Absorbing the Sea
For the weeks arching from summer into fall I have watched the sea all day long. And at night the doors were always open to the sound of it. By day the sea was the view from the studio, or from whatever restaurant I chose, or from the windows of the car. I have looked so long, unable to look away, that it has been fully absorbed.
Two nights ago, in the rain, through the murky window of a ferry close to land, I saw birds as they flew nearby, their wide breasts like the bodies of ducks. In my sleep I dreamed I was working on an enormous painting of great importance. The subject was the exposed breasts of thousands of ducks, identical, laid out in a pattern, all painted silver. All around me the blue and silver sea extended in every direction. A man was charged with carrying me across the sea using a gigantic crane. But first my shoes had to be coated in tar and dipped in sea sand.
With my exploring coming to a close I’ve been looking for words to frame this experience. As I begin the distancing the details will fade and only the skeleton of this journey and the paintings will remain. The paintings began in a state of concreteness– observation and analysis. Gradually they moved toward greater mystery. In just such a way the white light, the ribboned sea, the sunrise and high noons, sunsets and moon rises take on their own poetic order in memory, punctuated by thrashing wind, heavy clouds, knotted roads and pebbled sand.
I woke this morning disoriented, on the farm, thinking I was across the sea. My first thought was of the fragility of that place and all places. The sweet earth, glowing in the brilliant daylight, or entombed in concrete, is like a feral street cat. It is either nourished by the leftovers we think to share from our plate, or it is ignored, and survives on the sparest of rations. It is the palm tree whose trunk fills the hole in the sidewalk, and one wonders how it finds water. Or it is stroked lovingly by generations of cultivating hands.
On the farm the leaves have not fallen yet, but have shrunken in warning that they are about to go away and join the soil. The trucks roll by on the highway and in the pasture the birds sing. I happily return to apply my loving hands to cultivate this place, with mindfulness of both the bounty and the fragility.