BY JUDITH WALCUTT
Jan. 19, 2013
At this very moment, I am on the other coast and opposite corner from my dear island life. We are in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where our play, “Agatha Christie’s BBC Murders” has just opened and begun a 21 performance run. Amy Walker is with us and doing a fantastic job, as is our son Orson. Today, instead of going to see the matinee, I am in our “rooms of requirement” at the Extended Stay Inn which is buried in an industrial park area — nowhere near the Atlantic seaboard we have seen just once since our arrival on the sixth of January. On a day off after a fairly grueling schedule of 12 hour days running from noon to midnight, I am trying to pick up the other pieces of my life apart from Agatha and make a picture of them in some way that makes sense. Outside a warm tropical rain has been falling all morning and I find myself homesick for colder climes and brisk walks up Honeymoon Bay.
Alongside a foot tall heap of script versions and rewrites, I find my way back to folders of my work — novels in progress, this blog, poems new and old — and I am glad to see this particular piece rise to the surface, like a bottle bobbing up from the crashing waves all around it. It gives me refuge and a place to begin to spin again. Believe me friends, it IS hard to be two places at once — unless the place you are, goes with you, every place you go, which brings me back to the message of the message in the bottle of which I wrote the first and last time here.
Three days after the toss of the first blue bottle into Saratoga Passage, an answer came back in the mail. A person with the initials L.B. found the bottle on the shore, up past Coupeville and wrote back to me a poem-like letter which opened a window into an invisible life and another secret meaning shared. I begin to see the possibility of “ontological” cause and effect. My words go out with the tide and someone else’s come back in with the mail. An invisible thread has begun and an unknown connection is made. I was very moved by the picture which L.B. shared with me, a very private moment — the finding of a message in a bottle colliding with the day already in progress. Something gentle mixed with something unexpected, something lost and something found. Such a discovery could change that day in memory forever.
One begins to think of impermanence again, but newly. The meanings ripple out from the toss of the thought into the sea, altered with the pull of rip tides and salty moons. The poem itself is fluid just like that, changing from moment to moment, much like the tide lines of any shore. Every time I read it, look at it on a piece of paper, open it up on the computer to print it out, I find I cannot stop myself — I always rewrite it — change it by a word, a parsing of a line, a dropped -ing, an added –ed — tiny little changes that feel a bit compulsive and stir up an uneasy feeling that the poem is never quite right, never quite complete. I mistakenly think, if I just do this one little thing to it, make this one little change of tense or article — it will finally rest, “be good,” and lay down upon the page, and finally be finished.
It never goes that way, though, with this particular poem. “Ontology, The Sea and Me” wants to have its sea changes, on each outing. Changing the poem each time, making in effect, a new poem from the previous version of the poem, becomes part of the meaning of the poem. It is new every time and its newness is worn away over time again and again like sea shells of a common genus, rubbed into unique shapes by the twisting course of the currents, the pressure of waves pounding away over time, all modified by the play of daily impermanence.
As each message in a bottle goes out into the watery wildness and drifts to who knows where — the shore it rolls up on may be changed and each person who finds it and reads it, may also be changed. A new nuance in the mysterious meaning of “ontology” arises in the sea and in me — and now in you too, dear reader.
Perhaps when next you walk the beach, you’ll find a bottle with a message and words you never thought before will cross your mind. It’s up to you, then, to capture their meanings, seal them up in a bottle of your own, and send your revelation to its perfect destination.
This is of me and this is of you — who finds this poem on a shore near or far — we are the bottle, we are the message, we are the message in the bottle.