Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beach, Day One

It's been two weeks since I went to the coast to disconnect. That's been enough time to recognize what a beautiful and necessary time it was, and just enough time to plug back in and get stressed again. I have missed the ocean since my second day back.

I did some writing while I was there, which felt really, really good. It's not brilliant, and it's not deep, but I can't sleep, and so here you go:

Day One...

I want more drama from the ocean. How presumptuous is that?

I wanted crashing waves, and I got them, I guess--when I closed the door to take a shower, I thought, It sounds like a washing machine.

I wanted the waves to be CRASHING: big, white puffs like angry clouds. But these waves just kind of sidle up, move along, and lick the shore.

This is what people love about the ocean, isn't it--it's so endless and so constant. I like watching these little waves curl; I love the curvature, the green. I love it so much I'm a little sad every time one crests, because it's over.

I sat in the bar and had an old-fashioned and a pound of clams. When I ordered, the waiter said, "One pound of the steamed clams, or two?"
"One will be fine," I said. "Thanks."
I ate them slowly; I was there a long time. I had a book.

There was a woman sitting at the table nearest me, probably in her 50s, and I thought, She's not beautiful. I wonder if she was when she was younger. I wonder if her husband still thinks of her as beautiful. 

And then I hated myself a little, and my brain said, "How selfish can you be?", and I thought, Well, at least that much. But I'm loved anyway.

There was a woman standing on the beach, and I liked seeing her, there by herself, staring at the sea. The sea sounds so much more poetic than the ocean. But the ocean sounds bigger. When she turned and started walking, I felt like all the poetry of the moment left.

Three women came and sat near me in the bar. "Ooh," one of them said. "What you have looks good."
"It is good," I said, and I popped a clam in my mouth to show how much I was enjoying them. A little bit of sand crunched between my teeth.

They decided on the clams, the beef tips, and the artichoke dip. And rustic bread. I know this because the one woman kept repeating the list in different order:

"Look at this view, ladies. And we're going to have artichoke dip, and rustic bread, and beef tips... and clams!"

And later:

"I can't wait for our clams, and beef tips, and artichoke dip, and rustic bread. And look at this amazing view!"

It's almost dark. My words are sliding off the page....

Ta da! Day two coming soon....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I am disconnecting to reconnect.

Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4
by Richard Brautigan 
Get enough food to eat,
    and eat it.
    Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
    and sleep there.
    Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
    until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
    and listen to it.

Pretty soon, I am leaving. Not for long. Just a few days.

The plan is to stare at the ocean for long stretches of time. I will have books--they may be opened, or not. I will have a notebook and a pen. The notebook may stay blank.

The phone, while with me, will ideally be off. This stresses me out a little.

I don't disconnect well--I'm constantly plugged in somewhere, constantly engaged in something, so that my alone time either feels not alone at all or totally, utterly, lost-in-space-and-time alone.

So I am going away, and I'm not bringing anyone with me, and I'm going to stare at the ocean and be quiet. I won't say silent--I might sing.

I need to disconnect to move past the disconnected feeling I have been living in. Doing more hasn't helped me feel better or stronger.

I am not putting expectations on this trip, other than the sound of the waves, crashing in rhythm. I may learn nothing. But a part of me hopes I can learn to recognize again that giving yourself grace is not lazy.
Maybe I'll be reminded that I am safe and secure in an insecure world.
Hopefully I'll see again that the people who love me love me intensely, and that those who don't, don't need to.

I am bringing some poems with me on the trip. The one up at the top speaks to the inspiration of the whole trip. Hopefully, I'll have a copy of William Stafford's book Even in Quiet Places--possibly the only book of poetry to actually make me feel like I was discovering something.

And this one:

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda 
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

(ps. Thanks to Eric G. for reminding me what poetry can do.)