Friday, July 29, 2011

Beautiful and Melancholy


I cast the line into the water, reeled it in slowly. I felt the force of a fish on the line, but it didn't feel right; the tug was different. Something off. I had snagged a tiny trout. It was beautiful. The scales were a brilliant silver and green. The form was sleek and lovely; a trout is a predator and it is built like one. The eyes, while those of a fish, convey the supremacy of a creature that sits near the top of its food chain. If there were no animals that breathed in the open air then the trout would have no worries.

The seal that played in the water near me earlier, and the osprey that circles overhead are just about the only worries a trout has. Well that and me. I am quite deadly. As I pulled in the fish, I felt it stop struggling. I realized I had snagged its gill. And the sea was sad. A dark gray cloud slowly passed over the sunset, casting a shadow over the horizon. It crawled and spread like a net tossing itself into the sky. The sky was split into the red sunset and the hand of storm moving steadily forward.

Orange and red waves rolled in. Not the chaotic waves of a stormy sea. These were portents of a different wind. The waves were constant and regular. The breath of the planet, in and out. Shhhh as the waves broke along the shore. Sssss as the waves ebbed back. Shhhh again. Ssss...

I did not catch the fish, I had inadvertently tugged a hook into its gill. I pulled it onto the shore. I tried to delicately prise the hook from its gills. I looked at it reflect the light. It shimmered from green to red to silver. Just a tiny fish. I pulled the hook from the gill; it gushed deep red blood. I put the fish back into the ocean.

The red-orange waves pushed and pulled on the fish. It swung on its side, helplessly tossed by the forces of the water. The grayness spread further. The fish was going to die. I mused on the sadness. I was fishing for the peace; for the gentle tune of nature that it allowed me to hear. Pulling in a fish was not meant to be deadly, especially for the ones I did not want to keep. I had become a grim reaper; taking the lives that came, choosing arbitrarily. I cast my line out again. Reeled it in. I turned my eyes to the fish, ebbing in the waves. Its life had been sucked from it but the creature remained sleek and beautiful. It was a melancholy moment.

Earlier in the evening I was in the kitchen and noticed that the little espresso coffee maker had been put away. It was pulled out originally because my Aunt Leslie drinks decaf coffee. Because the big pot held regular coffee, she made herself personal cups in the morning. Its absence struck me; it answered the question my dad had posed to me earlier, “is this what we will be remembered for?”

We had 20 people at this beach house. They left in waves. Cars disappeared with 2,3, or 4 people until just 9 remained. Each exit made meals a little less hectic until we were no longer using paper plates. A new routine, a quiet stability settled in. Family did not inundate me. Instead their absence did. And the silence that accompanied it. My dad worked on restoring the British Seagull, a small outboard motor that he wanted to leave as a shiny gift for the house when he left.

And the coffee maker was gone. And I had the wrenching feeling of knowing quite suddenly what death really meant. It's the little things. The things that we can't quite remember. The things that we can't quite grasp. They disappear to remind us of an absence. What we leave is a space where something used to be; something useful and necessary. But somehow we continue to survive, and unable to pin what the missing objects' uses were, we hobble on; lighter, emptier.

I found a golf ball on the beach today. I put it on a tee and shot it out past the furthest buoy. It sliced hard but the distance was good. The ball hit the water with a satisfying plop. The clouds passed over the water, the shore. They opened to let the sun through, they closed to put rain into the soil.

Kippy and Elliot and Annie Pitts stopped by today. Their husband and father Steve died late last year. It was good to see them, it felt natural and soft. But Steve's absence was there too. That feeling. One seat empty in the car: lighter but emptier. They all seemed well, moving on and living. But Steve was gone. And we enjoyed each others' company.

The day was. It was warm but not hot. Cloudy but not oppressive. Humid but not muggy. It was a day. The clouds opened up and the Pitts' puppy played in the water. She retrieved the stick with gusto. The day was beautiful and melancholy.