(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gazing out the window at grape leaves, a writer reflects on their beauty, and on the relation of the recent crises of his life to nature. The effortless creativity of nature and its freedom from guilt contrasts with the artifice of his writing and with his experiences of shame and fear. As he contemplates his natural surroundings, he is beginning to sort through the memories of his divorce, trying to make sense of his feelings of pain and love. He is also contemplating his own activity as a writer, drawing the reader into the processes of capturing the images of life on a leaf of paper:A blue jay lights on a twig outside my window. Momentarily sturdy, he stands astraddle, his dingy rump toward me, his head alertly frozen in silhouette, the predatory curve of his beak stamped on a sky almost white above the misting tawny marsh. See him? I do, and, snapping the chain of my thought, I have reached through glass and seized him and stamped him on this page. Now he is gone. And yet, there, a few lines above, he still is, “astraddle,” his rump “dingy,” his head “alertly frozen.” A curious trick, possibly useless, but mine.

The writer of this passage continues to enter in and out of descriptions of the natural beauty around him, drawn back from entering fully into its profusion by images of his wife’s departure. Sunlight playing through the grape leaves casts shadows in menacing shapes, yet the intricacy of the colors and patterns among the leaves suggests innocence, shelter, and openness as well. Drawn outward to the embracing leaves of surrounding trees, he is suddenly cast back inward to his sorrow.

Others have told him that he acted badly, but...

(The entire section is 686 words.)