Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Physics of Street Walking

In the early hours of a June evening, I find myself wandering the streets of Maritime Town, weeping. The air so good I could eat it, loss batting its feathery wings inside my ribcage. I came here to get out of my life for a time, and I've fallen in love. The sea, the fogs the sounds of wood on rope, on metal. Thunks in the fog, the creeee of sea birds, little peeps when distressed osprey wants you to move off a bit. The people I've met here over the years, the dogs and cats. Streets in The City an hour away. Bookstores. Music. Sea.

All this has gone in deep, and tonight, just a few days before my departure I am walking through town in a fog so thick I can't see more than a few feet ahead. I've come here every spring for 13 years; it is my second home. I've been to people's houses here, to their summer cottages, church suppers, funerals. I've been invited to a writer's group, to give readings of my own work in Large Nearby City.

I come in May because "there's no one here" then. At night the only place open is a cafe on the main street, run by a Scottish couple where the live music can be anything from a capello voice to didgeredoo, guitar, taber, and dulcimer. The people of this town are shy, and it's hard to live here. The people who stay on year after year have a "something" that I'm drawn to, and most come from somewhere else. Tonight the lights from the windows of Simple Times Cafe bleed into the murk as I walk toward them after having covered most of the streets.

My hips are sore [this old part of town is built on a steep slope, running south from the harbor] from uneven pavement and hills. The fog has condensed all over my windbreaker and hair and skin. There is a small group gathered around the singer/songwriter from Toronto this night, and the front doors are wide open. If I go in the proprietor will come over and sit with me. He'll pour tea into my cup and ask me if I'd like to try his new chocolate cake, or leek soup, or gingerbread, or whatever he has made that day. The room will take me in and surround me with the warmth of laughter, singing and low conversation.

But I walk past without going in, because I'm not one for goodbyes. For me, life is a continuous length of material with different patterns and weavings and colors. And time spent here is a continuation of everything else I do, even the train ride, the arrival back home and return to work. Even a memory, suddenly dropped into a day or evening, of a small place somewhere else in my landscape that belongs to me as surely as my fingers and feet do, and that whenever I need to go there I can, no matter what time of the day or night, no matter what I've done and said and become in the meantime, and when I do it'll be picking up the conversation where I left off. And I will be at home, as at home as I am anywhere.