Anne Notations

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Paradise recalled

Looking west across Sakonnet Passage from Little Compton, RI

Last night I dreamed I went to Little Compton again. Michael and I stood on a grassy hillside; he had just presented me with a tiny German shorthaired pointer pup in a soft-sided carrier, and I was in love. A slightly older pointer appeared, and he explained that this one, also, was for us. It was warm; a breeze combed the grass around us; waves tossed on the Sakonnet; I took Michael's hand. I woke up and thought: Was that paradise?

We lived in Little Compton, RI, for nine years (1978-87), far less time than we've spent in Providence before and since. The town will always inhabit my memory in a peculiarly vivid way. Countryside and salt water... dairy farms, potato and corn fields, mansions, and summer houses... wealthy summer folks and bluff year-rounders. I know my memories are rosily romantic, but it's hard to conjure anything else. Really, the place was magic.

In the fields abutting our acre I took long walks with our dogs (Bonnie, Heidi, Kelly -- two German shorthairs and a tiny beagle) very early every morning. I saw beauty on those walks and, a few times, inexplicable things that sound crazily mystical when I try to describe them (so mostly I don't). In my fitful journals, typed in the small sunroom off our first-floor bedroom, I wrote a few good things back then:

December 31, 1983
Over the stone wall, into the potato field, toward the line of trees and brush the dogs and I walked. It was cold; the sun was pale and low in the sky.

Turning down the truck path toward the water, I noticed something in the clearing to our left: small gray boulders in the frozen ground. I looked again.

Some twenty Canada geese reposed in the field, utterly silent and still. Most were sleeping, clearly exhausted, vulnerable and trusting with their long necks stretched before them on brown dirt. Three were awake, their necks bolt upright like periscopes. The wedges of their sentinel heads turned toward me, but not a feather moved, not a beak opened. "My God!" I whispered. Still the geese remained, stone figures in a deserted garden. I thought of their journey south, the miles they had covered yesterday. Tenderness filled my heart for the great slumbering birds. In a few hours they would take wing, rising and swirling, wings thundering and full-throated cries skirling like bagpipes across the fields and the slate mirror of the bay.

July 8, 1984
"Nature could trap. You could wander among sweet grasses and not think of God. You could mistake the grass for God, the fragrance. ... The grass could make you love the world, and Father Cyprian had said... 'You must hate the world and love God.'" -- Mary Gordon, The Company of Women

If nature is a trap, and godless, I would almost rather forgo God and stay ensnared. Better to be held weightless in the clarity of this cool summer evening. To watch a young rabbit the size of a hamster inhale long stems of grass like strands of spaghetti, next to the lilies across the dirt lane; laughing at its appetite, loving with all my heart its neat, almost transparent ears, the smooth brown fur of its flank. To feel the sea wind as the sun sets, to watch laundered beach towels dance and snap on the clothesline outside this window. To step around the curled forms of our three dogs, each lying in her patch of blue carpet like splotched warm rocks in a pond.

A trap baited with beauty, and eliciting boundless love.

I'll risk it. I'll love the world and God, too. Because I've seen and felt and heard and tasted knowledge deeper than the brittle sensible reasoning of my brain. In the buzzing, teeming fields I walk each day, I recognize a holiness that is much greater than its parts.

Baled hay in a Little Compton field


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