September 24, 2012
I was okay for the first mile and a half of the walk. I was singing, a good sign, and nothing was too terrible; the bird carcass was upsetting, of course, but at some point I’m going to have to get used to the fact that everything dies, and there’s nothing upsetting about it; what would be upsetting is if the bird carcass were to shiver back to life, sit up, shuck its throng of flies, and take off into the sky. That shit would be UPSETTING. Yesterday I thought I saw a skate stranded and gasping in the sand, and I ran towards it to throw it back in the water, but it was a broken kite. As much as my new glasses help me to see more clearly, there are no glasses that will help me to stop imagining that everything I see is some kind of suffering animal.
What’s ridiculous is that there’s a zillion dead jellyfish strewn around in pieces in the surf — the too-warm ocean lures them north to overbreed, then they croak en masse — and if it were any other animal that I saw dead and destroyed in the magnitude of these jellies, I’d be hyperventilating with panic and grief. But because they’re clear and slimy, and I can’t see anything on them that looks like eyes, I’m okay with the glittering killing fields on the sand.
I got to the mile and a half mark, maybe a few yards past it, and then I crashed, by which I mean my operating system froze, got stuck on the spinning beachball that is this one particular unfixable situation in my life, and I could not stop being miserable. Of course I have a million “tools” for this situation, and lots of “hints,” too, like: “You can either try to distract yourself, or you can go towards the pain, purposely think about the thing that’s making you miserable, and see if you can wring out all the despair by clenching it hard in your hands.” This approach did indeed allow me to wring more despair from the situation; it also helped me to add several layers of self-loathing onto it: Why would I choose to be in any way unhappy, when I know the possibility of joy? It’s such a waste of life.
What I wound up doing was standing so I faced the ocean, feeling the texture and the temperature and the moisture of the sand under and around my feet, watching waves collapse from left to right like a kickline, listening to the hiss and crush of their regeneration. Once a few years back I sat on the beach with my eyes closed and thought, “That noise will be over soon, it can’t keep up like this forever.” In the moment of stasis between every conclusive whoosh, I thought, “That was the last one. Now it will be quiet.” And it would be, for a half second, and then it began again — “This is the last one. See, now it’s…okay, this is the last one. That was the…” Over and over, expecting it to end, training myself to be surprised by the marvelous ordinary world.
Today I stood on the sand, in the sand, about the sand, with it. It’s not true, you know, about the stars in the sky; there’s way more grains of sand on Earth, or so astronomers posit. Not that we’ll ever be able to count. I took in about three deep breaths and then gave up, impatient; I went back to swallowing my breath* and huffing through my nose as I stomped towards home. My shadow had a tiny little head. The gulls by this time of year don’t care anymore, they sit on the sand and blink at you with their nictitating lids. Don’t roll your eyes at me, gull**.
But then, just as I was approaching home, I had a profound realizaHAHAHAHA just kidding. I didn’t realize shit. I got home, made a salad with anchovies, and had some more feelings. And in conclusion, the end.
(* Totally unrelated: Do any of you guys remember Wetlands? For some reason as I was writing this I had the strong impression of being at Wetlands, in the basement, listening to people “do” poetry. This has nothing to do with what I’m writing about; I haven’t thought consciously about Wetlands in years. So why does it bubble up out of nowhere? Everybody used to call it Sweatglands. Blue light in the ladies’ room — you used to have to have that in bars so people couldn’t find their veins to shoot up, either blue or red. Do they do that anymore?)
(** I have a pamphlet about the local birdlife, and one of the sections is headed “Gulls, Terns, and allies,” which makes me laugh, because like I’m not a gull myself? But I definitely identify as an ally — I just…feel really connected to the gull and tern community, and I definitely, like, try to stay abreast of gull issues and, you know, do what I can to support gull rights. I mean, gull rights are human rights, am I right?)