Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quiet Desperation

"The mass of men" Thoreau said, "lead lives of quiet desperation."

Have you ever had the kind of day, or week, where you would get immense satisfaction from taking a pile of dishes, obviously not your prized Lennox, or my beloved Polish pottery, and hurling them with all your might against a brick wall? I don't lead a life of "quiet desperation", but I sure have a day of it every now and again.

And then there's only one thing for it, smashing crockery not being an option. I have to get out of here. Even stomping around in the trees out back won't help. I have to go where there is vastness and beauty; enough to humble me, enough to make me realise I'm being an ass, that most of it is in my head, and help me regain some perspective. It helps if there is water there. When I was young, I'd flounce out of the house, slamming doors behind me, and head for the banks of the Shannon, and walk, and walk, and vehemently walk, until the anger, or the fear, or the frustration was all stomped out of me.

I'd return like a lamb, and deal calmly with whatever it was had set me off, thereby avoiding the necessity of buying new dishes,and the possibility of an ass kicking from an authority figure.

So down to the water I went, a few nights ago, to watch the sunset, and clear my head. I brought my camera, in hopes of finding interesting clouds, but all the clouds were behind me as I stood at the water's edge, looking out at the gulf. Nothing but a swiftly sinking orange ball.


There's always a good turnout to watch the sun go down. Old folks come, shuffling along on the arms of younger friends. Retirees bring their guests and their folding chairs. Young parents bring their offspring, in hopes, perhaps, of tiring them out before bedtime. Teenagers come to hang out, and clown around at the water's edge. Old couples, young couples, families, dogs, teenagers.....and me.

After the glowing sun sinks below the horizon, the little knots disperse. There's a sigh in the air, of contentment, and peace. Mother Nature has come through for us again. Proving that no matter how good or bad a day we had, she can be depended on to finish it off the same way she always does, unmoved by our nonsense.

The sky turns dull, and as I watch, a dapper little dog dances at the dark edge of the water; a boy and girl have a few last "go's" on a boogie board; silhouettes drift towards the parking lot, and I think how insignificant we all are, for all our angst and agonizing.

The light is fading fast, from purple to navy. A few stars are out, and a pale "fingernail"* moon. The drone of cars rises, then falls away as the parking lot empties.

It's so still now. A lone, lazy gull flaps low over the water; a little wave slaps on the pebbles; the murmuring voices and quiet laughter of a young couple carry across the stillness. Was I ever that young, I wonder? If I was, it was too long ago.


The beach is quiet. Like my life. Everyone is leaving.

I sprint for my car across the parking lot. The gates close at sundown.....I drive home slowly through the darkness, serenity restored. Desperation, quiet or otherwise, has been pushed away for another while.....




Note: No dishes were smashed in the writing of this post. Just so you know.


*A phrase, coined in great excitement one evening in California, by my oldest son, who came inside to call us to come out and see "the beautiful fingernail moon." We've never called it a crescent moon since.

26 comments:

riseoutofme said...

This makes me very sad.

I wish I was there.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Hi Molly!

Hearts in SF sent me 'round, and what a treasure I have found!

I love Henry David Thoreau, good quote.

And, there have been days where I am sure the sound and image of something shattering violently would have done wonders to release the frustration and anger that brims within.

The beach sounds like a much more viable option, however. I'll have to remember that, as I drew a peace from your words and photos even just this morning while I was sitting here with my coffee.

Thank you for that.
I'll be back to visit again.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore (the lion)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is lovely! It's truly astounding how the natural world can render us simultaneously humbled and filled with the feeling that all things are possible.

In coastal California, crowds gather every night to watch the sunset, and there is applause. Somehow, that simple act of shared appreciation for beauty we can barely comprehend serves to bond us momentarily with strangers.

Do you write poetry, or is your poetry always in prose form?

Thimbleanna said...

So beautiful Molly. Sorry you've been in a funk, but so glad you've a lovely beach to console you. Just knowing you can view that sunset over the water instead of a cornfield should cheer you up right away. ;-)

keryn said...

Hmmm, Thoreau. While I was reading Walden Pond I wondered how the man was living. When I found out years later that someone trekked out each day with his dinner I had to look at him differently. The world needs philosophers, but they need someone to run their lives for them while they do all the deep thinking.

And as for the fingernail moon your son so poetically christened; alas, my daughter saw only toenails, so that's what we call it in our family.

sMC said...

so glad you found peace, until the next time. Don't smash the plates, I did it once out onto the doorstep, something to do with the kids, but I did regret it when I had to clean it up. oh it was an old plate and I take solace in the garden or sewing now.lol.

Tanya Brown said...

Bless your heart. Granted, I'm only the electronic equivalent of a pen pal, but I have trouble envisioning your being an ass. Getting distance from life events and things we can't control would be good for most people in the world, though, and a walk along a beach or a river is a darned fine way to go about it.

Your photos are marvelous. There's nothing as timeless as sunsets, is there, or young lovers flirting with the sea? I got a lovely calm feeling from looking at your photos, myself. Thank you for sharing them.

Stomper Girl said...

aring your beach and your sunset. I hope your week picks up.

