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.