The Life of Things to the East: Lines Composed 119 Miles West of Montauk Lighthouse. July 13, 2014

Written By: Giammarie Pieri

The Life of Things to the East: Lines Composed 119 Miles West of Montauk Lighthouse. July 13, 2014 These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind, With tranquil restoration:–feelings too Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man’s life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened:–that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on,– Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things. -William Wordsworth, Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting The Banks Of the Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1798. Lines 23-48 The preceding lines come from my favorite poem by William Wordsworth, and I can no longer read them without thinking of the Hamptons. Like Wordsworth, I too am a romantic who believes that there is magic in nature and that in nature there are powerful forces that guide us to love and to a true understanding of ourselves. For me, the Hamptons are my Tintern Abbey, because in them, I have always been able to find a blessed mood to lighten the heavy and weary weight of the world from my heart and my mind. And for the past decade of my life, when I have been trapped in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din of towns and cities there hasn’t been a moment of my day that I am not longing for their affection, and over the years, their tranquil restoration has saved my very soul from the crushing grips of the manmade world. Every morning, as I stand on the subway platforms of New York City, waiting for the train to take me to work, I find myself filled with the kind of anxiety that I imagine a soldier must feel right before going into battle. As my knees quiver with anticipation of the horrors to come when I enter the steel subway boxes filled with sad souls, late commuters, and the vast array of seemingly always angry men, women, and children, who voice their anger in ways that never cease to disturb me, I close my eyes and see myself standing on the shores of Ponquogue beach in late October, when all is still and quiet and peaceful. As I walk through the loud and harried city streets, I often find myself lost in remembrance of softer days and nights that where spent watching electrical storms come in over the bay in West Hampton, or the silent snow falling on the pines in East Quogue, or the moonless night I spent walking the Montauk shore in almost pure darkness, waiting to be met by spirits. At night, when I cannot sleep as the sirens and shouting passers-by flood my bedroom, I imagine myself standing on the cliffs just above Ditch Plains, watching the surfers and staring across the sea looking for ships as the sun sits high in the sky. I replace the screaming voices with the sounds of sea gulls passing overhead and the sirens with the waves softly crashing over smoothed rocks and silky sand. In short, I dream of the Hamptons, whether I am awake or calming myself to sleep, because they are my refuge from the things of man. In the summer of 2004, I came to New York City to study, and instead, fell desperately in love with a native New Yorker. That August, I would have to leave New York City and return to my life in Geneva, Switzerland, and on my last weekend in the States, my love surprised me with a trip to the Hamptons. As I sat on the soft sand of Ponquogue beach, staring at crashing waves, I knew that there was no going back to the life I had known, and I vowed to my now husband that I would return to him, to this place of unspoiled beauty. I still remember that entire day with deeply felt emotion. As we lay in each other’s arms he whispered to me, “Even if you have to lie, tell me this isn’t the end,” to which I replied, “This is just the beginning.” And it was. Prior to that life changing summer, for nearly a decade, I had lived and worked in idyllic Geneva, Switzerland. I taught the verses of the Romantics poets to high school seniors at a private international school who often begin their year with me, as most young learners do, convinced that they would be bored with the lessons on poetry, but would end the year quoting Wordsworth and Shelly along with me as we sat on the shores of Lake Leman admiring the Villa Diodati, the infamous birthplace of Frankenstein’s monster. In those carefree days, I had no idea how little I truly understood the Romantics, or how much I would come to deeply embrace their love and longing for nature, or the secret that was written in their every line: It is only when separated from nature or confronted with her opposite, that we comprehend the true beauty, solace, and love that only she can offer. This was a lesson that I came upon rudely and without warning when I moved to New York City one year later. For nearly a year, I would travel back and forth from Geneva to New York. Drunk with love, I hadn’t even noticed the city I had been visiting, and I would come to realize that my visits had been short lived honeymoons with the place, as the city I encountered one year later seemed to have a distinctive harshness to it. The language, smells, sounds, sweltering humidity, and the whole energy of the place had changed, had become acrimonious and cold, and any kindness I had ever felt there ceased to exist. It was then that I discovered just how much the man-made world overwhelmed me, and that New York City, the most profound representation of a world made by man, overwhelmed me most of all. I suspect that most people who aren’t from there feel oppressed by the steel structures and artifice of the city, but in that first summer, I imagined that I felt it most of all, and there were many days and hours of weariness that I cried and felt crushed by the loneliness and anxiety of the city. On those days and hours I would remind myself what I had learned from the Romantics, that love and nature help us to endure all things, and I remembered that to the east was the beautiful island that I loved and had vowed to return. And so I did. My senses awakened as we drove past Stargazer and exited on to Sunrise Highway. It wasn’t just the fragrant cleanness of the air that took me over, but the atmosphere of the place itself, as it seemed to lift the anxiety and heaviness of the city from my whole being and replace it with a peaceful tranquility and stillness. From one mile to the next, the world stopped spinning, stopped shouting in my ears and at my soul, and for the first time since I had left my quite life for the chaos of the city, I felt a feeling of contentment that I had almost forgotten existed in me. I felt at home. The Hamptons welcomed me back with the warmest of embraces, and for a few brief moments, I closed my eyes and I allowed myself to be grateful to feel their softness and the kindness that lives there, and knew that they had been patiently waiting for us to come back. Even now, ten years on, whenever I need stillness, kindness or refuge from the tsunamis of life, I come to the cliffs, the windy or crashing or rhythmically swaying shores, or the softly lapping bays of this beautiful island, whether in my mind’s eye or in the glories of their true presence, the Hamptons remain for me the place where I can find kindness and loving restoration, and I am once again able to let go of the world beyond this celestial place and begin to see into the life of things…