2013-08-03 / Opinion

A week by the water

By JOAN SILVERMAN
Columnist

Still life: Empty clothesline, rowboats at water's edge, marsh grasses blowing ”“ but barely. Almost nothing moves in the still life that is framed by the window of our vacation cottage in Maine. I look for the sly ripple of water, a ruffle of leaves, some sign of motion. But I am the sum total of what is moving.

Of course, there is endless movement in the water ”“ plant life and animals beyond my immediate view. But the window frames what I can see, and the search for movement, for what is there, is altogether too much activity. Watch and listen, the view seems to say; it will compose itself around you.

By the third day, light falls differently on the view framed by the window. And the light falls differently in me. It is Thursday ”“ or Friday, perhaps ”“ but who cares? The sense of timelessness has set in. All days are created equal in this simple, restful place, divided only by sunlight, or rainfall, or nighttime.

To escape the naming of days is the first flush of freedom ”“ to accept that we are meandering and clockless, unbound by time or deadline. It is approaching midnight; we are at a shoreline dive, eating dinner. We lost track of time, lost time altogether, nearly lost the moment for dinner before breakfast would have rolled around. It is a victory for whatever day it might be.

On the fourth day, I have not tired of the view from the window, yet I am drawn to another pose: The marsh grass to the left, a huge expanse of skeletal, earthen reeds, is entirely different from its counterpart through the window frame. Is it the angle of light, the relation to water, the shape of the grasses themselves? 

The grass to the left belongs to another season, it seems; its stark haze resembles winter more than the heart of summer where we sit. And yet to marvel at the disparity between grasses seems overblown: Just observe, and distinguish where there may be a purpose; let the rest go unnamed.

So many days of full, heavy, ponderous sleep bring me to the window this morning half-drunk with restfulness. The view washes over me until I get the joke: The view has actually changed. Everything is moving ”“ the rowboats rock in the water, marsh grasses bend at the top, clothespins tremble on the line. I am all that is still.

How did this happen in the space of one week?

There is no drug that can do this, no salve that can unearth the deep calm of a week outside oneself. I am the souvenir that I bring home.

— Joan Silverman is a writer living in Kennebunk. This column was also printed The American Reporter.

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