Eternity in a liter of milk

National Poetry Month, Day 18  //  The great baseball pitcher Satchel Paige, when asked by a reporter about an errant pitch he delivered into the dirt in front of home plate, replied, “In a billion years, when the world is a frozen snowball whirling through space, no one is going to remember that pitch,” or words to that effect. Seen from the right perspective, the perspective of eternity, the big, embarrassing blunders I make in life find their true proportion. I’m unburdened of the judgments I imagine others make of me and of the judgments I make of myself, the offenses having become more trivial. Freed of their load, can stand upright. I can breathe. Forgiving myself and others, and accepting the forgiveness of others, allows that freedom to come a little sooner, in a kind of grace.

But the shortest moment, the humblest life, is important in ways we will probably never understand. We may send ripples through centuries (some do), though their connection with their source may never be known. Though we flourish like a flower of the field – “for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Ps. 103:15-16) – there is eternal beauty in the smallest flower, purpose in the slightest blade of grass, meaning in the simple offering of a liter of milk to an orphaned filly. Don’t try to analyze it, I tell myself. Just let it be and celebrate it for its mysterious is-ness in the order of creation. It’s worth more than you will know.

“Only This Morning,” by Dan Gerber (b. 1940)

In a hundred trillion years—
an actual number
though we can’t begin
to grasp it—the last traces
of our universe will be not
even a memory
with no memory to lament it.

The last dust of the last star
will not drift in the great nothing
out of which everything we love
or imagine eventually comes.

Yet every day, every four hours
around the clock, Debbie prepares
her goat’s-milk mix
for the orphaned filly
who sucks down all three liters of it,
gratefully, it seems,
as if it matters more
than anything in the universe –
and it does – at this moment
while the sun is still
four hours from rising
on the only day that matters.

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