21 September 2009

On The Ocean Voracious, Epilogue

It was the screech of a seagull, perhaps, that awoke me. A high, thin keening that set my nerves on edge and had me gritting my teeth.

Grit was in my mouth. The banalities of everyday life intruding in the form of phone calls, bathing, eating. All the simple actions we take for granted when there is no crisis to confront. Simple they may be, but akin to mountain climbing while schlepping a sixty-pound backpack. Scuba diving in gelatin. Pushing frozen molasses with a snow shovel.

Blackstrap molasses, at that, so it fails to even offer the warm comfort of an oatmeal cookie.

My eyes fluttered open into the stinging kiss of a stiff salt breeze. Sand crusted my face, which was mashed into the cold shingle of the beach. A few feet away stood a feathery blur which slowly resolved itself as an enormous glaucous gull, standing guard over the beat-up carcass of a codfish. The gull shifted from one foot to the other as I slowly raised myself up on my trembling arms. The pungent reek of the deliquescing fish assaulted my nostrils. My aching belly heaved, and I vomited memories, hot, bitter, acid.

Days, months, years of anger and sadness spilled out onto the bright sand. The sun sparkled on the slick of sickness like filthy rubies and emeralds; gems made obscene by years buried in the muck and slime of my ravaged psyche. The stench was unbearable and triggered another torrent of spew which seemed to last for days. I feebly scrabbled backwards to get away from the toxic waste lying on the beach. The sand rasped my hands and knees, growing damp as I neared the tide line, toes tangling in the clammy rubber of decaying seaweed. The heavy seas of my heaving insides slowly settled down as if sprayed with crude oil. I leaned back on my heels and spat to rid my mouth of the taste of steel wool and quinine. The world was condensing into a familiar shape as I closed my eyes, rocking gently in the saline breeze.

Days later, tears seeping down my salt-crusted cheeks, I opened my eyes. The seagull was still there. peering at me with what could only be termed professional disinterest. A cock of the head, and it casually bent down to peck at the codfish melting into the sand. The sulfur-colored bill held something red and stringy, which quickly disappeared into the bird’s gullet. The gull screeched at me, a glasscutter blade on a cosmic windowpane. I shivered.

It was cold in the wind, but the sun behind scudding clouds offered some small warmth. My body and my mind ached with the fading pain of having run beyond my limits. Gingerly I flexed my arms and hands, rolled my head about my neck, and made to stand.

A fortnight later and I was on my feet. Now that the pain had faded somewhat, I took stock of my surroundings. The gull was gone, leaving the pathetic outline of codfish bones under a thin layer of sand. I averted my eyes from the evidence of my illness, focusing instead on the granite boulders that marched themselves up the beach to melt into a dense forest of slatey-green trees. Pine, fir or cedar I could not tell but the herbal sweetness of conifer sap coiled into my flaring nostrils as the wind blew gently offshore. I breathed deep and relaxed, ever so little. Gazing into the forest, unblinking for what seemed days, I realized that the only way out of the prison of my tragedies was to venture inland. There could be no going back to the sea. Not now.

Tragedy notwithstanding, I felt I could not truly abandon the waters that brought me here. Survival so hard fought, I had come to respect that which used to be a mortal enemy. I turned to face the liquid jade vastness that had spat me upon this not so alien shore.

There was no trace of the vessel I had once sailed upon this troubled ocean, and I was not so foolish as to expect it. The sky overhead was shocking cerulean, pocked by clouds of icy white and steely grey. Their etherealness congealed into a dense grey smear that seemed little different from the water, out on the far horizon. The sea and sky along the curve of the earth stirred slowly, a darkly grey serpent portending storms and heartache to come. Perhaps they would find me, perhaps not; for now I was on dry ground with little reserve to fight against that which had not yet come to pass. I turned on my heels, trudging slowly but steadily up to the trees.

Behind me, the glass shards and tumbled gravel of a million heartbreaks rolls back and forth in the ceaseless play of surf. Water mutters and hisses over the shingle, the voices of my beloved urge me forward into the balsam green breeze, and my chest grows warm as the splintered remains of my heart begin to stitch themselves anew.


  1. Breathtaking, stunning, overwhelming.


  2. I like the shattered glass images.

  3. Surely, the most heartbreakingly beautiful story I've ever heard.
    I don't know what it cost you to share this, but, truly, it brings you strength in brave wishes from all who have read it.
    Ditto on the Bravo!

  4. I think this is my favourite so far, Gumbo. Bravo.

  5. Very moving, left me speechless and wanting to read it over and over. Incredible visuals.

  6. What can I say? Everytime I come by, I am surprised and awed!!

  7. You're writing is so dramatic and very visual. It makes you want to and not want to look away.


  8. you leave little room for comments.
    too little space.
    too much space.


  9. I am going to float in this for awhile, let its moisture suck up into my skin.

  10. For me the sound of a phone ringing always tastes like grit, seagulls disgust me with their penchant for rotting fish. But I wasn't entirely sure why you were on the beach in the first place, to enjoy the view? Beautifully written pal.

  11. Ouch! Don't! No, stop! Wait... I like it!

  12. Fabulous, my dear, just outstanding! Welcome back! Hugs and gumbo !!!

  13. i, uh, am....well. amazed. how can you write like this and not already be a pulitzer prize winner - does the prize committee not read blogs? i am just floored by your gifts

  14. Thanks for this. Your words made me see the ocean, the sand, the gull, and the hope.

  15. Holding out my hand to you...

    This is beautiful. Your mind is beautiful.


"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...