We got home from Scotland, dazed from everything we'd experienced.
"Remember when we went to Ireland, then England, then Scotland? Remember when we were gone for weeks and weeks?" I say to the historian. He does remember. We remember everything.
We've seen my folks again, several times. I've gone to Pilates and the gym and to HIGH Fitness. We've eaten enchiladas. We've seen a few movies. I've been back to my writing group. I've written and delivered a poem at Convocation. I've had breakfast and lunch and coffee with my friends.
When we planned this trip, I wanted to be gone long enough, gone thoroughly enough, to feel like I was not on a vacation, rather living my life in other places. And I did feel that. I felt at home in the world. Of course it was still in a sense a vacation--a leaving of one's ordinary life to experience extraordinary things. This trip delivered that, and in spades. But what I really cherish is a feeling that I could do--could be--anywhere, and live my life.
I'm back now. And I want to see if I can sustain at least that dimension of our epic travels. We'll see.
During this sabbatical, when I am writing and also undertaking a substantial project that I'll talk, I'm sure, more about later, I want to use this blog as a space to keep a record, to talk about what's happening. It will be another space to be, to do, to live my life.
Imagine a shore, says the clairvoyant, when I ask
about the future. Imagine a river emptying itself
into the sea. It’s dusk, she goes on, but light enough
that you can see the river moving out, its direction sure.
I can see it, in fact I’ve been there recently. Overhead,
terns wheel and cry. Walk downshore, where the sea
moves in, the salt giving it greater weight. The slap
and churn, cold and immediate, of this meeting
of waters is an inevitability. I watch the sun fall,
its theater of blaze. I’ve come to her to ask
about the future and its brightness, by what measure
we might predict or calibrate it. I’ve come to believe
that everything depends on this, so when she replies,
Imagine you’re at altitude, flying across an ocean from
one continent to another, I’m impatient, but I do it,
depart the shore, see myself in a metal capsule,
at a window that frames nothing but sky upon
more sky, and in my mind, we’re in it and of it
and above it, somehow, and also drowning in it,
perhaps swimming to a far-off shore—l even hear
the voice of the cabin attendant intoning in
the unlikely event of an emergency landing, and outside
the imagined window, the firmament dissolves
into blue mist, diffracted light, a structure made
for holding nothing but its own airy figment:
I look again, and the clouds fissure into a sheet
of ice, floes adrift, more and more water. I want
to believe in a better ending, to believe that we tilt
toward hope. I fret in the near-silent alcove
where this oracular stranger tells me, in figures,
what can be made of this moment, this now,
deposited like river matter, the dregs of the past.
The coins to pay her clink in my pocket. I should not
have asked about the world, or the future, at least
not directly. I should have asked her, is there form
or efficacy, or beauty, still to be made in this world?
Even though I already know the answer: yes and no,
the sea roars in salt and the river meets it, its sediments
suspended and dazzling. A plane flies miles above
earth, combustible device, and in so doing plunders
the air. The wreck of an old fishing boat, there,
in the mud, is the past, falling apart now and for years
to come. The inexorable silt the river carries makes
and undoes this estuary. When the harbor seal bobs up
to inspect me, that’s the now and also the future:
we are momentary peers, investigating one another,
as I disturb his habitat. When I paint the future,
it is luminous but with a wash of gray,
and when I spell out its sentence, it is an anagram
for insurmountable. That’s not quite right:
the anagram is made of reckoning. I say
to the clairvoyant, The world is on fire, which is not
a question, and she replies, but the world
has always burned. This answers nothing, though I know
it is a kind of truth, yet devoid of the particulars
that lend a divination its requisite weight.
The world is burning now, I say. She doesn’t need
to repeat it: it has always burned, but at least I know
this blaze has history, and that I must learn it.
From that shore I might pick up two stones: one
for ballast, and one to remind me of the past,
already here, as I go forward, and that,
in a burning world, we’d better be prepared
to carry water.