The sunporch is a lovely place to do the ironing. The light is suburb. The breeze off the water cools. Sometime each day—the tide low, the seaweed exposed—a flock of Common Eider ducks, inhabitants of this part of the shore, climb out of the water and spread themselves out on the lower outcropping of exposed rocks that lie below the house. The little, fast growing, ducklings are easier to see out of the water so I’d been paying attention to their time ashore which seemed fairly brief and connected to wave and tide conditions.
On this particular bright, sunny, do-chores morning, I watched a human family–mom, dad, and three kids–make their way out on the rocks intent on taking pictures of each other, so intent that they failed to notice that their movements edged them closer and closer to the flock of ducks and ducklings hauled out of the water. As the human family kept moving forward I saw a string of duck bills simultaneously point towards them, a symmetrical heads-up line of concern, but the family continued moving forward, remaining oblivious. The duck moms hurried their brood and themselves into the water.
About twenty minutes after mom, dad, and the kids left the rocks a group of twenty-something young men approached the same area. They seemed anything but oblivious, deliberately and aggressively approaching the duck family now returned to their sunning spot. The young men drew closer and closer. Again the ducks headed back out into the water. What were these young men thinking? There was no note taking, nor a single tripod supporting a long lens, either evidence of serious birding. Only one young man raised his arm in a phone camera posture, the rest were casually swinging their water bottles as they climbed up an over the rocks headed for the ducks. What was their intent? Did they not understand wild? Did they think the ducks would welcome their presence? After some time, the young men moved back, then off the rocks and the ducks, always less graceful out of water, again hauled themselves to their spot on the shore.
Out of deliberateness or oblivion what I watched was disrespect. There was no evidence by either group of humans that this part of the shore is home to the creatures that inhabit this place. Both human groups would have recognized their trespass if they had ventured into someone’s fenced back yard but roaming freely or aggressively into a wild and unknown place carried no awareness of occupation by “other”.
Such rudeness, such disrespect, made me ashamed of my species.
The childhood memories that remain sharpest are the times spent sitting by the lake or being out on it in the small boat with the outboard motor I was allowed to take out by myself at a fairly young age despite not being a strong swimmer. I experienced great joy drifting without anchor in isolated bays, surrounded by the sound of lapping waves, absorbed in a book, with birds and fish as my companions. Considering today’s world fraught with protecting children , these memories seem an impossibility but my parents trusted in something I cannot now fathom. I was blessed by that trust.
Until now, my high school years were the last time I lived so close to a large body of water although I returned to such places whenever I had a vacation break. What is that pull of water bodies felt by so many of us in all parts of the world? A primal urge? A need for negative ions?
Homebound, driving inland from a vacation on Cape Cod, I saw a shop window filled with prints of water scenes and, spontaneously, I bought a large, inexpensive image of a waterside porch, sun sparkling on the water’s surface. This print has hung over my bed for twenty or thirty years, only now it hangs on the wall opposite from the windows that look out to an eerily similar view. Even the paint colors are the same.
“Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life” is a book which was published a few years ago. I did not read it but I am now living with this manifestation.
I cannot explain anything aside from the longing.
Fog: July the Obscure.
It’s five a.m. and the moon is shining, a full moon just over the neighbor’s precise, shiny, charcoal gray roof. The fog is so thick the water is barely visible. We’ve been socked in for days and every thing in the house is damp-limp, but the shining moon is oddly, somehow, sharply etched.
The fog feels like a living thing as it swirls or drifts, sometimes obscuring a fence, sometimes moving in visible wisps. At times it feels humorous, as if it were playing hide-n-seek, but mostly it feels like a white, wet shroud while above it or away from the shore you know it’s a perfect summer sunshine day.
“Clammy”. The weather forecaster used the word yesterday and I laughed knowing I’d been using that description for a week not once thinking it could be used as a weather prediction.
What does it mean that even though we’ve been in this soup for days the moon has shown through this fog every night and now, still shining in the early morning, hangs crisp and luminescent above these clouds resting on the ground?
On the edge of something.
On the fringe of consciousness.
The space where land meets the sea.
A walk along the ocean in Ogunquit, Maine.
The longing for expression seems inherently human. Now, in the age of social media overload, it gushes from every keyboard. And still, mine wants a small space, a way to think out loud, to give small observations breathing room.
It’s the middle of a rare warm night. The ocean’s incoming tide lets out an occasional whomp as the angle of a bigger wave strikes the rocks that look like petrified wood (a form of shale containing mica and quartzite) otherwise there is the usual, fairly loud, swooshing that you’d expect so close to the water when it’s possible to leave the windows open at bedtime. The moon, just past full and still shining, spreads a path on black water enough to light the room a bit.
It is completely clear to me that coming to live in this space, on this margin, was aided by non-corporeal assistance. There was lots of earth-based human help as well of course. The challenge in having arrived here is to use the energy imbued in where the land meets the sea in this sacred time, this margin of old age and its transition from life to … whatever lies after the known has gone. I’ve spent most of my adult life musing about life after death and have had the privilege of being in the presence of a few of the great minds who have been examining this topic in deep and scholarly ways. More recently have been classes–parts I and II–on Consciousness which is like splashing about in a delightful pool, exhilarating and fun and profound.
Lifelong learning is not an oxymoron.