Masada By The Sea
Low tide.Â A field of monolithic hummocks, carpeted with barnacles and tiny mussels, emerges like scabs from the seaside beach.Â I can clamber easily from mound to mound well out into the surf, standing above it on a basalt pedestal as the waves break harmlessly below me.Â Behind, a sun-drenched cumulonimbus cloud looms over the cliffs; before me floats a broad, wispy, Japanese brushstroke of cirrus cloud.Â Iâ€™m in the catbird seat, the Royal Box, surrounded by wild water as babyâ€™s-breath spumes of sea spray anoint my feet.Â If I look toward the horizon, no sign of civilization encroaches even my peripheral vision.
Nearby, ring-billed gulls peck at the mussels, trying to pry one off the rock.Â Once in a while, it becomes a comical tug of war when the mussel wonâ€™t let go and the frustrated birdâ€™s neck undulates like a cartoon snake.Â One enterprising gull floats on the surf next to a rock face, poking at the mussels.Â Every few moments, a swell sends it bobbing up and away from its prize, whereupon it determinedly paddles back and resumes pecking.Â After Iâ€™ve been standing there awhile, a seagull lights on my rock, not four feet distant.Â Iâ€™ve been accepted into the fraternity.
Listen.Â The surf clamors like a million lost souls crying out in despair as gulls hover overhead, squawking like carrion crows. Â I feel the weight of the worldâ€™s sin surging forth in massive roiling swells, great Roman battalions breaking around my personal Masada in an overwhelming, unreflecting wave of capricious power.Â Safety is fragile, and fate is pitiless.
Now the snow-white sun fights through the blanket of gray flannel hugging the far horizon.Â A sliver of icy light pierces the cloud bank, probing like fingers of Zeus between Aphroditeâ€™s thighs.Â Warm, amber honey pours through the sundering gray, reflecting off the powdered-sugar whitecaps and dusting the sea spray with confectionersâ€™ silver sparkles.Â Then, the ecstasy over, the clouds close up and the edge of the world goes into afterglow, the placid expanse beyond the waves stretching all the way to heaven amid the clamor and the caws.
High tide. Â I watch the beach from the aerie of my third floor motel room.Â Below, a massive shoulder-high tree base lies on its side, looking like a great seal or a sphinx guarding the road up to the town.Â The scabrous hummocks are gone now; my Masada has sunk beneath the sea like Atlantis.Â Everything dies, succumbs, sinks beneath the sea.Â God always loses.Â Masada.Â Pol Potâ€™s Cambodia.Â Hitlerâ€™s Germany.
Now the sphinx is a giant poodle, tongues of sea foam lapping around its haunches.Â The surf wonâ€™t bury it like it did my Masada.Â But as much as I love to fancy the driftwood gargoyle mystically holding off the waters, itâ€™s clear the sea chooses to be merciful, holds itself in abeyance of its own volition.
As safe as I am here on top of the cliff, in a hundred years the sea will call my bluff to itself, and reduce my room to so much flotsam.Â And Iâ€”I will be clamoring in despair with the lost souls and sunken galleonsâ€”or floating on the gale, safe from the ocean depths, so long as the wind blows.
Â© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. Â Please share this on Gather.com, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy. Â Doug’s latest book is The Depressed Guy’s Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.
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