Sunday, March 8, 2009

Space Between

I took this shot from the bridge the other day, hoping to capture what I see as I drive off the island every day. I was surprised to see that the camera saw more bridge and less vista.  For the camera, the water is just an afterthought, the spaces between the railings simply placeholders.

Of course, I take the bridge for granted. I must, since I don't even notice the railings when I'm looking out.  What do I see is the shifting mood of the bay below, the craggy islands. On the rare occasion that I'm in the passenger seat, as I was on this day, I drink in the view and let my eye follow the bay as it runs back out to the shimmering ocean. I watch the strange map-like lines that the ebbing tide draws on the surface of the bay. I squint at the tiniest rocky islands, hoping to catch a glimpse of a sunbathing seal.

The space between the railings reveals so much, a whole world away from the soaring bridge itself, and it might as well be. God willing, the bridge and the water will continue to remain oblivious to the other forever. There is a space there between them that won't be crossed.

We live on an island, and the ocean is, clearly, the defining factor for our town. Given that, then, it's amazing how little contact we have with it. Sure, we swim and play in it, and fish and boat on it. We can even scuba dive and see up close those who live there. But all of our forays into the sea are, inevitably, only momentary daytrips, with no visa extended. As close as the ocean may be, it is other.

When we moved here, we lived closer to the bay, and I would sometimes lull myself to sleep by imagining all the life teeming beneath the water just a few blocks away. It was thrilling and a bit terrifying for me to think that deep at night, deep in the dark, dark water there they were--the tuna and the scup, eels and dogfish, the skipjack tuna, alewives, squid, herring, butterfish, occasionally a shark--these and countless others proceeding with their watery lives just steps from my door. Even my mammalian cousins, the dolphins and seals--even they couldn't begin to comprehend my life, or me theirs. We are, as they say, oceans apart.

That impenetrable distance fascinates me. What gets me most is that it's a distance not of space itself, which is physically crossable, but a distance of consciousness. I think that's what gives me the shivers. It feels dangerous somehow, to be dwelling so close to a deep unknown. If I dwell on it too long, I'm overcome with a feeling that must be something like a fear of heights--all that abyss looming. It makes me feel the smallness of myself, vulnerable and anonymous.

When I was a child, my mom took me to visit a college friend of hers. They lived on an open, windblown piece of land in Ontario, Canada. We were only there for an evening, as I recall, and the details have fallen away from me. But I do have a vivid memory of hearing their neighbors--a wildlife preserve. Actually, it was a sort of safari-type place, with all sorts of "exotic" (read: nonnative) wildlife. And as we stood on their porch, I remember hearing the roar of lions, who lived within shouting range of their backyard fence.

A simple thing, that roar. In a zoo, it's innocuous. When you hear it while standing on a front porch-- well, I was chilled by it. The funny thing is that it wasn't the prospect of a lion crossing the fence that was disquieting. Honestly, I didn't even imagine that fear. What got me was the same thing that gets me when I think too much about the mysterious lives that are lived under the surface of the bay--it's the vast otherness that makes me catch my breath.

You may know by now that I can get sucked into dwelling on something, and for some time, my thoughts will continue to go there. During those times, I welcome a distraction that brings me away from that edgy feeling of isolation. My mind does eventually quiet, of course, and runs on to other obsessions.

I think back on that visit to my mom's friend, and I wonder what it would be like with the constant presence of the lions, announcing itself again and again in the night. Would it be like having a relentless reminder of how small I was? Or would it fade into the distance like the static noise of the waves and the fog horn, the shock diminishing with exposure, until I would have to force myself into noticing it?

In reality, I know that life is balanced someplace, very neatly and incredibly, between noticing the spaces we live in, and noticing the spaces we do not occupy.  Were it not, we would all certainly be insane.  
My photo of the bridge reminded me of that so clearly. It is interesting and sometimes disturbing for me to shift my vision, as the camera does, from one focus to the next...knowing all the time that I will never really be able to see the whole perspective, that I, too, will always remain other.

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angela said...

Hi Kirie

We just read your post - very interesting - a little lonely too. I will think about spaces a little differently.

Daddy says your thoughts are too deep for him. He wants you to keep mixing your subject matter like a tossed salad.

Love, Mom

Lydia said...

This is spectacular writing! I've had this sense of otherness around the ocean, the majesty of the deep. But your words distilled the feelings I've had.
I've noticed this about you, Kirie..... You are very self aware. I marvel at your familiarity with your own deep. From that center your awareness and analysis of the world is focused and pure. It's a gift.

