Thursday, April 19, 2007

Must Have Been the Pier Talking

Part 1, as written to a lover:

So I took a walk to the pier just before sunrise. It was absolutely incredible. I don't think I've seen anything like it. As I approached the rock-surrounded pier, the half-ish moon against the deep blue darkness was on my right, leaving its glowing fractured trail in the wavelets on the black Harbor. On my left, the horizon glowed warmly reddish purple. I bounced up and down on the end of the pier to get the blood flowing so I could warm up, then started rotating in circles so I could see the pageant of westward darkness and eastward flabbergasted light. Birds were flying towards the sun before it rose! The terns or gulls wheeled overhead, one of them playing shepherd to the other gulls wheeling and gathering directly over my head. The call of the gull is German. A pack of ravens or crows passed right through the gathering of gulls; the ravens were more purposeful in their eastward trek, and disappeared, calling in Italian. Two ducks, mute, paddled about in the water below me. Rush hour traffic was beginning to flow westward, which I could see from where I stood. Their headlights pierced the purple air. In another direction, in the darkness, the masts of the moored sailboats by the Sound School for aquatic studies stood still, some of them leaning, some of them straight up in the air, like a snapshot of the moment when the child's hand lets go of the upended pick-up sticks; the two spires of the massive boat lift towered above the surrounding masts. All down the edge of the shore, lights were still turned on in the death throes of night - street lamps, kitchen windows, what-have-you. And the birds just kept flying east towards the light as it brightened and brightened. I called to some of the birds, smiling, saying out loud for the benefit of my credulity, "This is impossible. This is beautiful," and such. After about a half hour I was getting a bit chilly so I went inside before the top edge of the sun disc would slice the horizon. Maybe I'll see that tomorrow.

Part 2, in a later letter:

On my daily walk past the Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center (a high school known locally as the Sound School), which is situated on right on the water and located across the street from my house on South Water Street (I finally learned the name of my street!) I saw a high school kid in a knit cap shaking a pair of sticks that went clackety-clackety-clack! clacky-clack! sound. I approached him, we said our what-ups, and I asked him what those things were.

"They're called bones, although these are made of teak. They come from Ireland." He held them in one hand, one finger between the sticks, showing me. Imagine something akin to your standard flat incense burner, with the curved end, but now imagine two of them held together with their curved parts facing outward. That's what the bones looked like.

"You're good at those," I said.

"Thanks. Most people find them annoying."

"I think it's cool."


I continued my walk to the pier, passing a couple of high school kids leaning against a low brick wall, leaning into each other, a boy and a girl. All decked out in whatever the kids are wearing these days, with their funky coifs and and sunglasses on heads and silver necklaces. I walked to the end of the pier and stood looking at the four swans that were sailing slowly about bobbing for apples or whatever they were bobbing for. I sipped the last of my coffee and pondered how cool it would be if you could just swim around and have that be your home and everywhere you looked there was food right beneath your webbed feet. And then if you got too far from wherever you wanted to be you could just jump out of the water and fly there and then keep sailing slowly.

I didn't tell you what I thought about yesterday morning as I experienced the whole sunrise spectacle of dark blue sky and half moon and flocks of different types of birds and boats moored a couple hundred yards from shore and the big rocks and the rippling water gently lapping at the side of New Haven's shores and the lights of rush hour along the far edge of the harbor on the ground like a string of Christmas tree lights dragged by a cat and the masts and boat lifts perked up in darkness and the whole phantasmagoria of chalky cloud spread like rent gauze above the masts. It was the birds that got me to thinking ontologically about the nature of time and space.

As the birds were flying toward the dawning light, it occurred too me that there was a possibility that the birds - the ravens especially, who flew together with a great sense of purpose all in one direction in orderly fashion - always go where the light is. If the sun is rising, they fly towards it. If the sun is setting, they fly towards it. If the sun is high in the sky, they generally stick where they are. This maximizes the length of their day, if only by a few seconds. Some genetic thing. So if this is true, then that means they spend the morning flying east, the evening flying west, and the middle part of the day comparatively chilling out. This got me thinking about their range, their territory. It got me wondering if that's how they do life. And then as the seasons change, they fly north or south accordingly. Just seeing them make these almost worshipful mad dashes towards the sun got me wondering about all this. And then there's the nature of time. It is based on the sun for the birds. And if they make a really strong habit of sticking to the sun, flying this way and that, then that means time and space are, in practice, the exact same thing to these birds. Each point on the sky represents a certain time of day. I was looking at the sky and the birds and the ocean and thinking about all this, and it just felt really extra true to me then. The sky felt so close and personal, like it was hugging me, and that all was quite so very small. The world was my oyster. Very cozy.

That is all about that.