Sea Dreaming 4
Ess has an alternative ‘Baudelaire’ quote to the Bureau’s ‘Kafka’ one, which changes like a chameleon every time you read it. He who looks from outside through an open window will never see as many things as he who looks at the closed windows. Rather than cry I just want to change ‘at’ to ‘through’ closed windows.
I come out of my room to see in. To breath air. To escape because Ess is every man. And I go back in because it is no longer a question of looking outside for space. The huge room inside is space. A civilised duplication inside of the capacity of sea outside. The inside making an outside which has already made it. Encased in this immensity is the immensity too of the solid marble floors and worktops. They along with thick brick walls both belie my fragility and emphasise it. When the smell of fog mixes with the briny sea it now hides, I need not feel hemmed in. I pad around this huge room barefoot on the carpet. It will guide me regarding its decor. For now to put signs of myself on it seems as futile as trying to mark the sea. My room is not limited to the inside.
Still after days of grey winter light it’s not hard to resist the temptation to rush outside to the ‘good’ weather because inside, where the floor is raised above the level of the ground, sunbursts beaming from the sky can better be seen. Some days the sun’s reflection off the sea hits the wine coloured walls of the room. I’m reminded how perpetual and inexhaustible are the pleasures of waterscape in pure sunlight, found just like this, on small surfaces. And on nights when sheet lightening sparks like fireworks over the sea from the western horizon filling the whole sky and charging towards the house like a huge, ignited electric blanket, blasting its light upon bay windows in sudden, white silhouette, I can feel safe.
Every morning when I wake in these magnificent rooms and look out over the exotic and vast, things never said that might have changed life’s course, pale into insignificance. How would breaking the dreaded silence have made a difference against this? When happenings, having a life of their own, abide more greatly than what’s ever said and as vastly as the sea? Nothing can alter the sea or sky at night, or brighten it, even the light of day I’ve heard is deeply indifferent to what is said.
Even. Even. Even the words of my whispers are not heard. They’ve never been spoken. I fear they’d be blown away. They were winnowed once but still the chaff clings to what was selected, the best and worst all dispersed together, undifferentiated, in a wild and irreverent dance on a cruel and heartless wind that concludes: the best of what we have to offer can’t be heard. Yet still we need not drown. Not be subsumed by the immensity but buoyed up by it. For within the Word there is No Word Limit, only breath. If I breathe in and out without speaking it’s because I’m a wave not waving, at least not for your help.
From these rooms whose scale will not be altered, you can hear, when the window or door is open, the sea sifting, shifting and slurping the pebbles. The wind ruffling the sea and rustling the trees. One door opens out under a balcony’s dark wood and sunlight filters in as if through a dappled forest. We could be in a log cabin looking out over woods not sea had we not glimpsed the folds of sumptuous silk curtains draping voluminously to a sumptuously carpeted floor.
To be on the terrace under the balcony is like being on the deck of a ship, no matter there’s no helm. Contrary to what I said I’ve not been here before, all my life a ship crashing, cutting through and cruising the breaking crests. Only now, as the force of the waves’ unfurling energy turns to trickling, brighter than white spume and washes up as foam. On a bright windy day when the wind churns the water into a mass of white horses and trees toss as loud as the waves’ breaking on the shore, I batten down the hatches, lock and bolt the doors with an iron bar. If it’s not too windy though pouring with rain we can sit or stand on the terrace under the heavy balcony keeping dry and stable on the terracotta deck. Some days are still as a millpond save a gently agitated surface that slips and slides like a myriad of molecules, infinitesimal candles flickering in the sun’s glare.
And then as if the sea were woods and woods sea and the allure of peace and abundance were found in both, I run down to the shore to find what I can only describe as beauty on more beauty. It absolves me, without further ado, of all human shortcomings. Right beside me the repetition of the gentle waves sounding distant reach me in thuds and slurps, the suck of water drawing me too into an endless, airy hollow of silence. I drowse between reality and dream, consciousness and unconscious, only slightly aware, because I’ve been told, that it’s presumptuous to sense the thrill of eternity. But it makes no difference. In the thrilling rasp of the sea, that’s exactly what I do sense, eternity, and that both the big or little questions neither asked or answered don’t matter. And that they do.
