Tag Archives: ocean

Your Eyes Could Steal a Sailor From the Sea

9 Jan

IMG_6385.JPGOne rainy night I was in a cab with the gentleman from Boston, and the atmosphere was fuzzy with the glimmer of night signs and soft rock on the radio. I was mid-sentence when the softest of soft rock, a song that evokes the grocery store Muzak of my youth, convinced me to stop talking and listen:

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loves

He came on a summer’s day
Bringin’ gifts from far away
But he made it clear he couldn’t stay
No harbor was his home

Entranced, I smiled and used my powerful pocket computer to identify it: Brandy, by Looking Glass. Even before naming, the gentleman said he’d heard it often before and marveled I missed it. Apparently few others had in the small town where my mother deposited us briefly while I was in elementary school. I’d always wondered why so many girls in my grade were named Brandy. Now I finally know.

I’m so glad I didn’t discover this song until now, when my soft rock soul grants me permission to like trifles. The irony that deadened my sensibility for decades would have disintegrated under the light weight of this song.

But now, fluffy and free, I’m the girl who walks the streets with the smile of new love. I smile because I know why Brandy would pin her hopes on the unavailable, giving her solitary malaise purpose with misguided affection for the undeserving. I can feel her sustained loss, but I also know how lucky she was to look into those sailors’ eyes and rise and fall with the waves of their sea-flung stories. It’s likely she had as much wanderlust as any ol’ sailor, but her means of remaining unattached was to connect her heart to a floating buoy out in the ocean, rather than any anchor on land.

Electrical Conductor

6 Jan

waterSomeone very recently tangled up a whole mess of ideas trying to explain to me the virtues and excitement associated with sitting “backwards” on a train. So the scenery rolling by is the future, they said. That doesn’t make much sense, I wanted to say, but I was smiling politely. They continued to elaborate and the knots became more taut. “No, because, you’re looking at what just passed, and that’s the future.”

Truly, you haven’t even given me a thread to cling to in my insatiable quest for life metaphor. Nope, not even inverted, does it make sense. All you’ve done is make me a little bit irritated every time I take a train, wondering what the hell you were getting at, and I don’t even remember who you were.

So I’m backwards today, putting my back into the journey south and slightly west toward home. I have a long, long expanse of uninterrupted window alongside me and up ahead, because I am in my rolling executive office, the cafe car. It’s all beach, all shoreline and marina between Providence and New York, and I’m surrounded by conductors who roll New England syllables around until they accumulate into a bumpy laugh.

My view here is ideal. Sitting meditation-straight in the conductors’ living room and tossing gentle banter amongst passers-through. I’m a pleasure traveler in a business world. I guess I’m going backwards into the future, but I really look forward to it.

And Again

3 Jan

againThe train tracks of the Northeastern corridor know me by now. I’ve been traversing them since 1998, rolling on quaking metal between New York City and Providence to go to a place where I can be still with the people I love. I make my temporary home in the attic room of my friend’s gigantic Victorian house, and day by day, after wandering the woods and beaches of mostly coastal Rhode Island, we come home and have tea by the fire and retire early to read books. Unless we’re going out to have cocktails.

I am the most fortunate of humans, because I have long embraced my nomadic instincts. But now, as the wetlands roll by and I suddenly see a cluster of at least ten wild turkeys (what?!? did anyone else see that?) on a golf course, I gotta be honest with myself. Do I keep moving so I never finish anything? Never keep anything except the new, new conversations, people, sights, sensations, passions brought to you by wanderlust.

Somewhere in one of my notebooks piled high on my desk at home is a quote that I wrote down while visiting the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. An early 20th-century painter said that artists must recalibrate periodically by visiting the mountains and the sea. I can’t remember if he said anything abut the plains or stuff in between. But I agree with him completely, and I feel ridiculously fortunate that I can indulge my starving senses on a nearly weekly basis.

Why stay still? Because then I would be done with getting ready for a trip or catching up after a trip, and I’d be in that functional limbo where I could actually be at peace and write pages and pages of the novel. Don’t you love how I call it “limbo”? Yeah, because being home is a kind of purgatory, apparently, no matter where I live. I guess it’s my Viking genetic code, seeking to plunder and possess more, more, more.

It makes me feel lost. But apparently I never want to be found.

Downward Slope

13 Feb


“Oh! She’s over-rotated and hit the deck!”

The television Olympics commentator told it like it is from the corner of the kitchen. Clouds diffused light and the Atlantic Ocean climbed tentatively toward the concrete abutment that formed the foundation of this ancient Bowmore house.

I was alone on a kitchen island on the Isle of Islay. And the skiers on the screen musta known about the text I’d just received. “Sorry, I can’t go to the ballet with you on Thursday. I have a work event that night. I feel so bad about this. I’m such a tool. [sad face with single tear].”

Maybe he over-rotated, actually. Too much apology reveals a guilty conscience. Yeah, turns out he has a blind date scheduled next week too, but he wants to go on a “buddy date!” with me.

