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September 19, 2013

The Sandpiper ReDux

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I’m back at The Sandpiper. When I was here with Nina in April, I wished I had brought my winter clothes. This week I could use a sundress and some shorts. There are ways around that when one is at a quiet resort mid-week on the off season. I’ll get to them later. For now I am thrilled to be here with my painting friend Susan, although I am doing precious little painting. I am in the upstairs bedroom of the A-frame at a wide open window looking toward the ocean which rolls toward me forever and ever, amen. I am working on a book about teaching and learning. A little later I’ll get out my paints and join Susan who is perfecting her wave technique. In the evening we’ll talk and knit.

Every few hours the waves pull me out for a walk. First time out I wore a pair of shoes, which I immediately took off so I could wade. Then I wore a pair of clogs which also came off as soon as I got past the dunes. Now I leave the cabin barefoot. I can’t walk with Susan. She’s a strider, out for exercise, whereas I want to kick at the water and let the waves overtake me. When I’m in the water, the roar fills my head and I lose track of time. I could be out there for five minutes or two hours and not know the difference.

It’s been years since I’ve seen actual sandpipers on this beach, but there are flocks of them now. Sandpipers with their round bodies and long, skinny legs running down the beach in high heels make me think of my Aunt Frances who had long skinny legs and as she got older, an increasingly round body. We saw flocks of pelicans, something I’ve never seen until now. Last night a black rabbit with huge eyes came onto our beach path and nibbled green things. He let me get within a few yards before he leaped into the brambles.

The moon is in its full phase. I gasped when I saw it last night, glowing over the tops of the trees, yellow-warm as though the sun had zipped under the earth and came up the other side just to mess with me. This morning at 6, it was shining where the sun had shone twelve hours earlier. I speak pidgin earth science so the behavior of the sun and moon are magical to me.

I have The Norton Anthology of English Literature Vol 1 with me. My friend, another Susan and the wittiest woman I know, suggested I give Donne’s love poems a look because I said I couldn’t bear his (so called) holy sonnets. In fact Donne’s (so called) holy sonnets were the biggest impediment to my cracking open the Norton Anthology of English Poetry Vol I. (Ugh, I’m not reading that book. It’s just Donne’s –so called– holy sonnets. And thus I dispensed with 1200 years of English literature.) Susan, being the wittiest woman I know, at age 18 was captivated with the conceits in Donne’s love poetry. At age 18 I was stopped in my tracks and stumped at why the complex images in his poems were called conceits. I’m afraid I didn’t get much farther than that but was still surprised when Dr. Tyson suggested to me that I just didn’t care for 17th century literature. (Why would he say that? Never mind, just tell me why they are called conceits.)

So I looked at Donne last night. OK, I do like “The Sun Rising.” In fact since 1974, whenever the sun becomes annoying, I have spoken to it: “Busy old fool, unruly sun.”

And I like “A Nocturnal upon Saint Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day.” The St Lucy poem originally insinuated itself into my imagination by it being what Miss Temple was reading

. . . And I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

when the bust of Shakespeare was dropped on her head in the Joan Hickson production of Agatha Christie’s Nemesis.

I started to read the poems Susan suggested but felt pulled back to earlier centuries which have always appealed me. I started in on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Norton folk have tinkered with it to make it easier to read. It’s slow going but after a while I recognize certain words and spellings and it flows.

Now back to ways around the shortage of summer attire at a resort at mid-week and on the off season. There wasn’t a soul on the beach in the early afternoon. I put on my sleeping shirt which I have worn for so many years it’s threadbare, grabbed a towel and worked my way through the baking sand to the edge of the surf. I dropped my towel and my shirt and strode (I can stride when I have to) into the water until it was up to my chest. I exulted in the waves, naked and free and all alone (or so I believe) under the busy old fool, the unruly sun.

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