Friday, October 17, 2014

The Waves, the Women, and the Deep Blue Sea



To drown in the open sea, I think, would be one of the loneliest deaths. And what of the spirit? Does it float? Is it buoyant? Does it rise up and out of the depths as soon as life leaves the limbs? I think drowning in the open sea would be one of the cruelest deaths. Not because of the pain or the shock necessarily, but because of the obscurity. I am not trying to say everyone needs to be famous. But, I am trying to say that a death at sea in open waters would be so... Quiet. So silent. So unmarked. Who would be there to say a prayer? Who would be there to sing a hymn? 

For me, a death in the open sea would be an insult to a life. An existence. Snuffed out. Poof. Gone. And done. And the corpse would sink to the sea floor and it then would become food for the creatures down there and nobody would know and nobody would see and that life that was born alive is now dead and gone. Burned out of memory of the world. I think that is the worst part. 

I understand mortality. I know why it is important (Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt puts it plainly enough). I do know that much. But I don't necessarily agree with the design paradigm that suggests water, huge amounts of it, can swallow me up and kill me if it wants to. I protest! Maybe it has no will of its own to prey on the living. We go down, just the same. We sink down and down and down. Just the same. So? This doesn't jive with my sense of humanity. I don't think it is fair. No, it isn't fair at all. Then again, just now, I think of all the living creatures we humans have pulled from the sea. The fish, the crabs, the lobsters, the octopuses, the shrimp, the shark (fins), the whales and all those bones. And all that ambergris. So, to view that scenario in the dim light of my concept of all that is fair I say this: it is unfair. To me, a death at sea is the worst death. The anonymous death. But to a sea creature I imagine a death in the open air is like an oppression we cannot fathom. Can you begin to think what it would feel like to need to be under water to breathe? Then, remaining in that same vein of thought, can you imagine what it would feel like to be pulled from water into air? Mercilessly and in groves? I can imagine it. That's the thing... I can. I can imagine a renegade gang of angry tuna evolving into land breathing animals while covertly developing a method for land trolling. Wiping us clean off the face of the earth with vast nets. The question would remain: do they dump us in the sea to complete the cycle of justice? These questions could go on and on.

I see that these musings have become more of a lesson on the morality of the fishing trade and less of an examination of the problems with a death in the open sea. Now I am discussing death in the open air. There is symmetry and duality. There is comparison and direct opposition. How close everything actually is, in the end. At any rate, these are the things I have been thinking about as I compare the life (unlived or not) of women. Especially artist women. Especially stay-at-home-mother-artist-women. I read a poem by Adrienne Rich ("Diving Into the Wreck") about exploring a shipwreck earlier this week. Briefly, fleetingly, this work made me think of a death at sea. In open waters. All alone. Another poem comes to mind that discusses the same theme. It is called "Just Another Walk on Water" by John Skapski. But it is somewhat more jovial and a lot less morose. It mentioned the regrets of not teaching one's boat to come when whistled to. To come when called, like a loyal dog. This author was, of course, pondering a scenario where he fell overboard while fishing in open waters all alone. Death would loom in that situation. It would hang around in the background like a drunk with a poor sense of timing. It would cast a shadow on the most brilliant sunsets and sunrises (and every moment in between) and he knew it. He always thought about it. 

Back to the stay-at-home-mother-artist-woman (I include artist, by the way, because I am thoroughly convinced that by their very design all women are creative beings). What about her? Well, she of course has everything to do with living a life of obscurity. Quietly drowning year by year, child after child, day after day, all alone. In silence. In isolation in the middle of everything. What would cause her to drown in the open air? The perpetual waiting for husband and pay check to walk through the door? The career/motherhood juggling act going haywire all over the floor? The constant needs of her children? Food? Clothing? Shelter? All of that? None of that? All the while, she is kicking against the walls (whatever form they may take) because she still wants to live. Sometimes this shows itself through bitterness. Sometimes through anger. Sometimes addiction. Sometimes it doesn't show at all until it is far too late. Does anyone realize that women usually have all kinds of energy coursing through their veins and it is painful if not expelled constructively? She is not ready to surrender and maybe she didn't even realize that was part of the bargain when she glided down the aisle in that ridiculous white gown. 

Some women drown in the dry domestic landscape. It's a fact. They go down. Others fight the current and swim up for air and kill themselves along the way for lack of energy to achieve a specific state of freedom. Others wait and swim like a goldfish in a bowl. Back and forth. Back and forth. Waiting for the day when the cat will knock the whole enterprise over onto the floor. Everything will change on that glorious day. Death or freedom? The goldfish would stand no chance, but women are not goldfish. Though man has tried (not all, no) to debilitate us, to give us gills so that we might depend entirely on that small patch of water, he has never truly succeeded, in the end. In the end, we are free to swim up and away. To a degree, at least. At least, to a degree, we are not completely doomed to sink to the bottom. If the stay-at-home-artist-mother decides to paddle her feet, she might breech the dangerous parts between life and death. She might figure out how to survive. She might eventually thrive. It's possible. Anything is.

I must come to a conclusion. I began this by thinking about the sea. Therefore, I shall end it with the sea. Last night, my husband and I went to the beach in the dark. A storm was rolling in up the coast so the waves were feisty. They were crashing and pulling and moving and splashing. It was foggy. The pulse-beat of a distant lighthouse beam pierced the darkness through the clouds, but it did very little to light our way. So much energy charging in my direction was unsettling in the dark. As my eyes adjusted to the lack of daylight I could see a dark band emerging through the water and it would come closer and closer to me and then it would shift. It changed into a whitecap and then it folded in on itself and sank back into the depths. Wave action. Something about that proved to be quite mysterious to me. All I know for sure is that the oceans and the seas and all large bodies of water are sometimes very threatening. Sometimes they scare me to death. To patch this whole thing together with a delicate stretch I say that it is the same way with women. It is said that it is a rather rare thing for women to really like each other. I have found this to be true in some cases and not true at all in others. But, I think, the problem is that we sense the vastness of the spirit of our fellow females (ironic phrase). We are intimidated by each other's energy. Just as I was intimidated by those waves that I saw last night. We are afraid of the force, the power, and the energy of other females. This comes out in bitterness, anger, jealousy, and so on. It does. That's a fact. I don't know what to do about it. But I have observed it many times. If ever we truly emerge from the confines of a male dominated society, what will happen when we are asked to truly support each other? Will we do it? Or will we allow ourselves and each other to drown in obscurity? 

... I feel like my line of thought is unraveling. Time to end this post. 

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