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Amber Paulen

Sky and Sea

12 July 2010


Now that electric lights wrecked the night sky, he mourned as if the great universe had died within his lifetime. People forgot to look up. —Annie Dillard, The Maytrees

Star-speckled night firmament comes at a premium. If I didn’t know blackness and moonlit from Michigan, I wouldn’t know what I was missing. What I am missing: the cradle that our galaxy sweeps us into every dark night.

Now I understand why Terence Dickinson curses light pollution like the biggest sore of modern society. In Europe we’re smashed belly-to-belly and everyone has got their own light, even out there on the Isle of Giglio.

No matter, I got what I went for: a thick heavenly slice. Constellations in ruddy detail three out of four nights. Perhaps my favorite is sweeping Cygnus whose long neck is sped by expansive wings over the Milky Way’s peppered steed. It’s grand up there, and glorious, even disconcerting in the counterclockwise spin. To tally our celestial turning and spacial wandering makes me dizzy; one must grip sand to look up. I’m not sure why they call that firmament.

During the day I swam suspended. I shall not attempt to calculate the atoms that keep me in saltwater afloat, but do know it is considerably more than what outer space would hurtle me through. Looking down through soft water like silk, fish swim through the waltz of our sun’s reflections. What they know of sky comes liquid. Blackness is unsettled depths; the heights are pinpricked light.

With me to Isola del Giglio I brought The Maytrees to again read, least of all for the parting seagull on my copy’s cover. Its second impressions hold more powerful than the first for the story is divinely layered and complex. Yet simply it gave berth to the rich experience of the sandspit again, of existence somewhere between heavens, waters and earth. I can’t praise the quality of this book enough, which I will do again, a little later.

Till then, more Henry Miller :

…as long as we come out of wombs with arms and legs, as long as there are stars above to drive us mad and grass under our feet to cushion the wonder in us, just so long will this body serve for all the tunes that we may whistle. —Henry Miller, Third or Fourth Day of Spring



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