Leanne Payne, one of my heroes, describes an experience similar to mine in one of her books, which I can’t cite at the moment, but which I read somewhere in between my two epiphanic moments. (I believe it is in The Healing Presence.)
She would call it a ‘seeing’—Perceptions of the Unseen Real—the quintessence of poetic awe, that phenomenon whereby the poet, the artist, sees past the visible into deeper, invisible realities. Keats the poet complained that Newton the scientist had destroyed the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to its prismatic colors. But that ain’t necessarily so. The scientist is merely approaching the rainbow from another perspective of awe, and trying to describe it with his mathematics, tools, words, telescopes.
The artist’s task is to select his medium, master his materials, and produce in tangible form that which is intangible. To ‘eff’ the ineffable, as Brennan Manning so wonderfully puts it. So my poetic awe of the moment might move me to write a poem one day, and not just call my brother and say, “Guess who I ran into at the post office today?”
No small task. Do I have time? Do I care to write about that moment? Did I ‘get it’—can I identify the epiphany in the encounter with an old neighbor in my home town? Did I even notice it? What is the metaphor?
In my poem “The Girl Scout Badge”, what moves it past another scout earning another badge? In “Navy Dentist”, what moves the poem past just another disagreeable session in the dentist’s chair, to the epiphany that we are prone to vices destined to earn us more disagreeableness (clue: answer in the last two lines of the poem)? What drives us to do the things we do?
One needs a lot of time to think and to be for this stuff. You may have noticed how loathe we are as a culture to think and to be.
So I only write a fraction of what I ‘see' in the frenetic pace of today's society. I wish I could capture more, stare out the window more, write faster, with more lucidity. But it sometimes takes me years to find the time to unpack what I ‘saw’—to identify the epiphany, find the metaphor, and choose the words that capture the ‘seeing.’
In the meantime, I jot down my Perceptions of the Unseen Real, for those days when I can sit and stare out the window and wonder what they mean. One of my favorite pastimes, one of my favorite definitions of art, and one of my strongest challenges in writing.