it’s decades ago, i’m a jaded baby, and i’ve been drinking. summer night on the lava rock, down by the big bay with that treacherous looming mass of old-school mountain, rubbed smooth by winds and rains and snow. younger than the jagged beasts of the continents but more worn, gully-lined and recently planted with the kinds of things that stick in this blasted place, some semblance of how it used to be before the crass and destructive race of us came to stay.
but that low mountain is nothing more than a scene set for this memory. the real action takes place at the sun boat, stretching its aluminum prow upwards into the endless summer twilight. there i go, drunk, alone, wrapped in a thrift store vintage dior of wide knee-length black wool, black stockings, black cowboy boots, pre-emo, or what we used to call alternative. i’ve met the boys of the night and they are hopeless and desperate and dour, frisky at 3am and just as gutless, and just as unable to do anything with all the passion they intend. i have faded from the party (which party doesn’t matter...it’s all the same in this town, on this kind of night) and ghosted off by myself to hear the whispers of the sea. i grew up by alongside a different sea.
i stand, as is my practice, in mountain pose, a mirror of the mesa-like hunk of old-growth lava and newer dirt, element-crushed particles with the tenacity to stay when so much of it has, over the millennia, blown out to sea and away. tonight there is no wind, the sky is clear, i can see the outline of summer houses there over the wide water, and i’m more than alone. i stand. i am still.
we are not supposed to be still. it’s a dubious situation, fraught with terrors. i stand and watch the sea, small waves lapping at the well-placed rocks (this little city’s coastline is the work-in-progress of an artisan of unrecognized genius...for over two decades now he has found and moved and placed ton-weight boulders in an astoundingly orderly fashion along seaside walking paths with nothing more than his instinct toward beauty and a small yellow bulldozer.) i see tiny whitecaps emerging and remerging with the salty deeps. i place myself directly in line with the prow of the scale-model skeleton of a ship of the type our ancestors emigrated here in. a circle of smooth paving surrounds the sculpture, with a thin ring of rougher concrete separating it from the organized boulders that slope into the dark northern waters. i stand on the concrete, heels and toes together, hands in pockets, warm and content. behind me on the seaside thoroughfare cars whiz by at a four a.m. frequency, not so many then in this mini metropolis. all is good. i am in the elements, the light breeze lulls me, i am alone and fully happy, i am reminded of what i think i must have wanted as a child standing on scaled rocks laden with tidepools all those years ago on the edge of another world, with a very different ocean as my very best friend.
in my stillness the water comes alive. i see a dance of ballroom proportions, duets of water fairies in perfect takt, just below and of the surface of the cold arctic briny. they don’t waltz on top of, nor really below, but are the water itself, maybe a few human feet deep and i am mesmerized! in my solid state they are the only things alive, there is no city behind me, there is no man-eating mountain in the northern distance, there are only lovely dancing díses and a pair of human eyes as witness. i accept that this is for me, and at the same time that this happens always, this perfect ritual. they do not disappear, minutes pass, they emerge even more distinctly, the music they sway to fills and blossoms, they arc and twine in sacred couples, trailing lovely silken elvish dresses in their wake. i know i am blessed to witness this! long moments pass in clock time, i am still, the sun flows eastwards to its dipping point where it will rewaken as a sunrise. a respectful smile fills my heart. i am in awe.
how is this happening, how does this beauty show for a soul so late into a hopeless party night? i ask in silence, but the sprites don’t answer.
i hear footsteps behind me, and i'm tempted to turn around, but i don’t. “are you ok?” someone asks, a woman. “is everything alright?” she is close to me, very close, she is right behind me and i can sense her moving in to my bubble of stillness. “yes, i’m fine,” i answer without turning around. i can’t take my sight from the sea, my reply is almost a whisper, my human voice is chilled and unused, but i know the stranger can hear me. she moves into my line of sight, and i see that it’s a police woman. she smiles at me. “are you sure?” and i smile back. i can see right away that she is a gentle person, though i don’t know why she’s there with me at the edge of the city, where the boulders meet the ice cold sea. she says, “ we got a call. someone saw you, someone thought you might be....someone thought you might be thinking of....” i look at her with my newly sober sight, questioning, curious. “we were worried that you might be thinking of...jumping in...”
stillness, stillness at night, stillness in black at the very edge of a cold cold ocean, is a suspect state. and there’s no way to explain, in the endless twilight of a nordic summer night, what i’ve seen. i give in to a more mundane reality and say a silent goodbye to the lovely forms of the waters. i think i know in that moment that i'll never see them again. i pause, then turn to the policewoman and smile. she smiles back and nods her understanding, and so i start my quiet walk home.
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