Monday, July 9, 2012

Epistle: To Grace Nelson

       The seven o'clock bells ring out on an otherwise quiet Saturday morning. Small breezes shake last night's rainwater off the still trees. The lilies in the garden have gone away and it feels grand to look out from the back porch idyll and miss them for all they had and what they gave. More space for the brown eyes then as they cycle through the blurred hot days of summertime. Local is beautiful. That's what you hear anyway. That's what people keep saying. In markets. On phones. Any old web page has tips on how to stay right where you are.
   And that's cool. But it's like we want to belong so badly we forget what's opposite. How can you be sure? If no opposite is there to look into and find a reference? All the information on people's phones makes it appear like we could never be lonely even if we tried. Hey. Even my fingertip has started to heal and grow back.
   Who on earth wants a limit? Hasn't it been a hallmark that for over two centuries of American optimism the gig was to fake it until you make it? Local is beautiful. Perhaps that's a wish. What we know stays locked onto an endless dark unfolding beyond our influence. And maybe that wish is to possess something we know little about, something broader than ourselves, something we want and have to grasp at and that translates across borders and language to find us all rooted nowhere but in the present. Namely my guess is we need to live in order to fear nothing. And then we need to live again to tell someone else about it.
   But at this point I still feel like a ghost. Eerily distant, as though out of focus and lacking a good skin on my bones. You push against a world with all you have, but that world does not move for all the trying. Remember: young. Remember: luxury. Remember: sadness as an option. Years ago we had a talent for placing those emotions. Weren't we as bright then as the sun in the sky? Remember: young. Not sore muscle sets. Nor tired sets of thinking. Who's around to listen so you're crazy with it?
   The nurse said I brought you the last of last year's pickles my aunt put up last year. And this years onions.
   What about the recipe I asked?
   Can't have that she said. Family owned.  
   But what about sensation I wanted to know? How can I duplicate that? When I taste these pickles... when I look at them in a jar... when I hold one up against the window in the afternoon and wonder how they were made...
   Just have a pickle the nurse said. My aunt will never show you the recipe. She'll only give you the pickles.
  But what happens when she's not around, you know, to give the pickles away. What happens?
  Let's have hot dogs and cold beers tonight the nurse said.
  Ah. The very idea of joy I said. Who can have only one hot dog off the grill or only have one cold beer to kick at the starch in your head?
 She looked at me and grinned. Her face was like a hummingbird hovering for an instant and then finding nothing to match its appetite the wings flashed and were gone.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012


The two kite surfers the other evening - skimming on the ocean like a pair of mechanical toys chased through the waves - where were they were riding on - the water or the wind?

   Wide hot sunlight let lose and catching a stifling 90 degree mark. Bikini season in full bloom. High school graduates just off the block and what seem to be a kind of dance on the the crazy whims of happiness were hauling coolers and plastic footballs along the shore and yelling out each other's names as though if they did not make this effort then they might forget who they were. Coppertone smells on a small air moving inland... makes me think backwards... back to hanging out on beaches in Jersey when I was a kid... where mom was somewhere near an old blacktop access road to the beach and chain reading mystery novels and buried into a wide brim hat and sunglasses so as to be so little noticed like a blade of grass you might pass in the dunes... Tim was out in the surf fishing for blues and I remember him casting and reeling and casting and reeling... and just where  in this sweet world am I?
   And so am left standing, knee deep in the calm surf at Watch Hill. Staring across the water at the lighthouse. I guess there's a tonic here for the nerves. Falling beneath the sway of the summer air around your shoulders and the cooling brace of the ocean around your legs. You know for sure that if you blink in the looking nothing ever gets resolved.
   I keep looking out at the sea, past the lighthouse, and thinking there goes my family. Everything I've ever known as family - the blood links - the biology like connective tissues on earth - the names given to us at birth that keep us separate from the other groups we encounter - was now over. But not gone. Right? Because now that family was a part of the ocean. Can't go wrong there. Right? It's like a cosmic homecoming. But still gone right?
   Sadness makes me feel stupid. And I don't even know if that's just a guess.
   There is  a picture in my head... one that I hope I will never forget. What we have we need. And what we need we have all the way through and that way through us all and how that becomes a circle that we look to complete... first we dumped Tim's ashes overboard... then we did the rest of mom... they sank just out of reach... beneath the easy roll of the  parchment green water... the Rhode Island Atlantic they both loved... and stayed visible... swirling about... as though hovering in a place before taking off for somewhere else... like a powder from magic tricks.. like two ghosts kicking around a house... magnetic as we watched.. spreading out into the waves which meant they were lessening from what I knew about them ... but still recognizable from what I've known of them...
   Emma tossed flowers overboard. Yellow for Tim. White for mom. Al circled the boat to keep the lighthouse in view. Pete said goodbye my friend.
   The yellow flowers stayed over Tim. The white flowers stayed over mom. And it remained that way for several minutes. Ash pools rising and falling in the swells. Flowers marking the rise and fall and not leaving those pools. Like nothing was separate... like everything was separate... we stared in near narcotic silence... having a conversation without words... maybe afraid that this was so final and nothing more could be done... maybe we'd seen something... the other worldly tour guide who came around for the dead... and following those several minutes the ashes then began mingling in the waves... Tim and mom... turning into part of the Atlantic...
   I see those milky translucent clouds turning below the surface of the water... just released out of a cardboard box and a plastic bag from the funeral home... and perhaps were now living again in a strange way... like they swimming for the first time... finding peripherals... turning over to a different world... the ashes  becoming water... the flowers like our hands waving on top... like the flowers belonged to our world on land... and now the ashes were in the water and belonged to the water and were on their way... opened onto a great system... tidal and deep... something we only fetch at until it reaches us and we die... and back on the boat we try and fathom it but we really can't since we're not down there in the water... so we sigh because that's the consequence for the living and watch it all drift away... then we all started to laugh... I guess we recognized what we saw... we the living had our boat... in ways left to the imagination... Tim and mom had theirs...  

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