Coming home from work on June 10th, I encountered a toad at the bottom of the stairs, as if waiting for me. I ran in to get my camera before the toad disappeared and came back to find it still peacefully sunning. I took several shots, very close, amazed that the toad didn't leap away. I sat on the stairs, enjoying the late light and watching the toad, checking out the wild designs on its back, its topaz eyes.
Surprisingly, the toad jumped toward me, positioning itself between my feet, then turning around to face west with me. We watched the sky and trees, thinking our thoughts. This companionable silence seemed to go on for quite a while. It was probably no more than five or ten minutes of stillness and complete ease, that shared, comfortable space illuminated by the gold evening sun of June. Time got nice and slow. I felt I "got" the toad, that I "grokked" the toad. Do you recognize that Martian word from Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction classic, Stranger in a Strange Land? Here is Heinlein's definition of grok:
"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed -- to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience."
To my delight, the word was also listed in The American Heritage Dictionary:
Grok -- slang -- To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.
And, here, from the Oxford English Dictionary:
"To understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" and "to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment."
From Heinlein again, grok is "associated with literal meanings such as 'water', 'to drink', 'life', or 'to live'."
Good word. Those Martians are deep. Here are more good words, from Marianne Moore (forgive the formatting):
.... One must make
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
the imagination" -- above
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.
-- Marianne Moore, from the last two stanzas of "Poetry"
To enlarge the photo, click on the image.
At my desk
11 months ago