Everyone knows this about me but while surreal headlines hammer on about the Las Vegas shooter, the enormous power of the NRA, the voracious sexual appetite of a now-done Hollywood boss, cruelty in football and some senator calling the White House an adult day care center…you know what I’m doing?
Walking the dog. Down by the water. Always, seeking the water, under open sky.
Nature makes sense to me. Running around the woods in Stony Brook with our ragtag gang when I was small, building forts and playing war in bamboo and mud meant that the place I know best is trees, dirt and sky. And the water. And the creek was my first water.
The creek off Erland Road — past the cut-through at the bottom of a rutted, sandy path meandering through pricker bushes and pokeweed — where I got carried away in the current in 1966.
My mom couldn’t swim. She sat on a blanket in her blue daisy suit and floppy white hat, talking to our neighbor who lay on a towel. Out in the water, my feet left the sand. My legs pedaled in deep water and I got pulled around the corner, first slow then fast into the main current. I was 5 and the only one in that day.
I remember the current pulling me down between narrow banks where grass grew. My head stayed above water. It was almost like being carried off on a cloud. There was symmetry there. I wasn’t afraid and didn’t think of drowning.
My mom must have, though. She must’ve stopped her chitchat to look out and see me suddenly being pulled away. She panicked. Our neighbor, just a teenage girl, ran down the bank and jumped in to rescue me.
I really didn’t know what the fuss was about. The creek had held me in the palm of its hand. The pull of the current was just nature teaching me another lesson.
Shadow and slant light balanced on leaves across the woods, the bead of the dogwood, the current pulling east off West Meadow Beach, these were my first and essential lessons. The ones I return to. To me there’s both chaos and order beneath the bramble, thorn and sand, in the smashed berry streaked purple across your arm. I’m just in it and it carries me.