Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On These Rocks

For a moment, I want to remember a fragment of last summer. We were down upon the shores of Galiano Island, British Columbia...

Feet... on these rocks.

Upon incising barnacles and slippery seaweed one tends to walk with thought. And there -- everything happens. The world, perhaps at its most Alive, appears about, within, above and most of all, below. For it is below that the tiny shore crabs scuttle, the seaweed awaits the returning tide, a million tiny creatures scatter and hide and hop, or immerse and descend. A jellyfish bundle lies on the pebbles, its days over, its nutrients gleefully devoured. So one treads carefully, for the world is beneath the feet, everywhere, but always down, always beneath the feet.

There, on these rocks, are also bigger creatures, creatures more like me. There is the heron off to the side, seemingly motionless, hunting, fishing, yet also watching to make sure I do not come too close. Seagulls to the other side, squabbling over something dead, something the recent tide just presented. One seagull sits still with most of a starfish hanging out of its beak. I wonder, is the seagull eating the starfish, or is the starfish choking the seagull. I frequently see seagulls and starfish in this predicament. And, out beyond, on the rocky reef, there are seven seals resting. If I move their way, they rise up, fourteen huge eyes all staring my direction. When my dogs accompany me, the seals are particularly curious. It’s as if they see the dogs as themselves; somehow, beyond all that is reasonable and logical, they see seals running on the land, keeping the company of people, and swimming quite badly (for a seal, that is). How odd, how utterly non-canonical this must appear.

And people are never absent. There is always an assortment of marine traffic. Small boats coming and going in and out of the pass, for pleasure, for fish, to reach some destination. Also larger, working vessels: ferries, tug boats and barges, commercial fishing boats, and further out in sea – container ships coming from China, cruise ships heading to Alaska. Closer at hand, not ships, but bodies, children and dogs, playing together, on these rocks, moving at the same speed. Sticks thrown, sticks retrieved, sticks not released until another stick is thrown. They all together check out the dead jellyfish, dogs’ noses right in the decay. Rocks are turned-over, shore crabs are gathered up, brought over in plastic buckets to a newly created tide-pool city. The crabs are apparently ‘citizens’ of this metropolis. I presume the children are rulers, or city managers of some sort. But, the crabs don’t cooperate; they find the first available crevice, the first dark place, where they attempt to disappear. These crabs have no interest in being citizens. But that’s alright to the children, for they just turn over some more rocks and collect more citizens. Soon the tide will return and this ‘metropolis’ will become an Atlantis, will return to the sea, and the crabs will find their peace.

A raven flies over, two of them. It is as if they were checking us out. Island security guards. Better not be caught in one’s sins – not by the raven. Better not find oneself on the raven’s bad list! Would he punish with a curse or a joke. ? With eyes turned up, I trip. I produce my own curse. I am cursed, cursed by a raven. I check my barnacle-scarred knee. For now, not only is my heart within this place, not only are my desires down by the water’s edge, but there is blood, there is my blood, down by this sea. For a moment, within a simple moment, all of life scurries in response, and my blood leaves a stain, just a small stain, down upon these rocks.

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