Today is a day of islands, St. Croix, Naxos – tropical places that I never think I want to visit until I see the water, water that was made for the word cerulean. Then, I want to sit and stare at it.
I’m land-locked here in Central Virginia, but still islands reach out to me, first in the images of a high school friend’s wedding on St. Croix and then, in the way of things that are not quite coincidence, in Brenda Miller‘s essay “A Dream of Ariadne.” I feel them luring me in – for surely sirens live in such places – with their promises of timeless hours on inlets framed by white sand. I imagine myself sitting there in a little cabana, a small desk before me. I pour out pages and pages of the most beautiful words ever heard. I leave the beach at the end of the day tired but energized . . . and tan – I am perfectly tan.
But I know these promises, these temptations, are for other people, not me. I am not a woman made for beaches, at least not warm beaches. I get there; I sit for twenty minutes and try to read with the white pages being bleached clear by the sun; then I get up and go inside, sad and hot with failed promise. Put me on a warm beach and I am Ariadne, abandoned, hot, tired, scared and alone; I am trapped IN the story.
Call me to a mountain lake where the water is frigid, or beckon to me from a beach in winter where the sky is the gray of angora, and I will sit for hours with a notebook on my lap. I willtell you tales written in the labyrinth of clouds, and I will lose myself in the love stories of men who leave after promises made. I will smile and find the peace of language. On cold water, I am the narrator, the witness, the watcher.
So while Miller’s image of sitting on the edge of Naxos to “see only the waves repeating themselves over and over” seems idyllic, I have learned the lesson of this myth, the lesson Tantulus could not grasp – steer clear of the promise of another’s paradise. Instead, seize your own mythical place and carry your words there; find your own Shambhala.