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walking the beach…

October 7, 2021


Reading Didion. By the water. In the Toronto Beaches. Seeing Didion eye everywhere. Touching the cool. And the serene.

Two hundred sea gulls rise slowly, coming out of the shoreline fog further down in the bay, down where the water looks like molten steel. Where the water is deep, and churns upon itself.


We all like our technologies a lot more before we realized that we made a Faustian deal with the Devil. Plato wept at the knowledge that the new axes more easily felled the trees of Mt. Olympus. In his own lifetime he lamented how Mt. Olympus was radically changed from a lush and diverse forest to a pile of sand that not even a flower could grow upon. And Plato wrote of watching as the spring rains now washed all the sand to the sea.

And now, we can’t even walk along the beach without looking at our cellphones, clutched desperately in our hands.

Everyone with their own chalice, writing script, 120 characters at a time.


Sitting on the boardwalk; listening to the passing dramas…

The rich aging rockster – leather jacket, expensive jeans, boots – trying to impress the woman about the problems he is having with his garage door opener; from the woman’s expression she has no idea why she agreed to go for a walk with this man.

I pass another man, sitting on a bench, angrily venting to some woman. I hear “day pass”, I see a man broken beyond repair. In need of someone who can help make sense of his nightmares.

Toddlers run about, dressed as if they had just haplessly wondered out of a LL Bean catalogue, fall edition, 2021. White, clean, bathed daily.

I watch them run back from the edge of the water, happily clutching shells and other shiny objects, showing them to their Caribbean and Filipino nannies.


I watch the 30-something Grade 4 (maybe 5) teacher, standing on the beach, in front of his private school class of 14 kids (11 girls, 3 boys), animated and enthusiastically talking about some poem they have just read together – a poem about “waves”. And so everyone is watching the waves, entering into the rhythm of the poem. Maybe it was Virginia Wolf. At the end of her beautiful book, The Waves.

And in me too the wave rises. It swells; its arches its

back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something

rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first

spurs and then pulls him back. What enemy do we now

perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as

we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death.

Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with

my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young

man’s, like Percival’s, when he galloped in India. I strike

spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, un-

vanquished and unyielding, O Death!

But then, they are Grade 5, at most. So probably not.

The teacher wears a toque (in that hipster fashionable way), his beard is neatly trimmed (also fashionable), he reads his class notes off his iphone…

I assume they are here as part of the Minsitry of Education curriculum’s “nature studies” rubric requirements.

One of the boys, off to the side, absently picks up and tosses small stones back into Lake Ontario.

At first glance the teacher appears to be all the things we need in today’s public school classrooms – young men. It is a profession overwhelmingly female. He is enthusiastic. He is animated. He takes and gives questions. And for a few moments he has me fooled.

But with the flash of an eye he has no problem scolding one of the girls for not listening (the boy continues skipping rocks on the water), and then pretends to laugh along with her because you know, he’s just doing his job; and he asks her the very same question she had not already heard the first time around. What does she think about it?

It is a question he knows (and she knows) she cannot answer, because she was not listening.

A classic teacher checkmate moment. What a prick.


Later, on the walk home, a dad and his 2-year-old daughter are coming down the sidewalk, headed to the beach. The little girl’s eyes are gleaming as she looks at the playground just ahead of her. Moms are walking dogs. The sun is now shining.

The dad instructs her to grab his hand at the corner, practicing with her how to “look both ways,” before crossing the street. She laughs delightedly. Everything is still a wonderful game.

And I am thinking of Joan Didion, and scrambling for a pen, and kids are coming home from school, and the roofers are talking in Spanish, and men pass me are talking in Russian, and I am thinking about how Didion would have described it all impossibly better – if she were here and working with the same material.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 7, 2021 9:06 pm

    Reblogged this on THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON….

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