The piece of beach glass was not like any color I’d ever seen. It was thalo blue, one of those deep blues that really only exist on an artist’s pallet, a color that exudes richness, a velvet color, a royal color. And there it was the lone piece of glass lying in the sand. At first I thought it was a bit of paper or plastic trash, but when I picked it up I realized it was a rare and lovely piece of glass. I put it in my pocket with the other treasures I’d collected. The clear, the amber and the green chunks, the edges worn round by the sand and waves. But I was worried about it, that lovely bit of hard color floating around in my pocket, I was afraid it might fall out and get lost, so I took it out of my pocket and held it in my hand. I rolled it between my fingers and admired how the light was trapped inside it. Not a totally opaque piece of glass, but a dark translucence. And I walked, picking up other odd bits of glass, nothing spectacular.
And I admired the sea and the sun and I watched my dog chasing smells and seagulls and life was good and then I realized it was no longer in my hand. Somehow I had become distracted and dropped it. And then I felt a real physical sense of loss, an emptiness that something I had was now gone. I’d had it for maybe 5 minutes but it had got hold of me, I’d had something unique and special, I imagined showing it off, the little bit of beach glass. I turned around and retraced my steps. And now I was running inside but as I walked carefully over the beach trying to find my treasure. I was as frantic as my dog looking for a tennis ball that had been carried out to sea. My precious was buried or maybe sitting in plain sight, but not my sight.
It was the emptiness from the loss of a bauble that had no value whatsoever that surprised me. And in that moment I understood greed, I understood avarice and I understood the overwhelming need to possess the unique and the precious. I turned and looked back at my path, tempted once more to retrace my steps and find the missing treasure. But instead I embraced my loss and my desire. I took a deep breath and looked out to sea. The early sunlight cut the fog in places allowing an almost unnatural brightness to reflect off the surface, a light as deep as the glass I had lost. A light that stays with me always.
I had a brilliant idea. And so I sat to write it down. The thought that is on tip of my brain, the words not as words but as whole sentences, whole paragraphs, whole universes that have sprung into existence, there in the nascent formation of the form that will be great once I get it on the paper. And here I am, waiting….It’s coming, it’s almost here, so close, the thought is bubbling to the surface, about to manifest into a Pulitzer Prize winning reality, I feel it, I see it, I hear it, I……it’s gone.
And now I understand. So simple. It is thought and anti thought. Right here in my brain. Funny how it works, all these billions of dollars spent on the Great Hadron Collider just to observe those micro milliseconds of antimatter at the beginning of creation, and I experience it nearly daily. Thought antithought, story antistory. The End. The Beginning.
Last week a dead dolphin washed ashore, and the high tide picked it up and carried it away.
For the past few days The Dog Walker had been hanging around my tag rock with his pack of dogs instead of venturing further down the beach to his usual spot. When I asked him why, he said, it was the dead dolphin, it was still there on the beach and he pointed to a dark shape in the distance.
Every day in my semi OCD that I choose to call ritualistic way I have to tag my usual rock before heading back, but today I tagged the rock and kept going. “Watch out for the dead dolphin,” he said, “I’ve been trying to get them to get it off the beach for days. It’s stinking up the place and it’s body juices seep into the sand and the dogs just want to roll all over it.” “Okay, I’ll keep Casey by me” I said and continued on my way.
I didn’t smell anything, but maybe it was the direction of the wind. I got closer and closer to the looming carcass but still I didn’t smell a thing. I called Casey to heel, just in case, as we walked past and I noticed that the dolphin seemed unusually long. But it still didn’t smell. Right about then I realized that it wasn’t a stinking carcass of canine delights at all, but a log. A plain old rolled around in the surf log. No smell, no juices, just waterlogged dead wood.
And I thought about all the days that my friend had hovered by the rocks, not going forward, frozen, by something that wasn’t there, but for him it was. The smell was real, the oozing was real, the body was real, and then I thought about how many times I hadn’t gone forward because of something I thought was there.
It’s that old accountability thing. The trim and peppy fitness trainer standing off to the side holding the timer as if it was the self destruct button on a starship, finger at the ready just in case we need to abort, abort…..yes, I need to stop holding the f…..ing plank.
And yet I go back. Time and again I subject myself to their unrelenting cheerfulness in the face of my suffering. And why? Because I have no discipline on my own. Without paying them for the privilege of torturing me with planks and burpees (who was the sadist who invented the burpee anyway?) I would spend my hour diligently pursuing the executive workout, in the hot tub.
As I said, it’s the old accountability thing. It comes from being a people pleaser. I am deeply averse to disappointing someone else. I want to please them, I want to make them happy. So if holding a plank makes someone happy I hold it.
I sometimes wonder what I might actually accomplish if being accountable to myself was enough. Maybe I should invest in a stop watch.
I have just entered the #Twitterverse. @startrek and @stargate and @Dr. Who cannot create the universes that are now at my fingertips with the flick of the #sign. My mind is officially blown. I feel like I do when I watch the shows about the Big Bang and the creation of matter and stars. When I look at Orion now I no longer see an archer with his bow and belt, but I see an incubator of baby stars, swirling gasses coming together. All they need is a hashtag.
“I loved your book but there weren’t enough dogs.” That’s what a friend of mine wrote after reading my novel. I laughed. We’re in a dog club together and we train and compete with our dogs in agility and obedience. So of course she was looking for the dogs. But it made me think about writing and critiquing and what we writers do to please everyone.
I wonder if the book hadn’t been finished if I might not have added a few scenes of Sonny training a dog, just to get the dog lovers on board. Silly. Maybe. But it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Bed and Board, by Francois Truffaut.
One of the characters asks the protagonist if there are any trumpets in his story. No, is the reply. Are there any drums? No again. Then why not call it “Neither Trumpets Nor Drums”.
Perhaps I should have called my novel. “Hardly any Dogs.” (Because of course there is one.) It is often so much easier to think of what something is not then to come to grips with what it really is.