A Flowing Drop Suspended In Time, Still Flowing

A Flowing Drop Suspended In Time, Still Flowing

Daniel Rabuzzi

“The point is that all that is intermediate in the ordinary run of things is made immediate; which is what we mean when we say that breathing becomes breathless, hope becomes terror, or time stands still, but without any cessation, in any of these cases, of life, faith, or motion, and with an access of inward, of mutual verisimilitude.”

— R.P. Blackmur, “The Sacred Fount” (originally published 1942; reprinted in Blackmur, Studies in Henry James, edited with an introduction by Veronica A. Makowsky, New Directions 1983, page 60).


Decades ago:  a Green Heron hunts / hunted / is hunting in a half-strangled stream – a dwindled thread at the bottom of a drainage ditch – mere yards from a major intersection in Boston, Massachusetts. The blazing yoke of its eye!  The striations of its throat plumage (it must have been an immature), the delicate fronding of the feathers on its back as it leaned forward, coppery green plumes overlapping with the rusty brown, quiet subtle blazonry, imprinting themselves on the space between us. Crouching down among the reeds and minor willows crowding the culvert, my errand evaporated, I tracked the heron as it tracked fish, for many minutes…ten, fifteen, more, I did not know, so cannot remember the specific count, just the unbounded wholeness of the durée. The heron had been there always, picking its way over pebbles and twigs, when I appeared. I had always been there at the intersection as trucks roared by, when the heron manifested. The tableau of heron hunting flowed past me along a helical stream-bed. I became the moment, the heron, in the bedraggled stream; its “light, color, depth… awakens an echo in my body,” as Merleau-Ponty said about the workings of the eye and the mind.[i] The heron’s eye was / is / will be my eye, its minnow-hunger lodged also in my belly.

I have not lived in Boston for many years but I visit often and have, on occasion, passed that intersection. I always pause and look, hoping to catch another glimpse of a Green Heron there, professionally going about its business. I never have (not there, though often enough elsewhere), but I see always the palest tint of a shadow stalking down the little stream; I luxuriate in its “sense of presence and achronological pungency,” as Reinhart Koselleck described another multivalent episode.[ii] I smile and am for one prolongated moment in the past, while simultaneously also in the past-as-I-recreate-it, the present, the present-as-I-imagine-it-for-the-future, the future, and the future-in-which-I-am-remembering-my-recollection-of-the-original-event. A gaze, a gasp, a gesture that anchors itself in a place in the world, in the mind, in the world-as-the-mind-constructs-it, the heron was / is / will be ever-present in the water-tables of my mind. Time drops, unspools, concatenates. Drop-Time: when the Green Heron walks with delicate ferocity through my memory, picking a path in the present, already present in the future.  Drop-Time: when my mind is the Green Heron’s, a study in patience, a shape of hunting. Drop-Time: a surprise and an awakening, time hollowed out from the regular river, elongated and linked across the long stretches of current, directly tied like a bundle of leaves (or feathers) floating and bobbing and dipping in the stream. Drop-Time: in-collapsing and bursting outward at the same time, an imperfect progressive tense (the progressive implausible, the progressive heteroclite?), the aorist essence, passado no acabado, entanglements falling under the heading of what Carlo Rovelli calls “the inadequacy of grammar.”[iii]  The heron in the ditch by the intersection made / makes real the words of T. S. Eliot: “Time present and time past /Are both perhaps present in time future,/And time future contained in time past.” [iv] Unaware of Rovelli, of Eliot, uncaring of ontology or entropy, indifferent to chronotopes, the little Green Heron continues the hunt for darters along a tiny brook, then and now embodying and in our future embodied.


[i]       Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind,” in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, ed. Galen Johnson; translation by Carleton Dallery from 1961 original (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993), page 125.

[ii]      Reinhart Koselleck,  Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, translation by Keith Tribe from 1979 original (Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press, 1990),  page 5.

[iii]    Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time, translation by Erica Segre and Simon Carnell from 2017 original (NYC: Riverhead Books, 2018), pages 105-115.

[iv]     T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” in his Four Quartets (1936).


Daniel Rabuzzi