using DNA research and other techniques to determine the Philistines’ origins. Existing archaeological and textual evidence indicates that they originated somewhere in the Aegean region (National Geographic, July).