Blue Like the Island
I am only alive on this island for however long the summertime blooms in that elegantly sultry way the season has of doing for anyone who watches the year in its entirety from one, steady perspective. There is transition: a certain unmistakable pooling of petunia perfume and nasturtium spice until they ripen into hot strawberry and citrus beer; the sweetness of corn tufts then mellows such an ambiance to a mood gentle as the color of the corn itself, and the honeysuckles become like wine, and the wine becomes like ambrosia, and the sea begets cold sprays to cool everything enough until apples and autumn can do so in their own proper way. These pieces all follow in a sweet flowing of each other not unlike a seam pleating silk in a color that suggests passion until fading and fraying into dimmer times and days. Anyway, I am alive now because this island suggests such a state at its tightest. Of course, though, I am not dead for the rest of the year. I linger by the grace of some deep snows and the feeling of hot chocolate or chai spreading over veins; I linger by the occasional meal that must be infused with steam heat to make the substance palatable to me; I linger by warm sleep in cold air. Yes, if you can indeed call those instances that make up the wintertime a form of living (which, I believe, is only acceptable for moments here and there), then, indeed, I do sort of live during the other parts of the year. I survive. I only live always, though, right now. I feel like sunshine and blackberries incarnate right now, actually. I should savor that shimmery thought, I suppose. Thornton Wilder once wrote, to paraphrase, that only the saints and the poets realize life as they live it, and even they only some. I understand realization as the foundation for pure appreciation, so I can humbly surmise that only the saints and poets are in the habit of experiencing an appreciation of their own essential existences—the painfully precise way in which we have all been strung like overcomplicated organic drops into some rippling web of cosmos, strong like steel and starlight and the wax from bees all together. Saints and poets are loose terms, though. First, to define any person as one thing alone is error: such classification is a flat view of existence and of the human experience. Second, are we all not saints and poets sometimes if we are lucky? Sometimes we save a summer turtle or a rabbit in the road; then, perhaps, we are saints as long as we do not realize the fact. Then sometimes we create beauty, either literally or figuratively, and, thus, since poets can use words but also more than just words to create, sometimes we can be poets too. It is in those tiny times that we may realize life as we live it and so come to appreciate existence as resonantly and as impartially as possible. I admit, however, that such realization is difficult to expand beyond mere points: so much makes up our lives, so much distracts us, so much compels us that we quickly default to metaphor. We realize life in a blink and then wish to describe what life is ‘like.’ This tendency toward comparison—toward narrative—goes beyond mere habit and extends to a fundamental predisposition of sentient beings and civilization. Yet, despite its history and the good it may bring, this predisposition does have the unfortunate effect of softening our focus on the matter at hand—on that elusive realization of life as we live it. Nevertheless, we can indeed pin the realization to a wall and make it linger, albeit briefly. I spend my days doing as much sometimes: this island is very convenient for the action. There is so much water, after all, colored like salt and sky and sun on slate. And I go into the water where it is cold and soft until I do not know where the bottom is, but I know down there it is rocky and gnarled and full of vibrant texture as always. I like to be alone, and I do not have anything in particular to do sometimes. So I glide, and I think it is strange how the water is like the sky—everything cold and blue and floating. It seems almost silly for life to have bothered with land. It is like the land is the place where the water and the air dumped their troubles, compressing them with a sort of gravity until they were clay and could be a line laid safely between the two bodies forever. Since I am out on the wet surface underneath the dry dome now, though, I am exactly where water and sky can touch like they maybe always used to do. And then I dive under and under over and over and over and over again. People are not supposed to swim like that, I suppose: no one else around me ever seems to swim like that, at least. But the diving helps me. You only have so long under the water, after all, since breaths are small and salt pushes you up. Yet, because that time under the water with each dive is so short, you become compelled to appreciate the life you have while down there. You must realize life—saint, poet or someone else—because there is no moment for distraction. In the everyday, on the island’s land, minutes seem abundant, and so you can afford to work or to daydream or to distract yourself because you have all of these sunny, summery minutes with days that only linger more and more as they pass. Soon, on the land, you cannot help but feel that you can always wait until the next minutes or the ones after that or the new ones after that to realize things as they are being. However, the water affords no such decadence. The water burns each moment of life into myself every time. So I pop under and inside the blue jelly heart of the island, carved between two forks, where things all feel different. Here, I am inside of tangible life, chilled by the old wetness and thawed by the new sunshine. Afterwards, I rest on top of the water, facing the sun. It tires you to realize life. It feels like you have to be everything you are all at once rather than spaced out and selected as usual. I do not think I would like to be all saint or all poet and to realize life always: life would become unbearable (an argument in favor of our love of metaphor and our ease of distraction, I suppose.) I rest here instead, caught on the wet membrane, and I feel the heart of the water pulse with its lapping and rolling and rollicking waves. Slosh-sl-slosh…slosh…sh…sl-sl-slosh. This moist place moves me differently at different times of day. It would carry me somewhere, but there is always somewhere I need to be…soon.