02 December 2016

Tide and Wrack

Things have been quiet here on the headland. Panes have rattled little in their frames, mostly. There are those who work hard to convince me that this particular silence is a good thing. I reckon it is. Mostly.

Beyond those very windows the sea acts in its honesty, trying hard to give meat to the bones of this silence. But the evidence lies before me in the mid-spring sun. The sea, with muted voice, is as restless as ever. Waves. Waves. The eternity of their susurrus upon the strand drives my dreams and washes over my heart. 

The sea is made for a life of constant motion. My heart and head know this and savor the delicious incongruity that they both are not. The heart beats and the head thinks but stillness is their natural state. An excess of motion works everything hard. The picture slips from the frame, the body slips from the soul, and edges blur. I do not suffer blurriness gladly. 

Ah, blurriness. The soft error. A misstep of intention and execution. Or statement of fact. I wrote of stillness as a natural state for my heart and head. It should have been written as a "desired" state. The waves question and point out my folly. It has been ages since I have felt true stillness. On the bad days, stillness seems mythic, like Valhalla or Shangri-La.

Thus the sea haunts me, nurtures me. Shades of jade and iron coruscating before my eyes. Can the sea be gentle? Today the answer is yes. Low tide and high wrack, the leavings of recent storms mirroring the debris scattered across my desk. Jetsam of a recent excursion writ in receipts for dinners, a movie ticket stub, credit card slip printed with the names of books purchased on impulse (one for me, one for her, and they made me happy, yes?). The bits of paper strewn about in an effort to lighten the load upon my memory.

The sea can be gentle, but it can never be still. Even in the doldrums you see it: the surface warps and quivers in response to things unheard, things unseen. Waves know this from the ripple to the breaker. I ponder that thought as an image bubbles up from the depths of my childhood.

Summer light streams across my neck and back. My skin prickles with heat and sweat. I lay prone on a concrete culvert pipe, lazily watching brackish water flow north with barely perceptible motion into the marshy terrain leading to the river. The tide is nearly out, soon to turn in obeisance to ancient imperatives. The water here is not deep but it is nearly opaque. Its opacity stokes both curiosity and anxiety. I feed neither beast.

As I lay there, a few inches away the water ceases moving briefly. Curdling, turning, a sheen of oil becomes a miniature pinwheel turning around the spot upon which I focused. The surface moves again, but nothing arises from below, and the viscous mirror returns to its serene repose. This mirror does not reflect its serenity onto me. I am nervous, I am tense, wondering what it could have been that disturbed the water so. Despite the brass lantern of the sun I shiver. I recognize at once a fear that will carry over into adulthood, the full import of which will not hit until years down the road from that summer day at the culvert. The jolt pushes me to my feet. I stare at the water for a few moments, then turn away and begin to run back home. I say nothing to my parents of my fear when they ask me where I had been.

I fear that which I cannot see. I need that which I cannot see. If the sea has taught me anything it is that this peculiar duality is integral to the conduct of my head and heart. 

The papers and receipts have turned gold in the deepening afternoon sunlight. With a start I realize I have been daydreaming for quite some time. The sea has crept up the beach with the turning of the tide.

The memory of that creek side revelation begins to fade and is replaced with another notion, slow to form but recognizable as having to do with love. Life is the sea. Love is the thing in its depths, the whale's fluke that makes the water curl around you yet never presents itself to your eyes. Thrashing about in the turbulence is a natural reaction to the unknown. The head fears it, the heart needs it, but blessed are those who find it.

1 comment:

  1. So that's where you were, when your mother called you for lunch and could not find you.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...