Sunday, February 8, 2015
Literary Introspection: Seeking the Quiet
The path, bordered by a tangled profusion of silver buttonwood, iron-bark, and golden weed, is a lonely one - devoid of architectural monstrosities, of man-made obstructions, of the metallic jangle and whirr of electronic technology, of the incessant noise that seems inextricably part and parcel of urban life; instead there is only the curl of quiet branch and leaf, the intermittent flower, the industrious hum of bee and the regal solitude of eagle perched. A quiet place. A haven for key deer and reclusive writer alike. For it is in places like these where I do my best thinking; about plausible character motivation - what does propel and inflame a young woman of Edwardian society? - and plot twists - the dubious connections of an Indian nabob to Banda Sea spice trade...
And I wonder - do others of the writing ilk seek this kind of quiet in which to muster thought? The path terminates in the barren dust of a permanent low-tide. Or so I thought - always having ventured this way in the early morn or late dusk. But lately, I ventured forth at an unusual hour of the day (what an adventuress am I!) to find salty brine at the paths-end! And not only water shin-deep, but infant lemon sharks carousing in the ripples! The pull of the moon - that incandescent sphere - that transforms the mangroves from dirt-trodden parched to the wet harbor for babies of the family Carcharinidae - a species of shark threatened - as perhaps are quiet reserves for foraging deer and contemplative writers?
This quiet path seems the very repository of imaginative pursuits - for the mangrove branches seem to emerge from placid, rusty pools like limbs of the drowned; for the darkly clouded sky seems to portend something more than mere rainfall; there is something ominous in the feathered vultures that wait in the leafy wings, in the skeletal remains of the raccoon that are cleanly picked by the path-side (I am tempted to retrieve them - an assemblage of bones that seems quaintly reminiscent of the Victorian collector - but a nameless scavenger makes off with the bony booty before I can make up my mind to act). Rattlesnakes have sunned themselves on these asphalt plains, slithering in languid alarm before human intrusion; deer have foraged, with young by their side, before darting away into neighboring undergrowth. For this is a place where we are the strangers. Where life is governed by access to low-lying pools and scurrying mammalian buffets. Perhaps this is why I like it so much. It is almost a relief to feel a momentary qualm when the red-skinned vulture swoops so low - am I prey? Quick - a hasty movement to assure my feathered friend of life and limb and ability to strike back (as ineffectual as fists and fingers might be against talon and claw!) - for this is not our natural environment. There is neither brick nor glass, steel nor cement...but grass and twig, root and leaf. Here, nature rules; the bloody battle of tooth and claw. And for a moment, we are a vulnerable part of it - thin-skinned and feeble; an evolutionary remembrance of Jurassic-times where we scurried silent and fearful while voracious velociraptors roamed.
And I muse on the necessity of such pathways - for writers particularly - a quiet route (less traveled or, hopefully, often traversed) in which one can ponder the immutable privileges of simply being alive in this most glorious world.