by Brent Rydin
So, picture just the ocean. Way out, sky grey like a cat, sea grey like eyes, no sight of the land on the horizon. Sounds of buoys and the wind, and there's the sound of the waves crashing at your feet. Or my feet, really. I was there, but I need to put you there now. There's the sound of the waves crashing at your feet, against the concrete wall you're standing on, right there at the edge. There's the sound of the waves and the spray of the water on your face, and there's this kind of warmth to the cold ocean on the cold day. To your left, off in the distance, there's the private jetty of a house with a big back yard, across the rest of the dirt parking lot you're standing in that's now mostly puddles and sand-mud. To the right, a chainlink fence and the dock at the beach club.
But you're just looking out and you think suddenly about the wrongness of that painting, the one on the cover of old editions of Nietzsche and whatnot, that most people recognize but don't know the name of, with the guy standing at the edge of what seems to be a crashing of waves. (But it’s not the ocean, it’s fog. But you don’t know this as you stand there.) Looking at the painting, we all see this guy in the center, like an extension of the land, small in context really, and he just absorbs all the viewer’s attention into himself. But imagine being him, looking out at that, surrounded by it. That's what you're thinking as you stand there. A truck pulls up, and a guy gets out with some fishing stuff. You nod to him and kind of smile and turn and walk along the chainlink fence to cut through to the beach.
You imagine you've taken a vow of silence. The back pockets of your jeans are filling with damp sand, and the wind is rustling the dunes, and the waves aren't as small as they usually are here. And you've taken this vow of silence, even if only for a few moments. You can hear it all, and you can see it. You hear the wind, the waves, the buoys. You see the ocean, and it's just all this ocean. What's in front of you and where you find yourself, that's all there is right now. The moment is impenetrable. You can imagine all the periphery of the world, and you know that none of it can come where you are right now. There's nobody in the world to talk to, though you’ve got all this love. You're just there. That man in the painting, you can tell that he's not on an island from the way he stands, just by his whole countenance in relation to the ocean. He's stretching for ocean. He longs for it, longs to conquer it; he's made his way there from so far afield. Even if you knew it was fog, fog you can go back down through. But you? There's no conquering the ocean, you know that. It would be like one of Jupiter's moons trying to conquer the sun. The ocean is alive around you, and you can be still.
Brent Rydin lives and works in Boston, USA. He tweets at @brntrydn.