Roots to Grow

Images and the Heart's First Opening

Sunday, February 03, 2008

                                                                      By Katherine Wattiker Olivetti

     "...the work is nothing more than this long journey through the labyrinth of art to find again the two or three simple and great images upon which the heart first opened."
                                                                                                                     Albert Camus

          I believe in the mystery and power of the images that opened our hearts.
         When I was a little girl, Grandpa Gilman had a boat.  She was called the Irene.  On weekends Grandma buried bottles of coca cola and cans of beer in a rusty cooler filled with ice.  She bundled up some sweaters and kerchiefs, and threw in a bag of Wise potato chips, and we set off from the house in the woods on Weeks Avenue for the boat.
         It was a hot July day with a blue sky and still air.  I was sweaty and my shirt clung to my back.  We loaded everything onto the boat, and Grandpa turned on the engine.  Its roar was loud and made it hard to talk much.  Irene sped across the Great South Bay toward the strip of barrier beach, Fire Island.  She cut a nice wake and as we flew across the open water, the wind picked up.  We put on our sweaters, and Grandma and I battened down our hair with kerchiefs.  The sea spray tasted salty and made me thirsty.  Grandma pried the cap off a bottle of coca cola whose blue green glass was sweaty with cold, and whose color nearly matched the bay.  The coke fizzed, and the feeling in my mouth was prickly and explosive.  The fumes from the engine mingled with the fresh sea air and the sweet, kicky taste of the pop, and together the sensations created a feeling that meant summer and belonged to the beach.
        Once we arrived on the other side of the bay, we tied up at a small dock and walked to the boardwalk, a trail of old weathered slats, nearly buried in the sand, that followed the curve of the dunes.  It was hot again.  The summer sun beat down, scorching the sand and giving us sunburns.  I was carrying a tin pail and shovel or perhaps a beach chair.  Walking up the hill was laborious.  My little legs got so tired.  They felt heavy, very, very heavy, and I wondered if this long, long walk was worth it.  Slowly, slowly, putting one little foot in front of the other, one more step, and then another.  Up, up, up the hill until nearly at the top, the steps became easier.  The blue of the sky met the pale sand and wispy dune grass, and suddenly there appeared a stripe of dark blue.  With each step, more blue, and more blue, until at the crest of the dune, it opened.  There it was!  The Atlantic Ocean!  Blue.  Dark and sparkling.  Vast.  As far as you could see, there it was, the ocean.
       Now my little legs flew across the hot sand.
       As I got closer, the churning rumble of the waves grew louder, curling and tumbling over, pounding the shore.  Louder and louder as I ran,  faster and faster, until I could feel the cool mist of the surf on my face, the hard, cold, wet sand beneath my feet, and the chilly sea water tingling my legs.
       Waves, breaking and foaming, swirling and lapping around me, swirling, ever so insistent...relentlessly...drawing me forever toward the ocean.

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