… so I got up and first dealt with our too-high-tech door, which would start whoop whooping if I weren’t careful, and then I walked out onto the still-hot lawn. All day boats drifted along our little canal, and the effect was cinematic, elegant, hushed, charismatic; now, at midnight, the water was empty, vaguely lit, moving only slightly in the heat.
In the darkness I started looking for the outline of an Adirondack or a chaise, and I approached a white glimmering seat of some sort and almost sat down until I realized someone was in it.
“Sorry to disturb,” I said, and settled in a chair a few feet away.
“I don’t want to scare you, but would you come with me and I’ll show you this really beautiful bird.”
The person in the chair was suddenly right in my face. I recognized him: He was the teenager with a missing tooth and thick brown hair who had brought water in a pebbled silver bottle to our table at the lodge’s restaurant that evening. We’d admired the bottle; he’d admired the bottle. “I’m going to bring your group a second bottle in a minute,” he said, “but this one won’t be beautiful.” And indeed it was a very ordinary bottle, and we all complained good-naturedly.
Now he brought me right up to the edge of the water and pointed out an egret of some sort, its whiteness startling against the black trees.
“My step-mother is picking me up pretty soon. I live with my real mother, but I’m staying with my step-mother on Tilghman for the summer. Look at the night sky. I stare at it all the time even though I don’t really know what I’m looking at. Even when things move: Airplane or satellite or…”
“Unidentified aerial phenomenon.”
“Then there’s the bottom of the ocean. From the highest to the lowest. I wouldn’t have minded dying in that Titanic submersible. I want adventures.”
“What other adventures?”
“Scuba. Scuba at a wreck or in a cave. Go into orbit. Highest and lowest.”
I thought of telling him about DeLillo’s novel The Names, where the characters are like that – some of them are fanatical archeologists, always digging deeper and deeper into the earth, and some are international consultants, always flying high above the earth. None of them seems to manage being in the middle, where the farms and the cities and the parks and the people are, very well. The whole novel, that is to say, is about efforts to avoid reality.
But I didn’t tell him about DeLillo. I asked him more questions about the adventures he wanted to have, and as he expanded on them I realized that I sort of loved him and also was very grateful to him because I’d left my room expecting at best a night sky that wouldn’t lift my restlessness, but instead, magically, I encountered an instant cure for my restless spirit, which is to say another human being. The unearthly earthly reality of another human being. Someone who moved me, and lifted me out of what was after all just a spot of convoluted ego.
Well, the Bay. Plenty of Bay … seasoning for UD, a native Marylander whose father loved to take his little motor boat out on it and catch fish for dinner. We had a weekend house here – much further up the western shore than Pier 450 – when I was young.
Yesterday, when we talked to some boat owners who pulled up, elegantly, charismatically, along the Pier 450 pier to join friends for lunch, they happily admitted to regret – often; not always – at having bought their boats. “You know what B O A T stands for, right? Bring Out Another Thousand.” “Every time I take it in for maintenance I regret buying it.”
The vastly interesting world of this vast estuary … Its spectacular natural world.
Its cultural world, where oysters are planted to bring back the almost-defunct oyster fishing culture. The locals talk distinctly funny, drive vast dusty SUVs and pickups with Jesus Loves You plastered all over them, tatoo themselves. We had a rambling uncomprehending chat with a drunk woman possessed of the local occult accent and also slurring her words. It was important for her to convey to us that at Buzzy’s you can choose your own beer out of special fridges but we didn’t understand why this was noteworthy. She was headed into a store that calls itself MARKET, but when you go in (we were looking for insect repellent) it’s 99.99% alcohol.
Both nights the sky blackly glistened, and we were happy to wake at three and walk along the dead fields and dark pier and drink it in.
Here at the bay, the night sky blasts out at you as soon as you step from your door at three AM.
There’s a meteor shower tonight, but we didn’t see any meteors.
The fisherman at the end of the pier – clearly rather spooked by our apparition – indeed reported having seen shooting stars in the jeweled sky, “but only a few.” In each hand he held a large rockfish. Was he fishing illegally off the hotel’s pier in the wee hours? Is that why we spooked him?
We lay flat on white lounges on the small beach, wrapped in many layers, and looked for Orionids. Just behind us lay enormous flat fallow fields that stretched to the edge of the bay. Absolute silence and stillness, ground and sky, surrounded us. We saw no satellites, and no jets.
… ‘this great abeyance’ — not Plath’s Berck-Plage, but our own Chesapeake Bay, where Les UDs will wander islands and shorelines, scoping out black sky as well as family reunion locations.
At the moment, their best location for next year’s Perseid meteor shower seems to be Assateague Island National Seashore, which allows late night visits. But we’re still looking. A good excuse, in any case, for some adventures.
… meteor shower, and she finds herself, à ce moment-là, at Pier 450, right on the Chesapeake Bay – a place pretty far from any settlements, and, if you stay here, you have private use of their pier all night long.
The first thing I saw, ambling down the pier and glancing at the clear water, was… a turtle? A dark reptilian head popped up to check me out, and I bent down to greet it, but lookee here: It trailed three feet of tail and turned out to be a northern water snake.
There’s a sculpture garden nearby.
And on Solomon’s Island, also nearby, I found a somewhat shabby Corbusierian house with enviable water views. I toyed with suggesting to Mr UD (who isn’t with me) that we try to buy it.
Yesterday I read Joseph Brodsky’s poem, A Part of Speech, which brilliantly and movingly evokes the unresonant character of what used to be his home.
… A nowhere winter evening with wine…
… [A] star blinks from all the smoke in the frosty heaven,
and no bride in chintz at the window, but dust’s gray craft,
plus the emptiness where once we loved…
… As for the stars, they are always on.
That is, one appears, then others adorn the inklike
sphere. That’s the best way from there to look upon
here: well after hours, blinking.
The sky looks better when they are off.
Though, with them, the conquest of space is quicker.
Provided you haven’t got to move
from the bare veranda and squeaking rocker.
As one spacecraft pilot has said, his face
half sunk in the shadow, it seems there is
no life anywhere, and a thoughtful gaze
can be rested on none of these.
… [O]ne sleeps more soundly in a wooden town,
since you dream these days only of things that happened…
But here, at the very bottom of mine own Maryland, a small state still insufficiently explored by ol’ UD , lie multiple scenes so resonant as to nudge up against surreal. The dark disapproving forest sculpture, the gray unmoving gulls at pier’s end, the massively overcast and also blue and also white bay sky. These will nudge me into dreams not only of things that happened.