Beach sequence

There is just time. And they say it doesn’t even exist but we don’t have another word for it so we just call it time. How much we have while we sit here and wait.

On a beach this morning, early July. It’s socked in with clouds and fog and I am sitting on a log looking out at the sea waiting for it to lift. Four fishermen with their bibs and poles up to their hips in water. They are waiting too. Eagles and crows on branches, the sand black and rocky, everything wet from the spray. You come to this beach and there’s no one around even though it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Sea stacks, rock formations off the coast, one like a cracked tooth, a molar. I brought my binoculars and there’s a clump of sea gulls on it, rocks stained with guano like toothpaste. The sea is gray and the sand too. Like that black volcanic sand in Tuscany when Charlotte was still in diapers. She covered herself in it and stuck that sand to her arms and looked like an ape.

There is just time: what you had, what you have now, what you might have later. Time helps fill the bucket of your life. When we’re born everyone gets a bucket. Run down to the beach and see what you can find, but everything gets turned in at the end. You can’t take the bucket with you, you have to empty it out. Maybe that’s time, the empty bucket.

The anglers are standing even distance apart in the sea. The sand is black from a volcano that erupted thousands of years ago. These trees are toppled over with their root sacks looking raw and exposed. I sit here with the anglers and think about what it used to be like, random times in my life. I go back and remember bits and I know I’m the only one who will ever think that. And it’s real and not real, like time. They say it’s not real, it doesn’t exist. So you wonder if we do. Or any of this. And still it must, because it seems so real. Like I just walked into a painting that came to life. I can stand back and see it or go inside the frame. And even if it isn’t real, it’s so good I wonder how much it matters to be real. What it even means. If it’s like time, just a word for something we all think about the same. And if that’s what it means to be real, a thought or thing we all see the same. Something we share through pictures or words.

I had to step back from it, whatever I wrote. Sometimes it’s best to sleep on things because you see it differently from a distance. We’re maybe different people every day. You look back at something you did and maybe it’s remarkable but maybe not. Then you layer in different versions of yourself the way a painter fills it in more. What if being real was just a sensation? Or for people who are in a coma or on life support they’re not real in a sense. Because they’re not living but not dead, more in between. And you could argue for those of us disconnected from life that we’re not real either. Maybe there’s degrees of life, degrees of being real that are linked to how much you feel. How things feel more alive, more real at times (like when you’re worried you’re going to die). That there’s something invigorating about that because ironically, when you’re most afraid of dying you feel the most alive. A rush of sensation that shakes your whole being into awareness, the urgency of your time. What it would be like to live that way always.

So maybe if there was something real than it was sensation. What we feel, and if you could make that a part of what you said or did as an artist than you would be good, you would be real.

They had the look of locals, the anglers. I was probably in their spot. One comes up, he’s a middle-aged Asian man with his socks pulled up to his knees, a bucket he sets down and points to, but I can’t understand what he’s saying. He gestures with his hand to his mouth like he’s eating. He smiles and I wave and say okay and then he walks off and a woman angler comes up holding her wet bib and gestures to the log by our camp and I smile and nod and she puts her bib down to dry and soon all the others do the same. And I want to say of course you can put it there, it’s not mine. None of this is! And we can agree on that and smile and look to the sea, we can be together for a time. Their buckets of raw fish with ice balled up in a T-shirt, an eagle looking down from above.

The sea and sand are gray and the sea looks so cold. The clouds turn everything to shades of gray. The ocean is the color of lead and the beach more ashen-brown like the campfire rings, the charred-down logs and gray-white ash.

The anglers are smoking now and the smell combines with the salt air and the distant whale carcass to make everything feel rugged. The anglers are picking around in the sand, smoking. Two couples, the same height. Their bibs are slung over a big dead tree by my camp and each one looks a bit different. You can imagine the anglers in each like they’re costumes or blow-up anglers deflated now, hanging there limp. Our bodies empty buckets too.

When it was time for them to go maybe there was an air of melancholy about them or maybe it was just me. I went back to my book and felt content. Nothing much happened. There was just time.

Categories: prose, writing

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32 replies

  1. Time warps with the gravity and lightness of our thoughts. I’m grabbing an empty bucket – it’s lighter, I’m tickling Z’s toes – she’s lighter, filling with laughter and she’s getting up from bed to go to the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A jump to the left, a step to the right. Nicely done, I would smell the smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks man…now this is a very obtuse song title reference from a U2 record they did with Eno called Passengers. If you haven’t heard it, check out the track “Beach Sequence.”


      • I hadn’t heard it and I was surprised that I also had not seen the movie “Beyond the Clouds” in which it featured – the scene was in the clip I watched ( and it was the perfect introduction to the song.

