Yes, the pagans. So many conversations, so out of my depth – the speaker’s name was Sam Webster – Google him and read. I don’t feel that I’m dumb, but I certainly couldn’t comprehend half of what it was that he was writing. Maybe I was only half paying attention – but even half paying attention, I usually do better than most, and I wonder at the effectiveness of trying to spread a viewpoint when that viewpoint is incomprehensible to all those not already in the fold.
It’s become one of those nights where you realize you shouldn’t have taken the nap. The trees are blowing back and forth with unrealized electric energy, destined to be denied, as it looks like the storms that were teasing our horizon earlier have decided to shun us. It’s 3am and it’s just about as dark as it can get.
There’s something tender about sharing a room with someone you don’t know. You listen to a stranger’s sounds, and wonder if they don’t snore, or if they are lying awake, thinking. I don’t even know her name, but know she has to be up in an hour to catch a bus to catch a plane – and the upstairs tenant (unseen and unknown) has an alarm clock that starts just about every half hour. I’m wondering if they have a paper to write? Or if they just don’t believe in sleep.
Heather dozed off hours ago. She was tired from exploring the edges of Lake Eerie. She captured glass and stones and found the rotting remains of something long dead. I wonder if she remembered in her dreams – rolling over, making moaning night sounds. She quieted when I put my hand on her cheek.
The world is 100% adventure.
Except for me, because I can’t sleep.
Today Heather took me to Lake Eerie. She had gone out yesterday, while I was crashed on the couch, all a nappin – She had escaped out to the beach and watched the sun set over the water, and the returned in the gloaming, just after I’d regained some semblance of consciousness.
Today we drove out and back before heading back to Pittsburgh (I’m writing from I-80 in Ohio) and picked at shells and stones and the dead things on the beach. We have quite a collection of beautiful things for Amy to build from.
Sitting at Sarah’s, being fed by her boy, Matt. We did NOT know that he’d gone to culinary school. Good lord. I want to draw his ear to my mouth and whisper… “Last night was amazing”. Filet mignon and potato salad made with hot ballpark mustard. This morning, we awoke to steak and eggs with just an edge of spice.
S h u d d e r.
I like the way the meat came. A case of steaks, cased in plastic. Mmmm… meat buttons.
After the radio show Sunday, rob was really tired, but I find that we live so much at night these days that I crave sunshine, and I was determined to go out and soak up the last rays the day would give me. I didn’t have any particular destination. The only thing I knew about where we were was that, if all else failed, fifteen miles or so down the road there would be an intersection with a gas station on each side of it and a tavern. If I made a right there, there would be some shopping strip or something. The man at the bar who gave me those directions made it sound like that was the most happening spot I might find. Really, I didn’t care about “happening” or not. I just wanted to go somewhere.
So I got onto 58, the main road through the campus and the location of Aaron’s house, and just kept driving. It confirmed my suspicions about how small this place is. I passed a sign along the road that I could have sworn said “Adopt-A-Highway,” and the adoptees were the “Lorain County Witches,” but I wouldn’t get to verify my weak eyes until the ride home … yup, Lorain County Witches. Much more interesting than the later adopt-a-highway sign with its “Boy Scouts.” It took me at least 15 miles to find a Wendy’s, a convenience store, a KFC and a car dealership or two. Other than that, fields of dandelions as far as the eye can see.
And I just kept driving, not knowing what I would find, not looking for anything, but liking the cool wind through the car and wishing I could put the driver’s side window down and get it back up again. Liking the feeling of safety of driving small town roads in the spring sunshine. Something untouchable about it. Something always young.
And then my road dead-ended.
I pulled forward into a small, unpretentious community of houses and pulled into a driveway to turn around. And there it was, Lake Erie right in their front yard, stretching so far out it looks like ocean if I didn’t know better. So I decided to see if there was a way to go down onto the beach.
I found a park a little ways down. Parked the car and took my shoes off. With delight, I sank my toes into the damp, fluffy sand (it had been raining all morning before this sunny afternoon), and headed for the beach.
The tide was low, and I wanted to see if I still remembered how to skip stones. Like many similar childhood pleasures, I only learned how to do it about three or four years ago. My boyfriend, Zvi, took me back to his tiny home town of Highland Park, NJ, and in a park there, in the rain, he patiently taught me how to skip stones. So years later alone on a sunlit beach, I went about hunting for those flat, rounded stones, the ones he’d told me were the best for skipping, and set about relearning how. It took me a few tries, and some flew wildly in unintended directions (I was glad the beach was nearly empty), but many hit the mark. I could only get about three skips before any given stone would plunge in.
Everything about a beach is about the passage of time. I trolled the beach, picking up tumbled stones, shells and sea glass, rounded by the progression of years of waves, travelers from lake bottoms, river beds, other states or other countries. The sand erodes under your feet, gently threatening to take you out with it. You sink a little deeper into the beach. Waves come in steady, almost ticking alternation, with little half-waves and catches that remind me of my heart murmur.
I’ve always been fascinated by beach erosion, because it is one of those natural processes that human beings throw themselves into desperate, unrelenting, futile attempts to slow or stop. At Lake Erie, they’ve built barriers to take the appetite out of the waves, but the curve of the beach shows they are still gobbling up sand and taking it downshore, building up a new beach while eating away at another. Comparing pictures of islands taken in the early 1900s with pictures from today, it’s amazing what a century of water can do to land, shrinking it, changing its borders drastically. I always look at beach-front properties with a certain knowing smile: They are fighting a losing battle with time. And to add to all this obsessive chronology, I looked over to see the sun was about to set.
So I walked down the beach until I found a dock of rocks that went out into the water. I walked out onto it, beach treasures safely tucked away in my pocket and sandals still in hand, and put my self as close as I dared to the darkening lake water.
It’s funny the way the sun seems to speed up in those last moments before sunset. Like it’s been steady at work all day, but now it’s time to punch out and it’s thinking it might be able to sneak out a few minutes before quitting time without the boss really noticing. When it hit the horizon, it was a perfect ball of orange-red, and I kept my eyes wide open, refusing to let that last light go unseen, selfishly wanting it all, wanting every last minute of daylight. And at the last moment, eyes burning, it looked like a match being blown out, or a single birthday candle taken out in one clean, wish-fulfilling exhale. If it could have made a sound, I swear it would have been: “Poof!”
And when it was dark, on the walk home, I met the dead thing.
So waterlogged, such a black mass of spread out, decaying fur I couldn’t guess at it’s true size and I didn’t even know it was a creature until I made myself look closer at the glimmer of white among the darkness, and saw very sharp teeth. It made me shiver.
The next day, when I returned to see the beach again in sunlight, the dead thing was gone, washed away by high-tide, taken by scavengers, or cleaned up for our safety and protection. There were new shells on the beach, abolone and the spirals of very small unicorns cowering beneath Haggard’s Red Bull, the fierce daytime sun back and high.
“I was born mortal, and I have been immortal for a long, foolish time, and one day I will be mortal again; so I know something a unicorn cannot know. Whatever can die is beautiful – more beautiful than a unicorn, who lives forever, and who is the most beautiful creature in the world.” – Schmendrick, The Last Unicorn.