26 December 2008

In Beauty

Today I took the bike ride--at least part of it, anyway--I'd planned to take yesterday, before dinner. It's turning into one of my favorites: down the old coastal highway, a.k.a. Route A1A, from Flagler Beach to Daytona Beach.

There the Atlantic Ocean stretches further than anyone can see. The same could be said for the shorelines of New Jersey or Cape Cod. But, while those northern waters--which I always believed to be reflections of my soul, at least during those times I believed I had one (Don't worry, I'm now sure that I have one, however imperfect it may be!)--have an almost steely quality to them, the waters you see just over the dunes on the side of the road have a gentler, though equally deep, shade of blue, even in the rip tides that kept me and everyone else on the beach from swimming today.

Back in August, when I came to my parents' house for the first time in five years, I first acknowledged the beauty, aesthetic and holistic, of the hue in that water. Before that, I would immerse myself in it but remain somehow convinced that because I had spent so much time with the colder, grayer, and presumably more dangerous waters of the north, I was somehow more intelligent and experienced than those who knew only the warmth and comparative gentleness of the waves here.

While I will always cherish those walks and swims I took in New Jersey, Montauk and Capes Cod and Ferrat, I realize now that those littoral scenes were simply more familiar to me than any other. And, I saw the ocean I grew up with held the promise, or the fantasy, of places on the other side where I somehow believed I could find refuge. Of course, I was always looking to escape myself but would tell myself that I wanted to get away from my parents, school, the prospect of a bourgeois life, when in fact I wanted to get away from life itself. Which meant, of course, that I wanted to run away.

Lord Byron didn't say to run from beauty. He wrote "She walks in beauty." All right, so that's not even the whole first line of that poem. But even if he'd written nothing else, he'd deserve his fame. But I digress...Sometimes I'd like to take that epigram as a kind of spiritual instruction. Byron was writing about a woman whose face and eyes combine the best of what's dark and of what's bright. In other words, he was describing a complex beauty, or the beauty of complexity. And, even though I was, and sometimes still am, called a frighteningly complicated person, my view of that ocean, not to mention life itself, was entirely without complexity. That, of course, is why I held on to those cold, grayish reflections.

It's only now that I'm realizing how complex these warmer and more radiant waters actually are. In those azure and veridescent hues, light seems dance with the depths of those waves. And I realize now that I would not allow myself to be taken with the beauty I saw precisely because it was so complex and diverse, and my world-view was a monochrome colored by my anger.

The day after Christmas isn't supposed to be this way. But so what? Maybe, just maybe, I'll learn how to walk in beauty after all. Somehow I think it would be even better than walking on water. I guess cycling with beauty is a good first step, and a wonderful part of the journey to living by my essence: Justine, who was there even when my old self didn't want her--which is to say, didn't want me.

Yes, I'll walk in beauty. Want to come with me?

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