Stomper Girl said...

Could you just add the following to the beginning of my last comment? Hit publish without proof-reading..

"Thanks for sh"

Molly said...

Rise, darlin', you're reading too much into this. Did you not read to the end? I won't believe you if you say you've never had this kind of day----you have kids, don't you? We need days of quiet desperation once in a while, if only to help us appreciate their absence the rest of the time...

Howdy, Miss Scarlett, I'm just charmed to make y'all's acquaintance....

Heart, you understand perfectly! We don't actually clap, but you know everyone's fingers are itching to. Words are the thing, poetry or prose. The nuns made us learn so much poetry at school, by heart. We hated having to do it at the time, but now I'm glad when some lines come unbidden to my brain from long ago......One of the links on Rise's blog writes amazing poetry. I think it's Pauline. You should check it out. I stick to prose, being intimidated by that kind of talent.

Thimbleanna, not really much of a beach, but it does afford a beautiful view of the setting sun.

Keryn, hadn't known that about H.D. Thought it was all about being self sufficient and living on nuts and berries! Obviously I need to go back and have a more thorough read.....

Birdy, I think it's the Greeks who've elevated dish-smashing to ritual status. Don't they have an unbridled dish-smashing session at their weddings? Great way to deal with your frustrations, but my frugal Irish soul would die of guilt.

You have to trust me here Tanya, I CAN be an ass----snippy, uppity, emotional, irrational and illogical. And that's just before breakfast...
I do love adding photos to my posts, when I have ones that fit. I'm guardedly optimistic that I can do it now, though it's still a tortuous and zig-zag path from "upload" to "done."

Molly said...

Stomper---I'm happy to share my proofreading skills--anytime! .....and it's better already. That was the purpose of going down to the water to watch the sun.....works every time.

tracey petersen said...

I can only watch the sun rise over the water here and who wants to get up that early? I always find something of beauty as the sun slips away, a shape or a colour. I'm very glad that you can find peace and contentment there too.

Julie's journey said...

I walk too when I need to be away. Saves saying angry things and allows time for calm down. Lovely post, great photos.

Liz said...

You could always relocate to OH????? Sounds like a worthwhile trip anyhow... you got lovely pictures and some perspective. Oh what I would do for the quiet! Love you.

meggie said...

Whatever you call your writing it is beautiful.
I certainly have days like that.
Perhaps that is why I love my sunsets so much.

Diana said...

Lovely. Sad but lovely. I'd always wondered who said that quote. Thoreau. Good.

(We call it a 'toenail moon', which seems a bit crasser than a fingernail.)

Terribly nice to have met you!

velcro said...

oh how much would I love to be able to storm out to watch a sunset when things got tough, but alas as that would involve stopping to get a child and baby out of the house too, I think the stress levels would be ratchetted up a tad and all prospect of calm gone.
I think I'll stick to chucking plates

Princess Banter said...

I would looooove to try throwing dishes against a wall one day. I've a feeling that it will be disturbingly relieving...

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear molly. To this day, I still have never seen the sun set over the ocean. I grew up on the east coast of Australia, so I've seen a lot of sunrises! Beautiful shot.

Tanya Brown said...

I ran across this quote and thought of your post: "Compassion comes out of knowing one's foibles, and experiencing frailty."

Not that you have foibles, of course, but if you theoretically did, perhaps they're part of why you're a compassionate person?

Also, I wouldn't quite give up on the crockery-smashing. Some lovely mosaics start with just that.

Isabelle said...

Oh dear, hope the quiet desperation has passed. Mine is engendered (from time to time) by the depressed son-in-law and the fact that Daughter 2 is going out with an unemployed aspiring actor who is going to be based in London if he ever makes any money at all.

Love the pictures and - heh - love Caspar's advice to Sirius and Cassie!!!!! This is the second grown-up cat to have passed on wisdom to them. What lucky kittens! Could you perhaps get him to have a word with them about the dangers of walking across kitchen worksurfaces and tables? Especially the worksurface that has the hob set into it? (Mind you, that would make them move off in a hurry...)

PS I don't really mean that last bit. I love the little rascals.

My float said...

Oh, much better to escape than ruin your home!! I think I'll try escaping to the beach with my crossness, rather than taking it out on all and sundry.

Kelli said...

thank you for your kind words on my blog. I have ordered the book you recommended from my library - thank you again.
I doubt I'll be away from blogging too long...I already miss it. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts!

Tanya Brown said...

Thinking of you. Hope all is well. Also, I miss your interesting posts and excellent writing.

Angie said...

What a lovely post, Molly! Oh the days I have spent with that feeling welling up inside of me...suffice it to say, this post really rang home with me. I now live by the lake, and I draw the same peace and serenity from it that you obviously do with the ocean. Thank you so much for this post. Your pictures are beautiful!

nutmeg said...

"...quiet desperation..." That phrase hits a nerve with me every time I see it. There are days like those and you did good by taking it down to the seaside. I find if I can't leave the house to do something like that (two young kids in tow doesn't quite cut it!) sitting down in a good hot shower or bath relieves most of the desire to "...just run away" ;-) Thanks for sharing this story Molly.