A buddy date. Yeah. Because I need to be downgraded by a little web lackey who lacks any feeling in his prefrontal cortex. Hey, hey, I made you laugh. You made me laugh. We had jokes. Plans. Shared a mind structure and preferred the same pizza and bits of esoteric, over-specific culture. I was willing to overlook your slight proclivity toward mind alteration and the fact that I felt like I would have to chip away at an icy edifice to get close to your lips. I was willing to bend.

Too much. Over-rotated. Hit the deck.

Well, Buddy, at least we can relax now.

Throw it in the Sea

6 Nov

It was a little bit late, and I was standing in a Texas bar decorated primarily with sports-blinking televisions. Not my first choice, but one conveniently proximate to the hotel of some colleagues who were visiting from Scotland. We’d already haunted two other improperly lit establishments, and this was the gentlemen’s “nightcap” choice.

Dissatisfied with the single malt offerings, but goal-oriented just the same, we opted for Macallan 12. The conversation naturally turned to the prospect of my visiting Scotland in the near future. I was to tour a factory and then disappear to the tiny scrap of sea-wrapped land called Islay, where all of my favorite scotches are made.

I am to go in winter, when probably the friend with an airplane won’t be able to fly us across the channel and we’ll be forced to take a ferry instead. Some in the group said “It will be awful, that’s a terrible time of year.” But my favorite gentleman in the cohort saw it the way I would, through haze of damp fog and lost love drifting turbulently away and forever out of reach. Plus fog horns and some forlorn birds.

The group conversation dissolved into little eddies of private topics, and after a few sips of the speyside malt we were enduring this evening, my favorite discovered that I am indeed still failing in the pursuit of love. So I really would love to wander the peat bogs of austere Islay under guise of mist and evaporated sea salt in the dead of winter, I mused. It would be perfect.

He curled the words around the skeptical squint of a man who grew up on craggy terrain and is happy to golf in zero-visibility conditions. He turned to look at me.

“That’ll rip your heart out.” A growl of warning, testing my mettle.

Really, it will be perfect.

Enthusiasm thus validated, he let a smirk preface his next declaration. “Throw it in the sea!”

A pause while I laughed at his gesture of ripping heart from chest and casting it far from shore. “Let’s terrorize it.”

Indeed, let’s terrorize it. The poor trembling thing thought it felt the first tremblings of affection on the shores of San Francisco last week, let’s promise it to the cold undertow. Be punished, poor heart.

“No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does,” quoth the pithy fake green chalkboard in the airport bar. And I nodded, heart awoken. But standing there in the sports-score illumination last night, I knew the Scot had the right idea. Give up, terrorize it. Don’t let anyone find it again.

Diesel Fumes

3 Nov

“The nose is powerfully phenolic – peat smoke, fishing nets, medicine cupboards, diesel oil – and the flavour translates the aroma faithfully, with seaweed, iodine and salt all being discernible. An old tar: the ancient mariner or salty sea dog of malt whiskies.”
—Charles MacLean, tasting notes for Laphroaig 10 in Malt Whisky

Before my eyes opened, my mind awoke to whispers of a specific sensory experience. Damp-chilled air pushed through translucent curtains and meandered across gray dot-dappled duvet to where my eyes and nose peeked out from warm depths.

Thinking aloud in the hushed cadence of our many conversations over days and hills, I asked, “Why do I recognize that scent? What is it.” Pause to silence because really I wasn’t making any sense. A couple more synapses fired and the neural paths connected and I exclaimed, “Oh! It’s Laphroaig! The ocean air here smells exactly, and I really, really mean exactly, like the salty top layer of my favorite scotch.”

Another deep breath, greeted with a muffled “Really?” from the other side of the bed.

Eyes opened now, and then closed again. “I’ve never been able to identify the salt air smell they always talk about in the tasting notes, but now I can finally detect it! It’s a very, very specific scent.”

And I lay there, drinking scotch air, counting the breaths I could take before returning to prairie desert and emotional calamity. But then I stopped counting and simply tried to detail the experience for precise recollection when next I truly needed relief.

Now I take a long breath in the shadiest corner of sunny Texas living room and the tendrils of quiet comfort restore me to balance. Elsewhere, sea-born fog creeps across a neighborhood named for the sunset rarely seen there, and curtains buffet the broad leaves of a tropical plant. A cat nestles under covers abandoned by a boy who is likely on a bicycle, riding along the coast.

Tracing these contours in my topographical memory, I actually keep my promise to have quiet days and grant myself relief from the stress of strength. For seven days in San Francisco, I felt the softness that arrives when someone else takes care of the details. Now that the show runner has returned home, I want to just keep a fraction of that relinquishment.


2 Nov

“You had never seen the ocean.” He was sunk into the deep maroon of a chair with pelican wings. We’d walked enough of Union Square and retreated to my twenty-second-story hotel room. This was probably the third thing he said to me after we finally found quiet in the sky above howling baseball fans below. “That blew me away.”

Out of clear blue night with twinkling skyline, he mentioned the damn ocean. Seventeen years later, he was actually expressing what I implored the silent version to share with me. Now, after not hearing each other’s voices in all the time between New Hampshire coast and San Francisco clouds, his first thought was to continue the conversation we didn’t have then.

You, you come with me.

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