A wild, rank place: one year on Cape Cod by David Gessner

By David Gessner

A tender author confronts existence, demise, and literary ancestors amid the stark fantastic thing about Cape Cod.

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Black double-crested cormorants and white gulls sit on sharp rocks just offshore. I, too, take a seat, my back to the water. On wet days the gnarled purples, yellows, and olive greens of the bluff are most vivid. A soggy drawing pad is hidden in my coat, and I take it out and sketch the bluff for perhaps the hundredth time. Before beginning, pencil poised, my mind paints a satiric self-portraitthe earnest artist staring nobly at naturebut I shake the picture off and get to work. My paintings of the bluff are scattered across the country.

Silver on the unkempt grass, silver beyond in the choppy surf. From the deck the eelgrass looks like Christmas tinselpure silver strands. Terns fly over the deck, their shadows cross before my feet. The outlines of scrub oak dance on the lawn. For a moment my mind empties. Perhaps my situation is not so hopelessly confusing. I come to this place with my cluttered head, my past, my ghosts, my books, my delusions, and I reach out with what I have. Like other relationships, my relationship with this place is imperfect, complex.

Isn't falling in love making the object of love larger than it is? Or is it just the oppositeseeing a thing as it is? To me, the latter seems a more romantic idea. How much of love and friendship is conscious illusion, a going outward, a marriage of imagination and fact? We reach out with what we have, with our knowledge, imagination, affection, memories. How much of Emerson's discovery of his symbols was a result of the ardor of his search, what Keats called "the greeting of the spirit"? And so now I return to add new layers, new myths.

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