I came into the studio this morning, and found that a squirrel had broken in the night before. He had somehow managed to squeeze in a window, and spent the night trying to get out. I don’t know what caused the squirrel to die, perhaps it was exhaustion. Its body lay on the floor in the corner of my studio.
My immediate thought was to get a shovel, and move its body outside. But, I remembered how a few months ago, my son Liam had brought my attention to the beauty of a fallen bird. I bent over the squirrel with my son’s eyes, and was amazed. Its body is such an incredible feat of engineering, with the absurdly large tail counterbalancing the muscular torso. A course in physics in college helped me to observe the amazing proportions of the bones of its rear legs, creating a powerful lever capable of an enormous burst of energy. The comparatively smaller front legs serving as fine tuners, enabling the squirrel to steer. The long whiskers, I would imagine, picking up on the power and direction of the wind. The longer I looked, the more amazed I was with the beauty of its design.
Though I had a strict deadline today in the studio, with portrait commissions, emails, and phone calls looming, I took out my sketchpad and began to draw. I spent the next two hours admiring such an incredibly designed machine.
When I was a teenager in high school, I sometimes would cut out of school for an entire day, and wander into Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown. I would sit on one particular tree that jutted out into the lake. I recall one day that the lake was perfectly still, like a sheet of glass. Then a light gust of breeze came through, and I could literally watch the breeze rush across the surface of the water, turning the glass into tiny little ripples. I could trace the every movement of the invisible breeze, and then… it was instantly gone. Another gust would come along, and I would trace its wandering path on the face of the water. Observing this, I had a sudden understanding of how my heart should be towards the things of God, that my spirit should be still enough to receive the slightest breath from his being. If I am a blabbering mess of distracted white caps, then I’ll have no ability to be sensitive and receptive to that wind. I will miss out on something.
Here in my quiet studio, away from all the clamor of cities and cell phones and cars, here in Islip, I can trace the hand of God moving over the water.
For a more left brained interpretation of this theme, read this fascinating cover article on the New York Times. A bit test-tubey for my taste, but I do like hearing scientists address this theme.