Sunday, August 13, 2006


I hold a spoonful of coffee, light brown, trembling. A tiny line of light where the sky reflects from its convexity. All the answers are trembling there.

Well. I put the spoon in my mouth. Bitterness runs over the sides of my tongue. Warmth soaks through the skin of my palate, and into the bone above it. My teeth answer to the heat, waking into the world. Morning. Maybe there's nothing to be learned.

Twin threads of sadness and joy are tracing their way along my veins. Melancholy and sanguine humors. Medieval European medicine has always made immediate sense to me. Grief and happiness move through the body not like winds, as the Chinese have it, and certainly not like electricity, as modern scientists believe. They seep, suffuse, saturate, spurt. They are liquids. A trickle of tears. A small translucent fountain of seed.

I wash my hands in the clean water of the Bull Run River. It's nothing but fluids, bitter or salt, sweet or sour. Running into our bodies and out of them. I cup my hands and the water overflows my fingers. So many stories we tell, and believe. Don't trust anything but your hands, that's my advice. If your hands don't understand it, it doesn't make sense, no matter how many words affirm it.

When we arrived at the Coast there was a disquieting brown cast to the ocean, as though flakes of old bronze were floating under the surface. Whether that had anything to do with the dead zones up north, I can't say -- by the end of the week the sea was green and gray again, laced with white.

I picked up a shard of mussel-shell, and rinsed the sand off it in the little creek that wanders down the beach. Like the bowl of a spoon; inside, where the mussel had been weeping, was an opalescent film. I turned it towards the light. The colors shifted, veils of lavender and violet, hints of green and blue. Over all the silver gleam, cloudlight and seashine.

I understand why people have asked questions of shells and tea-dregs. Ossified fluids, liquids that have stopped running long enough to form an answer. That I might hold in my hand.

But not really. What remains is beauty, not answers.

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