Irene Latham said...

Hi Kirie - I love the bridge pic and thoughts. Bridges do evoke such a range of emotion. I think bridges for me represent possibility, other worlds... the architecture alone is amazing. They also represent a recurring nightmare... driving over a bridge and plunging off and being trapped in a drowning vehicle with children I can't get out of carseats. This one still sticks with me even though my kids are as tall as me now. So, yeah. Loaded. :)

Marites said...

I really like your post and somehow it makes me think. The first bridge pic looks surreal for me. I see bridges as connections to getting from one place to another and it's a way of reaching out to and going beyond one's comfort zone.

La Belette Rouge said...

According to Jungian psychology a bridge is a symbol of the animus for women. Jung believes that the animus acts as a bridge to the impersonal world of intellect and spirit. I didn't know that interpretation of bridges at the time but for a year after my father's death I used to cry every time I crossed a bridge.

There are some bridges that cannot be crossed. As you so beautifully wrote, some spaces are too large and vast to ever comprehend.

We can study animals and understand much about them and yet there is so much we can never understand. Even as Lily lives with me I learn so much about her I am aware that there is much I will never know and that is too bad. I wish I could bridge my understanding and yet there is something about our distance that creates a spirit of curiosity and wonder in me and I do like that.

Judy said...

I have to agree with Irene and say a bridge; especially a long one over a deep body of water can somehow make me feel a real sense of getting away from the vastness of it all. Maybe that is similar to Kirie's thoughts. Then at times with feet on the ground I can stand and marvel at the vastness of all god has created for us to enjoy and can't begin to take it all in. I do enjoy how your posts make me think.

susan said...

A very beautifully written piece about that deepest of all unknowns - our selves. I'm very impressed with your wisdom.

Igotmebabe said...

Beautiful shots and thoughts :)

The Seeker said...

What a great piece, so well writen, my dear.
Lovely shot and food for thought.

Thanks for all of the insights.


Kirie said...

Mom, I'm glad you read this and that it made you think about spaces a little. I'll be mixing up the topics in the next week or two! Glad you enjoyed this more ponderous post...


Kirie said...

Lydia--thank you for your praise! I so value your opinion of my writing, and I am glad you felt this piece resonate with you. I love your view on the world, too.

Kirie said...


I know what you mean about the bridge nightmare! I've had those terrible fears, too. And here is the strangest thing: Esme has, on several occasions, woken to tell me about a dream where our car was stuck on the bridge. She said that there were police and some vans there, too. I asked where we were, and she says (this is so terrifying) "down in the water. I just was sitting there waiting, and no one came to get me." Good Lord! Now lately she is telling me she doesn't like to drive over the bridge. I have no idea where she got these ideas. Her media diet is mainly Elmo and Hi-5 (a dance show that sings about weather and shapes). Bizarre.


Kirie said...

Marites: So nice to meet you here! Thanks for visiting my blog. I think the first picture feels surreal, too. I had several, but this one spoke to me for some reason.

I like the idea of bridges reaching out beyond the self. It's what blogging does, too, right?

I'm looking forward to reading through your blog!


Kirie said...

Belle: That is a moving connection between the bridge and the animus. Isn't it strange how you made the connection (a bridge in itself) without consciously knowing that?

For all the feeling of separation that I've expressed here, I feel like it's not valid with my pets. Okay, well, maybe with the goldfish. But with our two kitties, I know that they can feel what I feel. They are so sensitive to our moods, and there is a real connection between us. They are our family, in every sense. I know what you mean when you talk about that connection with Lily.
I do think it's fascinating to notice the wonder of not being certain of all aspects of Lily's life and perception--and I think that, in some bizarre way, that makes a difference in how I can be SO definite about my relationship with my kitties. It's all my definition--and they are truly perfect mirrors.
That sounds so circular--but does it make any sense?
ah--I need to write something concrete! Maybe I should post a recipe!

Kirie said...

Judy, I enjoy that you are reading the blog! And I love it even more that you are telling me what's in your thoughts. I do think a bridge can bring a feeling of relief, like getting away from something/to something. I know when I get on the first bridge that brings us from the mainland to the island, I literally sigh with relief at being home.


Kirie said...

Susan--Thanks for your praise! I'm not sure about being wise, but I do know that I often find myself in moods where I am mining my thoughts and fears. I hope to discover a little of me each time, I think...


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