Meditation on a Place



Several, maybe. There are so many wonderful places to be, it seems almost ungrateful to pick one, but I’m a fool for the ocean. The ocean never disappoints.

Growing up in a rural mountain area, I had never seen the ocean (except in pictures, of course) until I was well into my twenties. By then, even then, so many things that had been hyped in my childhood had turned out to be, if not, frauds, well, not as exciting as they were said to be. I’m not talking about sex or roller coasters here. Those are pretty reliable too. And I had not, nor have yet had occasion to see the Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal. I’m talking about much smaller frauds here. Nonetheless, there was some fear. Suppose it was just a lot of water and so what? Among other things, I guess I mean, suppose I was not up to seeing it?

IMG_1237---Copy---Copy_editWell, you know why, don’t you? It’s all those pictures. When you’ve seen a million pictures of something it’s sometimes Maine_coasthard to really see it then. Some things — I’m being so tactful here — just look too much like their pictures. Yawn. And then there was the ocean. A definite Cortez moment (you know, silent on a peak etc.). The ocean was everything I’d hoped it would be.

I think it was the noise. One is never prepared, even by a lifetime of watching movies, for the actual noise the actual ocean makes as it throws itself, heedless. Second, of course, it’s much too big for a picture, so there you go. When you’re actually standing there looking into the face of the ocean, the first realization is that you can’t. The ocean is just too big to look at all at once. Part of it isn’t even visible, even though you can’t help knowing it’s there.

1024px-Winslow_Homer_-_Maine_CoastWhat really surprised me, what has really surprised me over a number of years, of decades, is this keeps on happening. The ocean continues to be too big to be boring, too noisy to be ignored, too beautiful. Some people maybe feel this way about standing on mountain tops. But the countryside, no matter how far the eagle’s eye can see, doesn’t move. Well, except if it does, that’s a very bad thing. The ocean threatens us and we love it. Well, I love it.

This last picture, is by Winslow Homer, and the thumbnail of the Maine Coast is from Wikimedia (many thanks). The other two are mine and were taken in Florida. But the remarks above apply to oceans everywhere.


Meditation on a Photograph


Here it is, the street where that murder took place. Recognize it? I don’t either, but something in my bones tells me this is it. It looks so innocent and pre-war. Yes, it looks (to me) like 1927. Don’t look too closely at that surrealistic automobile,, lurking in the left vanishing point, or the worse one hiding behind the fence. They can’t help being there. It’s like the innocent bystanders who didn’t manage to get themselves indoors and out of sight before the  police arrive. The sun is shining on this spot but it’s an ironic sun. This street speaks of exit. This street says, too late, too late. And it isn’t even willing to say what it’s too late for.

This is the kind of scene the crime leaves behind. That is,  not streaked with blood, but after the blood has been all tidied away. This is a street trying to assume its innocence. That picket fence alone is worth a thousand lies. That spot of sunshine, pretending, perhaps, to be a sit-in for something else.

They once lived on this street, you know. I mean, the victims. It was green then and banked with flowers. Automobiles grazed its pleasant lea. Don’t look too closely into the windows of those houses, crouching behind the fence, or staying — far left — out of the picture altogether.

The impulse is to put names to the gangsters, but only stereotypes come to mind. Jay Gatsby could have been here. He would have been proud of this neighborhood. Or ashamed.

Am I saying nostalgia is murderous? I may be. Once you get going with automatic writing, it’s hard to say what’s going to come up. This photograph is like that. It’s only a blink in time. It’s only a little place, a spot on street that doesn’t even want to say whether it’s city, suburb, or rural (stops to take a look). Look how big those trees are! Whatever this place is, it’s been here for a while. Those trees — how heavily they hang their branches — have been looking down on the multifaceted transgressions of human beings for a long, long time. And when the sun shines on this road, this street, if that is what it its, it’s because they let it. They have been laced through and through with the bothering of civilization, the telephone lines, the electric wires. And they have witnessed.

With any luck at all, they will still be here, after the murders have been forgotten. After it’s all been tidied up. But luck, that’s what we’re all hoping for, right?

[This has been a spontaneous writing exercise in an enterprise called Writing 101. No humans or animals — or trees — were harmed in the making of it.]