Friday, February 11, 2011

Boyish sports

A mile down the beach the sand gives way to rocky shore. Or at least it used to. This year the sand has filled in to such an extent that at low tide one can walk right past the low rocky cliff. On one side, elaborately sculptured limestone, full of caves and cavities, snails and chitons clinging in their indentations. On the other, the transparent sea with iridescent trumpet fish corralling small silver prey. Crabs scurry in the lick and ebb of the tide.

And walking there I (almost) feel ten or twelve years old again, bug-eyed and enthralled, young Wordsworth in Cumbria:
Ye Presences of Nature in the sky
And on the earth! Ye Visions of the hills!
And Souls of lonely places! can I think
A vulgar hope was yours when ye employed
Such ministry, when ye, through many a year
Haunting me thus among my boyish sports,
On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills,
Impressed, upon all forms, the characters
Of danger or desire; and thus did make
The surface of the universal earth,
With triumph and delight, with hope and fear,
Work like a sea?
How does one recapture that innocence, that blank slate of delight, washed over by tides of danger and desire, swept away by the inarticulate sea? That haunted sense of seeing everything for the first time -- old enough to know that what one is seeing is important, but not so old that one feels the need to impress one's own designs upon the world?

Impossible, I suppose. Impossible to turn off the processing brain, that irresistible eagerness to make something -- a blog post maybe -- out of what might just be let be.

You can't go home again. Art has its imperatives.