Friday, October 29, 2004

A Note from the End of Summer

I found this in a spiral notebook I was about to chuck into the recycling bin. Mostly it's just page after page of practicing Chinese characters, but I found a couple pages of what was obviously meant to be a blog entry:

Otter Rock

It's all white and gray here. Endless white sky, endless gray fronts surging in from the Pacific; dark gray sea laced with white foam. Twisted pines are night-colored against the ghostly blowing sand. There is no horizon, only a place where it's no longer clear whether the darker gray is a quick rain-shower or the mass of Gull Rock. The whales, too, are gray and white. Not migrating, as I had thought. Some grays do migrate past here, in the late Fall and the early Spring; but others stay here year-round, and those are the ones we see. I had wondered how it was that we got so lucky, year after year. Whether we came in early August or late October, the whales were always here.

This is the twenty-ninth year we have come to Otter Rock. It's woven into all the history of our marriage. Martha and I first came here, escaping from the summer of my sister's suicide, finding in each other, rather than the temporary solace of a fleeting infatuation, an unexpected strength and solidity.

The sixth year we came here on our honeymoon, again fleeing violence, the murder of a friend, and the dissolution of our supposed talents into a quicksand of depression. We stayed a single night, and were so wretched, so horrified at bringing all that misery into a place that had been happy for us, that we left the next day. I don't remember where we went, then. Maybe Ashland.

Later on, of course, we brought the children here, and it became the children's vacation. We've never been good at boundaries; we're one of those child-centered families that so many people despise. I used to despise them too, which didn't prevent me from having one. A great blessing that children bring is the acceleration of the process by which we become everything we used to hold in contempt. Some of my childless friends are only now, with the advent of middle age, discovering the horrors of turning into their parents; we were already there fifteen years ago. A long time to wait, to learn the lesson that all contempt is self-contempt, all loathing is self-loathing.

Gray gulls against the white sky, the white whale-spouts against the gray rollers.

This frigid sea holds my death. I watch Tori wading out into the breakers, her skin bright pink. They give people less than twenty minutes to live if they're immersed unprotected in this sea. It sucks the heat out of your body quickly, greedily. I'm not so young now that playing with that appeals to me. I stay on the beach and watch. Dogs and children love to play in the surf. The rest of us love to watch them, but we're content to let our deaths come and fetch us. No wish to seek them out.

I find myself murmuring refuge prayers, and thinking of Bokar Rinpoche, and of Michael and Lekshe. How idly I've spent my days. And in what a narrow little space -- stepping eagerly or doggedly in the footprints of old anxieties and cravings. I miss you all.

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