On my birthday in June, D took us on a trip through Long Island to camp in Wildwood park. We picked strawberries – the rental car filled with the scent of them – drove for the joy of a landscape blurred at speed, saw lighthouses, passed the artificial looking garden townships that looked like England remade by nostalgic lumber barons with a penchant for designer home interior shops. Ate luscious swordfish from a polystyrene tray. Saw the traffic bunch, saw it relax as the fields took over. Took the South fork and the North. Got to the park, and later, as dusk was coming down and the deer beginning to stray among the trees, would eat our strawberries dipped in an opened container of cream, watched the fireflies make their serious digressions around our tent. I caught one, for the first time, and watched in crawl around my wrist. Beasties with inner light have overridden the insect’s power to disgust (what is the source of that?) by being miraculous.
But before we had set up the tent, before the deer and strawberries and green torches flicking off, on, over here – we went to the beach at the back of the camp.
And it was beautiful, a break from the claustrophobia of the city. One of the many points where I realised, I can’t do this, I can’t live in New York and be happy. This peace was too far away, trips like it possible only two or three times a year, because we didn’t have the money to get in a car and drive until the green and the sand and the air and the space could make the city fade.
But I have been thinking how it would have been for other people walking on that beach. Of how the millions of the city would bring their millions of circumstance to bear upon the landscape. Though of course the landscape doesn’t feel it.
Of how, thanks to the ease of digital manipulation, I can remake this image a thousand times, inch it in one direction or another, change the meaning of the beach, or at least, change its range of meanings.
And it is the same with novels. The book cover articulating a certain version of the content. The blurb on the back reflecting a particular interpretation. The hands that hold the book, finding it too heavy, or light enough to dismiss (perhaps they have been reading Kundera, and have taking him to heart). Then the transmission of words into the mind of reader, another miracle in the manner of fireflies (that is to say, not a miracle, perfectly scientific and possible, but still…giving off the essence of the miraculous). And the million experiences of the reader flickering against the meanings of the words, the sentences, the core of the novel, because I believe there is a core, and that core is a human heart beating distantly away in the pained, or arrogant, or hopeful or dead chest of the author. A human heart in the sense one may mean of it; desire, soul, device of opinion, communion.
I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this, except that the line of thought consoles me greatly. Though it may not be terrible new, there is worth in watching, pausing to measure all this space we find ourselves in, to note the little lights dancing, though they might not be speaking to us at all.