Great Blue Heron in Morro Bay, CA by mikebaird (FCC)
“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless, measureless leaves upon the sea.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Early Friday evening. Absolutely beautiful day, high 60’s, low humidity.
Day five of this particular migraine, and today is the worst day so far. Sharp, stabbing pain on the top of my skull, like someone is trying to drive a screwdriver into my head.
In spite of the pain, I have been quite reflective today, probably because I had to drive Corey to work so that I would have the car to do school transport. He had a short shift just over the bridge at the dock off Shore Drive, so we passed Lake Whitehurst. The water was so still, like a mirror. Then, too, the Lafayette River looked like a slate grey plane when we drove over the Granby Street bridge.
In noticing this, I realized something about myself: I pay attention to things and not people. On any given day, I can tell you how the sky looked, what birds I heard, how still or turbulent the water was . . . but I would be hard-pressed to describe the people I passed. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the woman standing at the bus stop right outside my car window as I waited for the light to turn green. I would not be able to describe the cyclist I passed who almost veered into traffic.
Is this a bad thing? Does this reflect negatively on what kind of person I am? Or does it just mean that I am more in tune with the natural world than with the world inhabited by people?
I really couldn’t tell you.
“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” ~ Edward Gibbon
My affinity for water, though, is long-standing. And when I picked up Corey from the boatyard, a tug was pulling away from the dock. I turned to him and asked him in all seriousness if he doesn’t miss being on the water on days like this.
I know that if I had been born male, know this with every fiber of my being, I would have picked a job that took me onto the water. Why male, you might ask? Unfortunately, the water is still one of the last bastions that is not completely open to women. It takes more than strength of will to do battle with the water and survive. There must be physical strength. That is simply the way that it is.
But I really do understand why my father was always more comfortable at sea as opposed to being on dry land. I mean, I know that being gone for months at a time is a lonely prospect, but I like to think of what it might have been like to be on a NOAA exploration vessel, the things I would have seen, the experiences I might have had.
Truthfully, the only major I regret not pursuing in college is oceanography, which might seem weird for a woman who loves literature and writing, but imagine the tales I would have to tell if I had gone to sea.
It is not something that I would have undertaken lightly, though, as I have a healthy respect for the power that lies just beneath that mirror-like calm, how in an instant the blue can become white churning, relentless and angry.
“I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.” ~ Jacques Réda, from “The Letter Scale,” (trans. Andrew Shields)
What still gives me hope—and yes, I am still capable of that—still grants me a sense that all is not lost is my ability to find beauty unexpectedly, when I happen upon a moment so perfect that I must pause and swallow and perhaps wipe away a tear.
Too sappy? But true.
I know that it’s the romantic sensibility in me that gives me this gift, and I am oh so grateful that all of my cynicism has not polluted this side of me. Because yes, I am cynical, snarky, and just plain curmudgeonly. I do not suffer fools at all, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity. But my soul can be quelled in a second when a chance encounter with the splendor that is nature reaches past my veneer of safety, the shell in which I encase myself most of the time so as to repel the ugly and the discouraging that seems to permeate this world.
Don’t bother to ask me if the glass is half empty or half full because I would wonder first about the glass itself, and I would probably prefer that it be empty so that it can refract the sunlight.
I am all too aware of my shortcomings, my deep plunges into the darker side of my soul, and my tendency to speak of too many regrets and too many what ifs, but not today. Today, in spite of the pain that has now taken up residence in my right temple, in spite of a series of telephone calls with some very nasty people, in spite of these things, I choose to reflect on the water, which is partially the theme behind today’s images (still blue water).
The water was the first thing that I noticed this morning, and it has stayed with me all day long and well into night. Actually, one of the best things about living in this area is the proliferation of bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, numerous rivers and lakes, inlets and gullies. The very things that makes this area so dangerous during a hurricane is the very thing that I most love.
“It says we all are beautiful at least once.
And, if you’d watch over me, we can be beautiful again.” ~ D. A. Powell, from “Boonies”
Do you notice what you notice? I mean, are you aware of what seeps into your brain without deliberation? I know that I am not and that I do not, not noticeably, but then images come back to me like my own personal slideshow. But as with most of the images that I post, very few people take residence in them.
I am always astonished when Corey points out something to me that was right in front of me that I never caught myself. He definitely notices people, what they are wearing, how they are standing or walking. Someone once told me that he was attracted to me because of how I carried myself, so full of confidence. Of course, that was years ago.
The comment surprised me, though, because I don’t think that before that moment I had ever paid any attention to how I carried myself, and certainly never considered that I reflected confidence. People used to say that they found me intimidating, which also surprises me as I do not try to be so. I just am as I am, as it were.
Maybe years ago, when I still considered myself a professional with a career, I did exude confidence, but it was not a purposeful decision on my part. I think that perhaps many of us exude things without ever realizing it, which makes me wonder if I now exude a sense of hesitancy . . .
“The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” ~ Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World
Speaking of which, Eamonn told me the other night that I was a housewife . . . how incredibly insulting. I’m not married to my house or any other house. Don’t bother to tell me that being a housewife is an honorable profession. Staying at home full time to raise a family is indeed an honorable profession, a choice, one that requires numerous skills. But no one who stay at home to work is a housewife; it’s just such an insulting term.
I know that years ago it was perfectly acceptable, even desirable to be considered a housewife, but things change, dear. I did not start working full time in my teens and pursue three degrees so that I could be told that I’m married to my house.
Let’s just say that I’m semi-retired, and leave it at that.
Of course, Corey does not understand why the term is derogatory, but that is because he’s never been a woman who was fighting to be taken seriously in the workplace. He has never been a woman who was underpaid simply because she had a spouse, and her job was considered a “hobby.” He has never been in a situation in which he was called “missy” in a meeting in which he was the only female in a room full of retired generals and colonels, and he happened to be in charge.
Corey is a male, which does not preclude him having faced discrimination. That is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that because he is not female, and because he did not come of age during a time in which gender roles were being forever reshaped, he cannot possibly understand why the terminology is important. But sometimes, the word choice is everything.
“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations
Actually, word choice is everything, the end all and be all as it controls thought, perception, attitude, response, hierarchy, power (or the lack of it). In the telephone conversation that I mentioned earlier, a man who I’ve never met tried to run roughshod on me by taking a hostile tone and increasing the volume on his voice. It did not work, and I simply told him, calmly (believe it or not), that this thing was not going to happen.
People use words and language all of the time to try to gain the upper hand, to try to intimidate; just as they use words to woo and to soothe, to placate and to pacify. They use words to assault and to provoke, and they use words to insinuate themselves where they are not necessarily wanted. They use words to evoke hate and to express love, words to reflect sorrow and words to encompass joy.
I have used words to my advantage my entire life. I know the power of choosing exactly the right word, and I know the power in inserting carefully selected words in a timely manner. I have used words as weapons and as balm. I am not proud of the former, and I try to offer more of the latter. I have wielded words as if they could cut to the bone, and in doing so, I have usually accomplished the emotional equivalent of that act. But as with most things in my life, I now wield words as weapons far less than I employ them in empathy.
Why do I tell you this? Perhaps as a cautionary tale. I know, unfortunately, what a bitter taste is left in the mouth after making a meal of words thrown out carelessly. And I can tell you without hesitation that even as they rebound upon the speaker, most words only gain power with use.
This, I know all too well.
More later. Peace.
Music by Eluvium, “When I Live by the Garden and the Sea” (which is where I hope to be someday)
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
~ William Stafford