        I’m guessing you never got into Rocky Horror.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No not so much on the Rocky Horror…but I haven’t dipped into the film the soundtracks record I guess is for. I’ll have a look at that! It’s so dreamlike isn’t it? I actually had a dream once with that song playing but the words were different. It’s like it was some heavy message dream I didn’t quite understand when I woke. Not unusual that.


      • I don’t remember my dreams. Sometimes it feels like I am missing out on something because of that but then again, I don’t know what it is I am missing out on.

        For me (the video included) it was like a collage of memories.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah that piano is the sound of nostalgia. I’m a sucker for it. Maybe dreams are like our brain’s filter, good to shake it out sometimes like you might a door mat.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That film clip was exquisite. I was thinking as it started “you could put this music to anything and it would work” (and that’s true) but what they did put it to was magical. And my man Malkovich! Wow, thanks for sharing. That’s a gem. Wonder what’s up with that movie now. And could you get more somber with the empty sliding boards and so on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ‘Tis a gem. You’re welcome and
        thank you for getting me to look up the song.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Touch-e.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Buckets fill and leak, fill and drain, as we cross time zones if we are fortunate to live long enough

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m drawn to walking into the frame … visually and thinking of time as a frame (allotted per some algorithm) and we can just stare at it or we can step into it and feel the vibrations…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like how you weave in and out here, duder. Nicely done.

    “Like I just walked into a painting that came to life. I can stand back and see it or go inside the frame. And even if it isn’t real, it’s so good I wonder how much it matters to be real.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Casting a line into deep waters there, Bill.

    What is real? Is memory, insubstantial and unreliable, in fact the text we end up with inside? A stack of hand-written notebooks ripped up and stapled back together with gold lettering on the front, ‘This is Your Life’.

    Following a conversation at VC with blogger Robert H, the family watched “American Graffiti” as a prelude to the Wimbledon Women’s Final. But the film felt like gate crashing someone else’s dream; driving round and round the block in an endless loop of unfamiliar tropes. Like the woman in the Studebaker, this wasn’t my story, nor one I recognised. Untouched and feeling vaguely cheated, I was left wondering if only Americans could decipher this graffiti. Sometimes the unintelligible language is English.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I don’t recall that film so well. A snapshot of a time and culture before my time, that one. The way you frame it up and your detachment from it was interesting though…sorry that was what it was, I suppose. Eloquent your remarks here Bruce, the deep waters for sure. Wish you could see that stretch of beach! It’s something. Wish I could see the ones you’ve got there too, I bet they are as well. “Really real.” Be well, my friend. Thanks for reading and for being there!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A whole Summer of ’21 movie in a few paragraphs, excellent!
    I haven’t had that many hours by the ocean, and in my mind, it’s always sunny, but in reality, whether it’s Maine, Long Island, Delaware, Chile, Yorkshire, it’s most often gray sky and water. Don’t know why my brain insists on painting it brighter.
    I see Bruce was disappointed with “Graffiti,” I feel like I gave him a bum steer, but he’s right, not his circus, not his Studebakers – the edge of the ocean as a place for existential reflection is way more universal. Usually avoiding recommendations to people outside the U.S., studying us with puzzlement and dismay, but there’s kind of a mental list, of movies and songs that give glimpses and maybe a speck of insight – McMurty’s “Choctaw Bingo” or Waits’ “Step Right Up,” etc. but definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Step Right Up! I didn’t know you were a Tom Waits fan! Explains why we’re fast friends perhaps. Yes on the ocean gray. I love it kind of any way I get it. Mind, you do hold out hope the sun will burn through. Last weekend it never did, but there were glimpses at dusk. And that kind of rules, that midsummer late sunset thing. Wish you could have been there but glad in a sense you were RP! Step Right Up, everyone’s a winner, bargains galore…

      Liked by 1 person

    • And summer of ‘21 as you say makes me think last century oddly. Hard to believe we’re here in our own 20s. Are they roaring yet? A different kind of roar.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, the 1920’s is one of my minor obsessions. Holed up during the pandemic was the Boring 20’s I guess. But the decade is definitely looking up, we’ve still got gangsters and Tommy guns everywhere, but at least we don’t have to drink bathtub gin! I wouldn’t mind driving around in a Packard though, maybe meeting Hemingway or Fitzgerald.


  8. What a fab piece of writing about the sea, someone in a coma, lovers and the gentle breeze touching our senses in such a deep manner, Bill. WoW! How you interpreted the sea and interspersed with such beautiful words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks man! That was written in my favaorite place to camp, on the Washington coast. Glad you enjoyed it! I’m going back next week for a final visit this year. Take care Vishal, enjoy your day.

      Liked by 1 person

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