The Dubious Guide

3 am Prussia Cove, I am sitting in the candlelit refectory, chatting about who knows, after a concert and well-spiced lamb stew and Ashley’s Cornish ale and eccentric lyrical speeches by the festival’s father figure, Hilary, and a dubious reading of the Brahms A Major Piano Quartet… As I said, it’s 3 am, and the composer-in-residence comes wandering in: he cannot find his cottage. He has been wandering in the darkness.

A performer, I am ever the humble servant of the composer, right? I offer to show him home. We set off through the night, over the stony paths, along the cliffside. I feel like Virgil. My Dante is not sure-footed. I brandish my WalMart flashlight confidently; I am a beam of navigational surety, a compass, a well-worn path. And under the hedges and over the hills and dales and there we are, at the thatched cottage, and I open the door and welcome him into the inn, which has vacancy for him (unlike “Das Wirtshaus” from Winterreise which we heard earlier in the evening) … He stumbles into the light, and I close the door behind him, and set forth, feeling bold and adventurous (though with no specific adventure in mind).

Paces, breaths. Halfway back I found my friend C, waiting along the curve of a wall. My flashlight was weaving wildly in the darkness apparently. Off it went. And in twenty seconds my eyes were stripped of their annoying certainties. The next day, in the rumbling crowded train, I was repeatedly revisited by this near-silent moment, this singing absence. You click the button, and at first you see nothing at all: just void or impossibility. You are looking, but there is no information; you’re the same person, but no longer plugged in; you are running on the battery of your memories, of your idea of the world. All you can do is wait. If the void went on forever, you would be dead. But it doesn’t (this time); your brain slides open, begins to feel light on a different scale, more subtly, like the slightest touch of a finger along your arm. Truth is associated by tradition with light, with sun, rays, beams and bulbs, but at that moment it seemed truth was darkness, a dark embrace which helped you to perceive: the slight silver of the water, oscillating; the dark dark black of the hills, cliffs and trees; the lighter, freer black of the sky; and, of course, a million festive lights above, a slow-moving, eternal fireworks; finally, there was the vague shape of the Milky Way draped like a carelessly strewn scarf, and if you had to pick one sound it would be the careless washing of water down below in the cove, the barely audible heartbeat of the sea.

The world has gone dark and then relit itself, from within; and you are displaced. Something like walking into a room you have been in a million times (the room is yourself) and sensing that a piece of the furniture has been shifted, but you can’t say which, or why it is different. 3 am drifted towards 4 am or maybe 5, we listened to the ocean. I remember so few words of so many conversations.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. Alessandra
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I love your little description of the sea with its living heartbeat. It tangentially reminded me of a quote from Elie Wiesel’s “The Accident” in which he speaks of the sky and the sea struggling against each other and “If the two were at war, I’d be on the side of the sea. The sky only inspires painters. Not musicians. While the sea… Don’t you feel that the sea comes close to man through its music?”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>