Sunday, May 8, 2011

land or sea?

Sunday... trying to stay with the theme of making tomorrow's theme on Sunday a journal prompt... here it is:

Land or sea?


Land spreads out with security under darkening skies. Land holds its cold in winter, its warmth in summer, its tender wetness in spring. Land holds its own while the prairie sweet grass trembles purple in waves, wind sighing through the sea of blades.

Land sends up growth through its soil. Land is porous, receiving rainfalls and decay and returning shoots and virginal green emergence. Land offers its fruits for grazing and upon its bedrock wander buffaloes and gazelles, sandpipers and quails, snakes, foxes, and beetles... ancient human ancestors, modern traffic, pilgrimages and questions, searches and home.

Land is a form, a scape, a mass, a mark, a place, a park, a farm, a forest, a home, a wood, a south, a north, a fertility, a burial, a dream. Land is a bad, crisscrossed by red scoria. Land is a border, crisscrossed by foreign voices and the unknown. Land is a mission, a journey, a locator, a frontier. Land is an acre, a mile, a hectare, a kilometer, a millimeter, a pole, a perch, a link, a furlong. Land is altitude and atmosphere. Land is a zone, a bounded entity, a permitted use, a mapped quantity. Land is topography, traced over by contours that never intersect. Land is embedded, embarking, bounded, bountiful, and beholding. Land is: was, because, and always.

Land is a place to run. To run to. To run from. To run forever upon. Land offers the choice -- settled or nomadic. Rest or movement. Land is a tenant. Land is burned, eroded, tectonic, and overlapping. Land is overrun by glaciers, marked by lakes, burned by fires, toughened and rebuilt and reborn again and again. Land is time existing in strata, layer upon layer of deposition, beds weighted down by ages and eras and epochs. Land makes memory visible -- black shales and stromatolitic structures and extinct trilobites... things that once flourished in success and then perished into obsolescence.

Land fractures, it uplifts -- its shock waves of orogeny producing mountains through violent collision. Land brings us up close to the sky, holds us up amidst clouds and oxygen-thin air. And upon land we land. We fall with the tides upon its edges. We arrive. We ascend and descend. We orbit, alter, cultivate, and divide and conquer it in kingdoms.

Land sweeps and over it we establish our lives, our movement, our homes and memories. It is our place and space. We drop anchor when it is finally within our sights.


The sea is an abundance, a quiet mirror reflecting an infinite azure sky, a fathoms-below depth harboring misunderstood life, dramatic canyons, abyssal plains, molten rock. The sea is constant movement, oscillating waves, more sound than sight. The sea races with calls and voices -- trilling, groaning, pulsing songs traveling hundreds of miles with messages of orientation, navigation, meaning, connection, mystery.

The sea is restless, slipping out and flowing back in, collaborating with lunar forces and gravitational pulls. The sea circulates, fluctuates, eddies, swirls, and surges. The sea is a frequency, a salinity, a continuity, a boundlessness, a submergence. The sea understands pressure. The sea contains silence and great force. The sea reacts in displacement and throws itself upon us when equilibrium is upset. The sea travels because it must. The sea dominates our planet and places us in abstraction where we can contemplate vastness, the sublime, our own insignificance. The sea is now, why, and over and over again.

Caspar David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, 1810
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Blue and Silver, Trouville, 1865
The sea crashes upon our shores and whispers its captured secrets in the cavity of a conch shell. Whooshing and echoing, all is recreated. All is forever timeless.

The sea eludes and is an illusion. It sparkles with particles of incandescent light, diffracting, reflecting, refracting, bending, shifting... phosphorescent glow... luminous haze. Its eclipses its own depths. It drowns us and offers no comprehension. Caught in the middle with nothing else to see, we feel helpless. We swim, immerse, become lost, and listen to repetitions and vibrations from netherworlds.

The sea contains our oceans of tears, drenching and spilling them back upon us. The sea is a voyage, a space, a theory, a reverie. The sea is lonely. The sea is grand. We stare at the sea and it stares back. The sea contains the unknown and the untellable. The sea is secretive and open simultaneously. The sea is perpetual. The sea is maternal and pure. We drink it in and long to tell of its tales.

Over land, we carry life on our backs. The sea carries us in its fluid arms. Land remembers and the sea transgresses all understanding. Upon land, we leave our footprints. Upon the sea, we cast our dreams.
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither.
(William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality)
Between one and the other, we watch the sun fall away. We rise, we fall. We exist in watery, wandering in-between.

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