Whenever we visited the islands in the north of the city, things somehow seemed lighter. In the train on the way we were already floating, and by the time we arrived our feet hardly touched the ground at all. As we skipped from the squares of light in front of the cabin into shade, the tabby mirrored our steps with delicacy. Now I think it’s possible she wanted to hunt us.
When the caterpillar season began on shore we amused ourselves watching them advance in small jerks. When one rippled up its nearly invisible thread from soil to roof, the analogous nature of reality became clear. Everything has its basis in pulses. A cool breeze touched the back of our necks as we looked at these things, sipping wine from long-necked glasses as long slow waves swept to shore.
We always kept the patio swept very clean. It had a plastic table and chairs where we drank coffee and read. Little rectangles of gold foil torn from champagne labels marked our pages. In the day we pulled berries from the trees, thanking our stars one of us was tall enough to reach them. Other times we went swimming by the pier, and little fishes were visible just above our hands held below the water. Sometimes they startled and tried to bite. We liked to jump in but the dip was often brief, as the water was so cold and many sticks floated on the current. When we did swim it was always the same stretch following the shore’s natural curve, current and countercurrent.
Afterward we’d ascend the path of stones like broken teeth to lie on a mysterious beach of white sand mixed with grass. Sprawled on towels we lifted the grains and let them fall, lifted them up and let them fall. We sprinkled them on stomach and legs, which felt so nice, then hung our towels from a branch and swung from flowering vines.
Beside this was the forest, where beasts with mirrors on their heads stamped past and incendiary plants proliferated, requiring precautionary sprinkling with anti-inflammatory dust. Lemons, lemons everywhere. Trees rustled softly, light illuminated their green. Little bits of cotton fluff drifted through the air and birds dropped in via sudden diagonals, the same way bats did at night. Overhead birds swooped by, leaving the imprint of their flight in the form of shadow.
When we got hungry we pulled roots and plants from the earth, and put them in our baskets. Then we returned by a path made of wood planks, some missing. A black dog guided us, our cicerone. Sometimes trees fell during the storms, but with their vegetable intelligence continued to grow: a split of the trunk sent up two shoots, a movement of roots above the earth’s surface retained balance.
As evening settled in, gradually saturating surroundings, we made our way back toward the ship now topped with a faint crown of smoke. A satellite and colorful cables strung low from branches once connected us to the world, but on a certain Tuesday a storm came and swept them away, and we hardly noticed the difference.
Near the water there were always many random appliances strewn about, unincorporated into the narrative of any place. Calm and silent, an old brick grill and three washing machines awaited their moment, resisting rust, new as the day they first appeared. At certain times of day we made holes in the earth, digging and digging, sticking spades in the places the soil was softest and most vulnerable. We liked to plant things instead of cutting them down.
On Christmas we looked for slender branches, twisting them into the form of a cone and tying on a gauzy blue bow. Then we went exploring until we found a bench that gave a good view of the stars. Backs pressed against wood, we looked at the moon above, gorgeous and enormous, bathed in white radiance. Constellations too, three stars close in a line, a triangle, a rhombus. Night clouds, pale in a darker sky. Coffee, pan dulce, firecrackers.
There was no way to anticipate any of this, but it pleased us very much. The world precedes human perception, and there is so much to notice.
Now I often imagine us in a boat, safe and far away from everyone. The only annoyance are the men who continue approaching in swift tiny vessels to thrust papers in our faces, attempting to seize possession of the craft. Contracts, tommy guns, steel wire. The uniforms they wear are heavy and the language they speak some incomprehensible jargon. Sign here, sign here their scribe threatens us, but wilts when we informed repetition is against his own country’s law. If an intruder shows up I’ll give him an option: either put on a tuxedo and come eat wild peaches with us, or watch from his rowboat as we move off, tributary to open sea, skimming away along the horizon before pushing up into the pale gold…
Image Credit: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth by J. M. W. Turner – Web Gallery of Art