The Seasonless Sea

Photo: The Seasonless SeaOpen water. The image in my mind is rarely of swimming there; growing up on a northern section of the Pacific Ocean’s edge, I knew of the sea as a place for wading and the rare venture to splash in a bit farther than ankle-deep, but also as bitingly cold, rocky, and full of sharp shells and ethereal but menacing jellyfish. A lake, while it might be at least marginally warmer, held in my mind multitudes of the same creatures that live in children’s closets and under their beds, but wetter and slimier and without a single door or mattress to deter their finding and nastily clinging to every immersed cell of my body. Rivers were icy highways relentlessly pulling me into the thick of their mad traffic unless I had oars with which to do battle against the current. Open water was, for me, always best admired and appreciated from docks and bridges, boats and beaches.

But, as my mind has always been willing to venture into places my body had no intention of visiting, I also know oceans and lakes, rivers and streams, as realms of inviting mystery and magical adventure. Under the surface of every body of water, there are endless natural beauties and curiosities of wildly diverse sea creatures and aquatic gardens, landscapes of great magnitude and delicate detail, and biological wonders that rival the most fantastic notions of primordial soup. There are also, for me, equally magnificent and splendid worlds of the fantastic. I see, in my mind’s eye, tremendous tales of adventure and romance and daring and delight all over in the rippling, dappled light below the surface. Every sighting of a coelacanth, of gulper eels and viperfishes, confirms my belief in the literally outlandish contents of the oceans’ depths.

I understand that from a climatic and biological viewpoint, open water is of course affected by and dependent upon seasonal changes. It’s perfectly logical that, metaphorically, a sea change should refer to a significant transformation or metamorphosis. That the seas themselves undergo tremendous changes as the weather and tides and time pass over them has potent enough impact on the realities of this world; what the seas do, in turn, to anything while it is immersed in them adds to that alchemical appearance. Ariel’s song reminds us that what is embraced by the ocean’s depths becomes one with the ocean in profound ways. The possible applications of such a metaphor are so numerous and so thought-provoking that I could probably write a thousand posts about those alone, but the effects of existing immersed in open water are the ones that lap up against my attention and flow through my imaginings the most often, so it is on those shores I will continue to do my wandering and beachcombing.

Best place to find mer-people and coelacanths: open water. In the seas of my fantasies, there are no seasons. I will always be able to dive deeply among mysterious and wonderful events and creatures in my dreams.

Neither Truth nor Consequence

digital collageTo capture the kind of innocence that little ones have would be a scientific coup beyond what even our best magicians could hope to conjure. How is it that such jaded minds and dedicated tragedians as adults can be made from the raw childhood materials of clear-eyed honesty and untouched truth and light? As an artist and writer, even simply as a grownup who believes that honesty and reality have far more forms than the dull quotidian ones in which we grownups generally clothe them to fit our fusty adult needs for blandness to feel safe, I search the boundaries between worlds endlessly in hope.

Sometimes I wonder if I have been cheating when I don’t follow precisely that stern old caveat that warns me to always Write about What You Know—that I should stay fixed in the firmament of my own particular universe, my peculiar range and realm of reality. Of course, I know that no beautiful fantasy and very little romance would ever get written by anyone if this rule were strictly adhered to in every way; what’s more, I remind myself as I write that every word I put down on the page is true, just not always for me and my own experience: perhaps it’s something I’ve known of believed or felt, translated into another person’s events, and sometimes it is perhaps best described as true of (or for) another person who herself or himself is not known on this modest three-dimensional earthly and human plane. Anyway, I am reassured that I bend the Rule a little but I never wholly break it; I tend to wander further from the truth only when I must–in order to make the truth of the matter most apparent.digital collage

Meditations

digital collageStillness at the Edges
I
We stood along the shore at break of day,
The water lapping gently at our heels,
And heard the distant crying of the seals
At gulls for stealing all their fish away–

The dawn was chill and misty, palely blue,
Our hearts in morning shadow just as cold,
And bone and sinew feeling early old
As soul and body waiting day will do–

The sea was restless, slowing at the last
To push up foam as streaky as the clouds
And gather shells and pebbles in those shrouds
Around our feet, we statues standing fast–

All this, because our spirits captive are
Until revived by sun, our morning star.
digital collageII
So lifeless, silent, still and cold are we
When gold has yet to tinge the morning sky,
So empty is the world but for the cry
The seals and gulls raise up in minor key–

So heartless is the morning chill ashore
We stand like stone and cannot take a breath
Until the sun releases us from death
And brings the flame of sentience once more–

At last the light of day draws us to wake,
And we’ll bestir ourselves to act and thrive,
Rejoicing to discover we’re alive
Until the world’s foundations start to shake–

We know the night will come again, and fast,
And so must live each day as if our last.digital collage

Blueprints for the Romance of Place

digital artwork + textBuilding Strong Bones

In the lovely resonant

shadowed hollow of

an architectural ruin,

the beauties of

its skeleton become

more than engineering,

more than a means

of shelter or a clever

way to shut people

in or out–

What happens is

life becomes caught

in the interstices of

a building’s bones–

vitality drawn off

from all the smaller lives

that have come through;

in the humming open space

of a lovely

building in ruin,

mortality is kept

as though in a jewel-case

or a body quite perfectly made

for being loveddigital painting

North

 

The depth of the lake cannot be guessed

 

Its shimmering silicate glacial glow

 

With turquoise mask screens what’s below

 

In filtered glimmer, thought at best

 

To be just deep enough to hold

 

Beneath the frigid upper glass

 

Down in its centermost crevasse

 

Something mysterious, so old

 

It’s passed from memory and ken

 

And only surfaces when stars

 

Come showering down as red as Mars

 

To call it upward once again

 

Communing with its antique kin

 

For roaring moments in the night

 

Before the day dawns turquoise bright

 

And glassy water closes in

 

Once more its inexpressive glow

 

A wall of silence ageless, stern

 

And secretive, where none can learn

 

What lives those fathoms down below