Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I Did On My Vacation

Do teachers still assign writing topics like that? Did they ever? How does one answer a question like that honestly?

I suppose one is not to try. Because any vacation, any longer trip, is going to have one set of events happening on the surface level ("what a lovely sky!", "look at that medieval church!" "how do I get this space-age toilet to flush"), yet another set of events drifting by right under the surface of the skin, not really going on vacation at all ("that is not how we do it at home", "will they miss me at work?", "did I turn the ac off before the cab for the airport arrived?"), yet a third set moving somewhere deep inside the psyche, like clumsy dark snails slowly, slowly moving, rearranging one's worldview, strengthening or weakening those hidden basic nonverbal defenses and definitions (no examples in these parentheses as snails do not communicate in words).

Which are the bits a vacation essay should mention?

OK. None of that is very interesting.

I should probably write about the clams and mussels I observed during my vacation. I went to sit by a river on most days, at the same spot (one where a medieval harbor once was), and the shallow waters let me see the little fishes and the clams and the mussels. I could see the distance a clam traveled between two days because it left a groove in the sand at the bottom of the river. The distance was perhaps a foot or so. Do our busy lives look like that to some divine creature far above?

And the dried stem of a Queen Anne's Lace plant which had dropped into the waters gave the mussels a feast which lasted for weeks. They sometimes moved along it fast enough for me to see the movement!

All the time the little fishes darted and darted among the clams and mussels, at speeds so high to perhaps appear invisible to the latter. Which means that we might not see all the ghosties and such darting around us!

Above these communities the dragonflies hovered, in their shining purples and electric greens. Their mating flights looked hilarious to a spectator which suggests another comparison to human behavior. Then, of course, a hawk was observing the same waters, introducing the necessary smell of impending doom.

What I observed there was life, in short, and it took but a few minutes each day. Most of my vacation was spent with people, my family and so on, and I will write more about feminist impressions later on. But sitting by the river can sometimes be a whole vacation by itself.