Thursday, June 14, 2007

“Ah, my friend, the Mica chist layer; do you remember when...?”

"One of the greatest privileges of my life was the opportunity of knowing a man given to human wonder and divine seizure who was in turn so loving of everyone and everything whom he saw or met that the universe turned a corner for those of us fortunate enough to be in his presence. His was truly the Christic journey and his path was strewed with many miracles of love made manifest. Let me tell you what being with him was like. Let me tell you about walking the dog with Teihard De Chardin, or Mr Tayer as I called him then.
When I was about fourteen, I used to run down Park Avenue in New York City, late for high school. I was a great big overgrown girl (5 feet eleven by the age of eleven) and one day I ran into a rather frail old gentleman in his seventies and knocked the wind out of him. He laughed as I helped him to his feet and asked me in French-accented speech, "Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?"
"Yes, sir" I replied. "It looks that way."
"Well, Bon Voyage!" he said.
"Bon Voyage!" I answered and sped on my way.
About a week later I was walking down Park Avenue with my fox terrier, Champ, and again I met the old gentleman.
"Ah," he greeted me, "my friend the runner, and with a fox terrier. I knew one like that years ago in France. Where are you going?"
"Well, sir," I replied "I’m taking Champ to Central Park."
"I will go with you," he informed me. "I will take my constitutional."

And thereafter, for about a year or so, the old gentleman and I would meet and walk together often several times a week in Central Park. He had a long French name but asked me to call him by the first part of it, which was "Mr Tayer," as far as I could make out.

The walks were magical and full of delight. Not only did Mr Tayer seem to have absolutetly no self –consciousness, but he was always being seized by wonder and astonishment over the simplest things. He was constantly and literally falling into love. I remember one time when he suddenly fell on his knees, his long Gallic nose raking the ground, and exclaimed to me, " Jeanne, look at the caterpillar. Ahhhh!" I joined him on the ground to see what had evoked so profound a response that he was seized by the essence of caterpillar. "How beautiful it is," he remarked, "this little green being with its wonderful funny little feet. Exquisite! Little furry body, little green feet on the road to metamorphosis." He then regarded me with equal delight.
"Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?"
"Oh yes," I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly, pimply faced teenager.
"Then think of your own metamorphosis," he suggested. "What will you be when you become a butterfly, une papillon, eh? What is the butterfly of Jeanne?" (What a great question for a fourteen-year-old girl!) His long, gothic, comic-tragic face would nod with wonder. "Eh, Jeanne, look at the clouds! God’s calligraphy in the sky! All that transforming, moving, changing, dissolving, becoming. Jeanne, become a cloud and become all the forms that ever were."
Or there was the time that Mr Tayer and I leaned into the strong wind that suddenly whipped through Central Park, and he told me, "Jeanne, sniff the wind." I joined him in taking great snorts of wind. " The same wind may once have been sniffed by Jesus Christ (sniff), by Alexander the Great (sniff), by Napoleon (sniff), by Voltaire (sniff), by Marie Antoinette (sniff)!" (There seemed to be a lot of French people in that wind.) " Now sniff this next gust of wind in very deeply for it contains… Jeanne d’Arc! Sniff the wind once sniffed by Jeanne d’Arc. Be filled with the winds of history."

It was wonderful. People of all ages followed us around, laughing - not at us but with us. Old Mr Tayer was truly diaphanous to every moment and being with him was like being in attendance at God’s own party, a continuous celebration of life and its mysteries. But mostly Mr Tayer was so full of vital sap and juice that he seemed to flow with everything. Always he saw the interconnections between things - the way that everything in the universe, from fox terriers to tree bark to somebody’s red hat to the mind of God, was related to everything else and was very, very good. He wasn’t merely a great appreciator, engaged by all his senses. He was truly penetrated by the reality that was yearning for him as much as he was yearning for it. He talked to the trees, to the wind, to the rocks as dear friends, as beloved even. "Ah, my friend, the mica schist layer, do you remember when...?" And I would swear that the mica schist would begin to glitter back. I mean, mica schist will do that, but on a cloudy day?! Everything was treated as personal, as sentient, as "thou." And everything that was thou was ensouled with being, and it thou-ed back to him. So when I walked with him, I felt as though a spotlight was following us, bringing radiance and light everywhere. And I was constantly seized by astonishment in the presence of this infinitely beautiful man, who radiated such sweetness, such kindness.

But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Mr Tayer was the way that he would suddenly look at you. He looked at you with wonder and astonishment joined to unconditional love joined to a whimsical regarding of you as the cluttered house that hides the holy one. I felt myself primed to the depths by such seeing. I felt evolutionary forces wake up in me by such seeing, every cell and thought and potential palpably changed. I was yeasted, greened, awakened by such seeing and the defeats and denigrations of adolescence redeemed. I would go home and tell my mother, who was a little skeptical about my walking with an old man in the park so often, "Mother, I was with my old man again, and when I am with him, I leave my littleness behind." That deeply moved her. You could not be stuck in littleness and be in the radiant field of Mr Tayer.

The last time that I ever saw him was the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1955. I brought him the shell of a snail. "Ah, escargot," he exclaimed and then he proceeded to wax ecstatic for the better part of an hour. Snail shells, and galaxies, and the convolutions in the brain, the whorl of flowers and the meanderings of rivers were taken up into a great hymn to the spiralling evolution of spirit and matter. When he had finished, his voice dropped, and he whispered almost in prayer, "Omega…omega…omega…" Finally he looked up and said to me quietly, "Au revoir, Jeanne.""

From Jean Houston, "Godseed; The Journey of C--".


At 6/15/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger Isaac Davidson said...



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