At Peace

I’ve come again to sit within the voice of the mother sea.  Her song, her sight, her smell flood my senses.  In this comfortable place, with its communal kitchen and its dormitory bunk beds, my mind calms.

The sprawl of the city fell away as I headed south on the Great Highway.  Surfers raised their hands in greeting.  Bicycles kept pace for a stretch and then fell behind as I mounted the roadway at San Francisco’s southern edge.  I eased through Pacifica, then Montara.  Traffic slowed in Half Moon Bay but then the road bent to my demand.  I made Pigeon Point in time to cook and eat before the sun set.

Now I sit on one side of a small table.  Across from me a woman also writes.  She’s here on respite from giving care to her ailing wife.  She tells me that this weekend fits in her small allotment of self-care.  I understand.

In a little while, I shall sleep on sheets that yet another stranger has smoothed across the mattress for me, without comment, without asking for gratitude, without even mentioning that she did so.  The curtain might flutter. The luscious smell of salt and sand should drift across me.  Occasionally a restless seabird will call to its mate. I will drift to sleep waiting for the answering cry.

It’s the twenty-fifth day of the seventieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Sunset: St. Louis
by Sara Teasdale

Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
When I came home again from far-off places,
How many times I saw my western city
Dream by her river.
Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
Gray, high-flung bridges.
Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
Across the levee.
High over them the black train swept with thunder,
Cleaving the city, leaving far beneath it
Wharf-boats moored beside the old side-wheelers
Resting in twilight.

Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933) was a Missouri-born poet afflicted with poor health from birth. She loved one man but married another, divorced, lost her best friend to suicide, and eventually committed suicide herself. Ironically, a majority of her poems are about love and beauty, and she won the first Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1918. There are some similarities to be drawn between Sara and Emily Dickinson; both were reclusive, both wrote intensely personal poetry that frequently focused on nature, both knew unrequited love.

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