Landing Lane by William Taylor

Landing Lane

by William F. Taylor, Jr.  

A wall of high reeds on your right partly blocks the view as you stand at the launch of Landing Lane and look out in Accabonac Harbor. But cut the silence of the water with a kayak and a canoe, and the expanse will breeze into view: miles of green marshlands and blue scintillating water, illumined by a fully powered noontime sun. Hellgate, Louse Point, Woodtick Island: names seemingly chosen to keep the wanderer away; names, like Iceland, contrived to conceal a paradise. And if you doubt that this world is, or could be, a paradise, come into these waters. The silent egret, like the watchful osprey, like all living forces beneath the face of the day, is driven by hunger and drawn by want. Even in this Eden there is pain. But here the suffering is redeemed by the grace of beauty. Here the never-resting agitation of existence spreads its broad wings and scoops along the shallows, eyeing schools of fish and the scuttling crabs. One bird grips a crab in its claws and then dashes it down on the rocks before swooping a spiral and returning for the meat. The world perishes in one incarnation, and sustains itself anew. The mystery of flesh made flesh, the endless cycle, repeats itself on this light-drenched creek, thousands of millions of years older than the human alchemy that will turn flesh into word.

 

Humanity marks itself all along these waters, not just in the names of the land. The marshes are scarred all along their face by the straight striations dug by old work-gangs, the channels dug to aid the tidal flow and to rob the mosquitoes of their still water.  A paddle into one of these canals reveals insect life as busily buzzing as ever. Dragonflies swarm and mate. Wasps send out sentries from a hidden nest. Horseflies find warm skin and help themselves to blood.

 

The puffy clouds part to show an equally white moon, serene in the late afternoon, just another island on the horizon. But the hour comes when the sun retreats and the moon follows along in its pace. The bathers and boaters have yielded to the night. Another kind of exploration is possible in this dark lot far from the lights and laughter of town. The southern sky of summer is alive with stars, which pulsate to the beat set by the crickets in the white oak forests.  Above those treetops Sagittarius hangs with its teakettle shape, the foamy cloud of stars at its spout marking the center of our galaxy. As sand and sea have mixed on this shifting planet, a whole realm of uncountable worlds around us has swung on that axis, carrying us with it through the eternity of night. Lovers come to Landing Lane, some to quarrel. Music rumbles over the reeds, concealing shouts and sighs. But they depart and the sky cycles still. Look away from the sinking heart of the Milky Way, and look out over the water and into infinity. Spot a faint patch in Andromeda, and you will see the oldest light you will ever catch with your naked eyes, photons that began their trek to your eyes three million years before this harbor and this land existed. Somewhere in the undistinguished blur lurk other islands where waves break rock into sand, other harbors where the sand divides the waters, other subjects that bear the objectified world on the balance of a fragile self. But tonight the world is only this: sand underfoot, chirping in the trees, and the scent of ever-living harbor expiring into the summer air.