In A Philosophical Moment

R-20091211-0001.tifWalking out of the Mercy Center labyrinth this morning, I saw a squirrel furling and unfurling its tail, making a series of question marks that dissolved and re-formed.

Egg cure oil, I thought. Ecureil. That’s French for squirrel.

I’d engraved the word on my brain the day I arrived in Montreal, a provincial girl from Massachusetts. I’d anxiously fled the dorm, walked up the slopes of Mount Royal, encountered a golden-tailed squirrel and begun the laborious work of learning a new language.

Today I wonder what connects that coltish girl to the fifty-eight year old woman sitting in a blue chair beside the labyrinth?

It’s tempting, but too easy, to use the metaphor right in front of me. The labyrinthine path of life connects the girl of eighteen to the woman of fifty-eight. Yuk.

In my more philosophical moments I’ve thought—I am a metaphor.

This physical being sitting in a blue folding chair and sipping coffee is a metaphor. I stand for something else. I am a form that makes the invisible visible.

Not a stand-in or a stunt double. Not a placeholder for someone else.

I am a concretization, an embodiment, of essence. Spirit, if you will.

That’s what connects the vibrant young woman quivering with fear and joy to this tranquil woman scribbling in a notebook. Still trying to learn the language of being human. Of being at home in this beautiful, paradoxical world.


Hoffman, Red Squirrel, courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Open Access program