Riverfront restaurants which play music well into the night.
We like to stay late into the night putting up and down the river, watching stray fireworks and listening to the music coming from the waterfront restaurants. Last night we laughed that after a certain hour the oldies music gave way to the "Chucka, chucka, chucka" of rap and similar youth oriented sounds. Ah to have the young blood that can party all night. I wouldn't use it to party, though, but to read and write. I've never been a party girl, nor a fireworks girl, but I do miss being able to pull those all night study and writing sessions without the kind of ramifications I face now.
The best, though, is gliding out of town on the black water. Last night the water was so calm it was like glass. That's not the most creative simile I could have used, but none other seems closer to the truth.
It was a chilly evening, and, like last year, I longingly watched a camp-like fire flaring on shore. I like the feeling of moving in and out of the bounds of "civilization." You can't call it wilderness, but it is away from the crowds. We didn't take the boat out of the water until nearly 3 a.m.
Of course, I took my thoughts about the documentary The Bridge with me, and I felt a little more melancholy than usual. I snapped a photo of the Glass City Sky Bridge which was just recently completed. Five construction workers died during the building of that bridge. On a river, bridges are everywhere and death is everywhere.
I am trying to piece together why this documentary has affected me so. Of the two of us, Allen is usually the one most greatly affected by tragedy in films. Sometimes he even has to stop watching a film all together. I attribute this to the fact that he's seen a great deal of tragedy close up, such as when he was hospitalized on Okinawa and saw many severely wounded American soldiers from the Vietnam battlefields. So Allen prefers happy movies. I'm the one who's always been drawn to the dark subjects.
I think the effect The Bridge has had on me has something to do with how I react to the threshold between life and death. It is a place of great tension for me, of great mystery. I'm less interested in what happens after death than in that moment between. Now there is life. The person has thoughts, memories. The person loves. The person has animation, a personality, a soul. Now life is gone. Where did all that go?
One of my favorite Walt Whitman poems is "The Last Invocation":
At the last, tenderly,
I love the image of the body as a house. Death comes not as a terrifying presence but "with the key of softness." Death is pleasantly anticipated, greeted openly, as in this, another of Whitman's works ("The Unknown Region"):
Darest thou now O soul,
Here, death equips the soul to enjoy unlimited freedom. And, finally, in his poem "To All, To Each" Whitman sees death as simply a new birth:
Come lovely and soothing death,
I'm sorry that I can't show you on Blogger exactly how the lines are supposed to be. I love the way Whitman breaks his lines. This is perhaps the most complete poem of Whitman's regarding his thoughts on death.
Look at the last three lines: they positively "send" me: "Over the rising and sinking waves--over the myriad fields, and the prairies wide;/ Over the dense-pack'd cities, all, and the teeming wharves and ways, I float this carol with joy, / with joy to thee, O death!"
It's a bit like Allen and I in our boat, floating away from the heart of Toledo, into the quiet where we could enjoy our own thoughts, experiencing the death of our social selves and a renewal of our deeper selves. This experience is indeed a "carol" that we move towards "with joy."
Any reader can see by now where I'm going with this. Those people standing on that bridge, thinking of jumping, watching the "rising and sinking waves." Is this what they were thinking?
If so, why does the young survivor in The Bridge say that his one thought on the way down to the water was that he wanted to live?
But Whitman's poems are not suicide poems.
And here I've got to stop because I can't process any more of this right now. I've got to think more about this, and yes, all the while remain haunted by The Bridge.