Beside the Ocean
by Sabra Loomis
The beach is flat. The waves spread themselves, thinly overlapping. The edge of a wave-crest curls first on the right, moving fast down the beach like a fuse burning low along the ground.
To be surrounded by sound as it keeps rounding and recording itself; the higher notes (small waves) sustained by the soundingboard of the beach.
I wake up only gradually to this orchestra of the waves, and of the senses. As a human singing, it is hard to realized the full ranged, the nature and integrity of sounds. My viewpoint is always behind and at an angle, slightly to one side. The currents move across my consciousness.
I was once part of the musical wholeness, a voice that was heard as well as hearing. To stand up and make those sounds I had to open my body inwardly, and I was not always ready to do that. Why not? To produce the open sounds was “here,” it meant “here.” I had to reach further back than memory, to a point at which I had departed from wholeness, from “openness.”
Who was I? The stranger who struggled awkwardly every day and could not open those doors, those fickle sounds; or the other stranger who knocked and occasionally beckoned me outside myself, into a fullness that vanished? It was a riddle, like turning yourself inside-out. The more I could be insensible as a stone, the more chance I had of clearness.
A flock of sandpipers takes off, flying away like notes. I need to go home now, away from the beach. The pebbles stand, each in a half-moon of shadow. Each is an island. Just now, I saw myself learning to impersonate “openness.” In a sense, it’s only technique. All the toil, and the imagery, was just to create the instrument.
To fully wake up to the world would be to sing perfectly: to take in and embody the whole universe of sounds. I could not open the doors so widely again, or rush into the foam to realize and express its colors. The ocean holds, it husbands grief. It does not display outward emotion, but is all outwardness. “As I could never be,” Whitman said with longing; “as I could never be.”
Copyright © 2009 by Sabra Loomis. This first appeared in The Florida Review.