In days to follow it gets warm. I swim at the bottom of the undercliff in the late afternoon where the golden still-as-a-millpond sea awaits me. I used to check the shipping. Crude oil tankers, container ships, pusher tugs are all at large. But now I want to swim I check the tides. It is high. For how long I wonder, how long low, how long does the high tide stay high, the low, low? Over a steep bank of pebbles I drop into the sea-lake. It’s freezing to begin with, but warms almost as immediately. I’m out of my depth, lying on my back, my rubber shoes bobbing up and down, feeling like a tiny weak thing held up upon this huge supportive stronger-than-me-sea that lets me tilt my head to look back. Back to the undergrowth, top of the cliff, and my rooms, all the time hearing the jingle jangle of pebbles like bangles deep down below me.
Now that I’ve swum my relationship with the sea, when next I walk along the promenade, has altered. Now that I have been in it, it in me, I am no longer just an observer, and visible from the pillow on which I rest my head at night, I lay my head down on it. The sea. The lighthouse vessel Galatea, in mythology a milk white statue who came to life to warn passing ships, sometimes appears upon it, and if she is there when I close my eyes in the evening, in the morning when I open them she’s gone.
In as much as the tides come and go at the bottom of the cliff so do the constructed, artificial communities upon its grassy top. A WW1 re-enactment in full regalia of soldiers tended by nurses in tents, pink people running for cancer, a hundred father Christmases, bagpipes for a military celebration, vintage cars revving and polished for their annual show. Less formally day by day pleasure is sort on the cliff by people walking their dogs, playing ball, enjoying the view. Apart from the cruisers who don’t stay the whole night’s course anyway, space for new communities is provided but in the evening vanishes, much like Galatea, and as ephemerally as the day. The ‘elderly’ zoom around in little cars or simmers as if they were in a playground waiting-room waiting to be invited in to the next world’s room next door.
I too am in seventh heaven and like to think I’ve no means of sending my journal back to the Bureau on earth. The Bureau should do the logical thing I think and outlaw travel. But first I wish Ess could join me here to lap up his life, so to speak, without lapping up the drink. Last week he read my journal the Bureau informed me, but is not well. I dreamt it was the last thing he read without seeing the end which would anyway have been superfluous to the great ‘out there’. I dreamt he died from two sub-dural haematomas to the brain brought on by an alcohol induced fall broken with his head. I dreamt that that was a year ago and still I ask the question that won’t go away. Could I have made any difference if I’d been with him? Can the spritely shifting surfaces ever say, there are no broken hearts, the brightly blowing winds have whisked them away?
Opposite the opal coast is still rich with light. It is rich enough here too, and as the day draws in it’s as if the light, knowing it’s got less time to spread its gold, lets loose an intense, shivering clarity that leaves shadows raked as it fades. During that hour of ambiguous light I slip out to breathe the dense air where colours drain into a sky that’s pulling them in and calling them home, like we are called in. Darkness moves through the air like waves streaking across the water, until nothing stands out in the landscape, and all substance is gone to be replaced by a veil which is the night.
But though invisible they must still be there, the sublime we chased in mountain, vale, cliff or sea, then still went in search of more. For ironically it is they which pulled us back. Not that we’re greedy, it’s just that a part of what we are says sublime in the everyday isn’t enough, it doesn’t take us away from what is mortal. What in this life does? What could be more sublime than the mountain, vale, cliff or sea? And what sublime comes after them? The ones in the next? Maybe. So then I repeat, wave on wave, that our eternal longings don’t speak of our unfulfilment, greed or unhappiness but our immortality. And always, though now not guiltily, I repeat myself, we, ourselves, Uroboros’ revolution swirling into the silence and the crash, the stillness and speed of the diurnal cycle that rolls one way then the other, in and out like waves.
The shore is a changing line, an invisible limit that stops the sea from covering the land, that stops me, just, from becoming a part of its eternity, sending the chucking waves back to where they came from, leaving me sorely solid and longing, but astonished on the shingled seashore. Don’t tantalise, take me with you, I plead, but the blue sky, so much more dissolved than I, looks laughingly down. Blue light has a shorter wave length than other colours I am told and is therefore more likely to scatter. I am not scattered like the blue but held here, fast, in the longer, richer waves of the sunset’s oranges and reds that shiver with intensity.