This terrible beauty, this eerie sunset of doom is quarantined by a photograph. Here it appears as something from a saccharine dream of candied romance. But in reality it is the harbinger of destruction. Of the heat waves and fire season that people from drought stricken areas such as mine know to loathe.
Comfort and beauty intertwine and comfort finds a way to snake back around and bite harder the hand that wished this world were without the pain baked into all things. Beauty becomes a mirage that blinds the beholder to the harsher truth it conceals. I flinch during this time when people say “look at the sunset” as if it were just a sight to behold devoid of this brutal context where people lose their homes and vast numbers of animals lose their lives and habitats. Then I’ll catch myself saying the same thing and cringe at my mindlessness (but of course blame it on the debilitating heat).
It’s as if it is deep in human nature to live for the postcard image even though it’s a cheap ten cent glimmer of hope. Any shine at all will do to whet the appetite for the notion that things will be alright. As do I reluctantly grab the camera and take the exposure knowing that this outcome will result. An image taken in guilt yet into which I cannot bake the pain to inspire true revelation or change even in my own habits. These petty words trail like an anguished afterthought in a time when comfort (and its twin – convenience) is the business of the day and the sunset has become the barrier signifying the mystery of a collective denial seen as a brilliant display that might as well have been put on by the Dynamation gods in a Ray Harryhausen movie.
Look at the way she tumbles into forms in the sky. How she shrivels as if in a sweet agony for all she provides. Her nourishment to the cochineal. Her milk flowing for the wrens. Her surreal limbs an absurd perch for lizards. Her crooked windows perfect for spiderwebs to catch flying morsels.
This wild canopy cages the hill like gnarled hands rising out of their giant burials. These mad sculptors of fruit radiant with needles that mimic sunrays! What strange journey left these bent up propellers behind to worship the sun?
It hangs there often ignored now. Just a pier. Something from a bygone era. Ships no longer dock at it. Only a few scavengers haunt it now. A lone fisherman waits in the fog. Barely existing in the forefront of anyone’s mind. But it is back there. In the deepest fog. Haunting minds with its ragged sculpture. This bare skeletal thing. This shadowy presence that hovers somewhere between memories. Some kind of phantom bridge. From the unknown to the unreachable. Affecting in its indiscernible way. An atmospheric link.
“Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb” – Walt Whitman’s words rang over and over in my ears as I stared at the ocean. Some lines bury themselves for years or decades but seem to work their way up and break back through the surface again. And when it happens, it adorns me with its initial mystery. Like when the words first crossed over my lips. And I couldn’t stop reading his song aloud. Feasting on something with more flavor than I could apprehend. And now, still stung by the ebb and the flow. Shocked by that old lure, once cast and forgotten, jumping again. Electric.