My Summer Vacation

August 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Dover Beach circa 1900

Last night: a beautiful hour of floating in calm waters at sunset, the sky rosy around me, with mauve and peach billowing clouds, and the horizon the same blue as the sea.

Back home to fresh broiled grouper and roasted eggplant with red peppers, and Charles’ cat, Silk Rat, waiting for her share. I call her Silk Rat because she’s losing her black hair and the white skin shows through, making her look, at best, mousy, but she’s very soft and has lovely mint green eyes. She likes to be rubbed on her near-nude belly, and show off her impressive number of nipples. And when she manages to sneak outside, she bounds across the grass like my mother’s poodle did in his youth, with a springiness that seems to defy gravity.

Mostly, she makes Charles happy. She loves him with a grand devotion. As he loves me. I am the prodigal wife, and he always has a feast.

It’s hard to worry here. It’s hard to care. My mind hasn’t found great reward in thinking lately and has gone quiescent, like the ocean last night, content to shimmer in its borders and let the jellyfish float in on the tide.


I wrote the above a few hours ago; now, facing the flight to New York tonight, anxiety is spreading across my back, muscle by muscle. I miss my cats. I miss my apartment and the city. I’m looking forward to seeing Lisa and my mother and Delilah & Nick. It’s just that New York is my life, all the unresolved questions, which I keep resolving in my head and then find unraveled—unkind elves deconstructing me in my sleep.

This is a very familiar poem, but one of my all-time favorites.

Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold


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