I loomed beneath a dark feathering of sea-oats, pointed tips glazed with recent rain. I listened to the subdued murmur of little waves. The fetid and russet beds of sea-wrack had been washed away, leaving the sand barren and strange. A forlorn gull loitered at the swash line, analyzing the crinkling water as it fizzed in and out.
Distant lightning lazily branched from the moody-blue squall-lines and spidered across a sullen sea of herbal green. Coy ghost crabs emerged, removing dark masses of dripping sand from drowned burrows. They built little, lumpy mounds around the entrances to their small, black holes.
The storm was leaving me. How I longed for it to stay.
I was tortured the other night, seized with the memory of my little Siamese cat squeezing her eyes tightly shut for the last time. How swiftly she was gone, her soft, cinnamon cheek resting upon a colorful, flowing blanket that masked the metal slab beneath. I had never seen an animal euthanized, before. I understood, logically, that it ended the physical misery of her little, bony body.
Yet, how troubled I am by that last image of peace…of life tenderly released.
My mum died of a similar ravenous kind of disease. I remember that final image. Her face waxen and unreal, her mouth a small, black hole. She did not tightly close her eyes. She was not escorted quietly, through a warm wash of sleep, into the darkness beyond. Yet, I was not so disturbed by her image in death. And how vividly there lacked any look of peace…
But I wish the storm would never leave. I want, forever, to hear its screams over this cold and fleeting sea of herbal green. How I wish there were no end to rain. Just as there seems to be no end to Grief.
“Darkness settles on the ground
Leaves the day stumbling blind,
Coming to a quiet close
And maybe just in time”
– From the song God Only Knows by Joe Henry
“He opens his eyes and stares directly into the morning sun which wallows up from the misty sea like some bloated, dying fish. The sky is gray and immobile, a dome of lead. A cloud hangs mute and dark over the western horizon. High up, barely visible, a seagull floats on motionless wings. Its cry is weird and restless.”
– Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal
“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“I was a man who thrived on solitude… I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me.”
– Charles Bukowski, Factotum
“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”
– Leonard Cohen
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.”
– Søren Kierkegaard
(Some feeble footage above of some hunting bull-shark chums of mine as they spilled up into the shallow swash as the tide began to recede. Is there anything better than having a shark swim up into one’s lap? I think not!)
ALS, Black and White, Cancer, Commentary, Death, Disease, Event, Florida, Hope, Ice Bucket Challenge, Inspirational, Life, Loss, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Motivational, Nature, Ocean, Pete Frates, Photography, Sea, Stephen Hawking, Steve Gleason, Story, Sunrise, Video
In general, I live a life fairly indifferent to social media. Indeed it has many lovely advantages, but I just end up spending a lot more time in Nature…being bullied by mobs of roguish manatees attempting to overturn my craggy old kayak as it wheezes through the silky water; or swamping about through black plumes of swooping bats and amorous mosquitoes, with logs of alligators leering up at me through the glorious green murk with smiling eyes the colour of tea; or being pinched by wee crabbies in the ocean and dragged along in the frothy white wake of a rambunctious torrent of sharks and tarpon.
Sometimes, too, I just snail along a pale, sandy trail that snivels through the verdant sylvan shadows, looking for the perfect place to nest and paw through an old dog-eared book for a little while.
Through all this, me dear ol’ camera abides with me as my constant companion. Matters of social media rarely invade this photo-snatching wilderness-lifestyle (with occasional bouts of city-noir-grit).
I am not completely, immune, however. The Ice-Bucket Challenge somehow managed to creep into my hushed little tent of a life. And somehow, I found myself capitulating, as my friend, Kayla, of the northern end of the county, splashed me with details.
She had messaged me, and then suddenly a video was shimmering before me, and there was my chum, blathering away at the camera. She challenged two people, her sister and someone other victim, and then, after a pause, she suddenly blurted out, “and BABS!”
“Who on earth is Babs?” muttered the filmmaker, her mum, just before the roar of a gelid waterfall cascaded onto Kayla’s head, rendering her a corpse; and a snickering man quickly bolted from the scene of the crime.
“Er…I am that ‘Babs’ I fear,” I said to the video bleeping on the screen.
“You have 24 hours!” Kayla then bassooned at me, unfurling like a resurrection fern, as she began to recover from the glacial onslaught.
Usually, the fads that scurry across the net are resisted by me. I shun them. If I happen to hear about them. I was going to happily shun this one, too. But then I probed, like a long-billed ibis probing the soft earth for grubs on a soggy morn, and I discovered what was behind it all.
“I have lived over two-thirds of my life with the threat of death hanging over me. Because every new day could be my last, I have developed a desire to make the most of each and every minute.”
– Dr. Stephen Hawking (from the documentary “Hawking”)
This was different. To me, this was an event revealing the best in human beings- their sense of love, compassion and community, and their endless capacity for Hope and Triumph.
“Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
-Dr. Stephen Hawking
How could I not participate? I decided to accept the challenge.
Naturally, this act of frigid, muscle-paralyzing sluicing had to take place at the Sea. An old brine-faced block of barnacled driftwood like me could have it no other way.
So, this past Sunday, only having known about this challenge for less than a day, I dragged some camera equipment, a bucket with some ice, Sir and another poor victim, Thome, to the beach at dawn.
Time to be sluiced in some icy brine.
Sprinkled with quotes from some amazing individuals having been diagnosed with ALS, here is the video I shot at the beach, documenting the cold and salty event.
Other related links:
– To learn more about ALS or to donate- http://www.alsa.org/
– More about Peter Frates, creator of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”- http://petefrates.com/
– More about Steve Gleason, of Team Gleason- http://teamgleason.org/
– Short ALS “Health Matters” educational video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X4Af…
– Beautiful documentary “Hawking” 2013 (also on PBS in HD)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shbs13XM3k0
– Doleful short film, “Broken: ALS and How it Hits Home”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8inVFUAqe1c
Thanks for sluicing by.
She swallows the
Evening’s clear cries
of dark-dipping gulls
flung across the sunken wound
her cloudy dress of Pastel Sadness
dragging carelessly behind.
The harbour lay bare and waiting. I strayed from the Sun, looming in the underbrush, gazing out at bony masts and old tattered umbrellas, dangling in the languid breeze. The wind turbines purred softly as towers of crisp white cloud dripped into dark sinuous waters. A blue darner hummed beside my ear, my mind strewn with white petals, my eyes reflecting mischief. I waited there, hidden, beside the chafing dock, and watched as boats groaned in and out, as the dolphins played and the clouds grew dark and bruised in the distance.
And at last I crawled out, and was overtaken by a Sea-Faring-Man. He gazed at me with soft, sagging eyes of crackling blue, shimmering through a russet, canyon face. And then he stepped into his lopsided vessel and slowly glided away without a word, sunlight pounding into his white-cotton back. And as I watched him, snaking reflections dancing along the rim of consciousness, I perceived something all too familiar in that depth of grief, that lesion of sadness, that seems to ever-dwell in Beauty…