When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I am sitting in the dark, naked on the cabana porch, the Caribbean Sea facing cabana porch with a white sand beach. My eyes are sealed. I am enjoying a state of blissful emptiness in the zone teetering between sleep and awake, breathing in Earth’s perfume, a perfume that can’t be photographed yet exists as an image indelibly etched, acid washed into my brain.
I was content in this teetering state when the lumbering gait of an ant (or is it The Ant) startled me into consciousness ensuring I was witness to the brilliant glow of the sun crawling over the earth, sneaking under the hulking, towering leaden clouds, a painted sliver, a long plum-scarlet-tangerine-saffron-lemon band tattooed on the horizon.
It took a few days of sitting quietly on the cabana porch in the glossy white, porcelain dressed, Adirondack style chair to tune my senses. A few days exposed to the steady, sand-gritty, salty beach breeze crashing against my naked body and sloughing off clingy layers of city skin. A natural loofa eating dead cells. Rejuvenating. Refreshing. Lightness of being. Is this how Snake feels during shedding season? Fresh? Unencumbered? Reborn? Aware?
I live and work and play in a large city. The city skin, a human callous, hard as a dry stone builds up to protect from the millions of sensory overloading messages, a cacophony, deadening one’s ability to just be, be open, to immerse in beach life, to exist outside of petty squabbles, free from incessant political rants, messages demanding conspicuous consumption beyond one’s means, beyond one’s needs, beyond sanity.
The first day sitting outside at the beach hut cabana, I saw the ant and felt a mild revulsion – a desire to squash it with one of my pale fingers – play God – the decider of life (but not creator so small g god). This, the attitude of a city dweller residing inside a cage called home where none are allowed without an invite. Trespassers shot on sight…or squashed as necessary.
Ants are normally communal, frequently walking militarily, strict single file triumphantly carrying hard won edibles back to their colony, an offering for her majesty, the queen. Why did I see one and only one that morning? This ant would become my litmus test, an indicator of my beach readiness, my beachyness. It was a sign of life connected to the origins of time, life in motion, ant meditation.
The second morning Ant was on my porch again. In the brief lulls between the breeze waves, I heard a subtle tapping. Tap. Tap, Tap. Barely discernible. Tap. Tap. Tap. It took a bit but eventually I discovered it was the tapping of 6 insect feet of one lone ant dancing its way across the lacquered white railing on it’s daily search for food or for companions or heading off on this Sunday to Ant church to pray with brother ant, sister ant or seeking ant love with an ant from another land or, like me, venturing to another land simply for the experience.
Science classifies ants at singular minded – behavior bound by instinct, independent of rational thought. Why does man like to pretend he is the rare being capable of thinking? Why does she arbitrarily classified her life as ‘higher order’ solely imbued with the ability to operate not on instinct but on the basis of desire, of joy, of intellect? We act as if our truth is the only truth. Ant has truth. Why are our truths deemed more valid, the greater truth?
Perhaps it’s because we have some genetic predisposition to believe we are superior. It’s not just with animals that we divide to conquer. Even with other humans, we decide, again arbitrarily, who is important (those like us) and who is expendable (anyone different than me). We seem to be compelled to rank race, gender, creed as most to least valuable for collective society to justify our shoddy behaviors against the ‘inferiors’. Perhaps it’s because we have divorced ourselves from our origins, forgotten our lineage extends into the animal past, severed the roots unifying us with all life on earth.
I was present on the porch facing wisdom, the East, for a third dawning of the Caribbean day with light reflected on the lyrical bottoms of clouds and the tips of the lightly rippling ocean waves. A large bird, pelican I think, tucked its wings becoming a trident thrust into the water emerging with a fish trapped in it’s comically elongated beak. Primal! Primeval! Visceral!
It was my first three consecutive sunrise days in a few years, a third day hearing morning Earth song grow from a low trill to a burgeoning symphony before settling into a primordial murmur directly connected to first dawn as glorified by first life. I’m up most days before dawn and see a few tiny sunrises in the gaps between buildings before the subway plunges beneath the earth and emerges in a forest of skyscrapers obscuring views of the horizon. Those, however, are hurried glimpses of glory. Much unlike the drawn out, slow motion fireworks characterizing a sunrise across an infinite horizon decoratively painting low hanging clouds, accented by lazing palm trees with fluttering leaves.
With eyes partially slitted against the brilliance of the tropical sunrise, I became aware of a lumbering gait. Feet banging on the chair next to mine like a horse galloping on hard packed earth. Three straight days sitting on this porch, naked, my dry stone shell softened with some areas worn through exposing soul, releasing passion, emotion, fervor, ardor, warmth, generating energy, vitality. Renewal. Acute awareness. Awareness of the pounding of Ant footsteps over the steady and gentle breeze song, the rhythmic lapping of the waves – waves moving in synchronous rhythms to my heartbeat – or my heart beat mirroring the murmur of the waves – two heartbeats to every wave kissing the shore.
Sit here for a few more days in the gritty caress of the wind, the flaying knives of the suns rays, my physical nakedness would become soul nakedness, atman. I would be able to feel Ants exhales on the hairs at the back of my neck the way I feel my lover’s breath on my chest when we sleep intertwined, skin against skin, heart embracing heart, love without barbs. And, I believe, I would feel kinship, brotherhood (Anthood?) with Ant, begin to think as Ant thinks, understand as Ant understands.
Root myself to the porch long enough to have a soul stripped and reborn, a soul steeped in harmony like a cup of rich, black tea born of harmony between water and leaf until the two are inseparable – harmony with people, harmony with creatures, harmony with palm trees and sand and ocean and breeze, harmony with Ant, harmony with myself.
The complete array of my senses would be aware of all life – of lingering spirits as well – and I would develop the ability to taste Ant’s breath on the currents of the ocean breeze, be able to discern by the smell of the exhalations whether Ant was in a state of agitation because the shadow of a giant beast, self-appointed god, was about to squash out it’s one and only life with a pale finger or if Ant was contently chewing on a succulent leaf in the upper branches of the palm tree enjoying the sunrise over the gentle, calming waves of the Caribbean sea.