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Thursday 17 December 2009

Feeling for the Ground


MV Pasha Bulker grounded on Nobby's Beach, near Newcastle (Australia): photo by Web107, 2007

At first, and perhaps for a very long time, I existed as if at sea, drifting, and did not know what if anything lay under me.

Then came a change.

When my elders named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and vaguely grasped that that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out.

I glimpse myself in baby photos, attending curiously to such sounds, pensive, ignorantly wondering.

It all comes back to me now.

Adrift in my wordless sea, I was trying to read their minds, as if feeling for the ground.

What did they mean, when they uttered these strange sounds?

Their intention was shown by their bodily movements: the expression of their faces, the play of their eyes, the movement of other parts of their bodies, and, especially, the tones of their voices; which, I dimly now perceived, expressed their states of mind in seeking, having, or rejecting something.

In this way, as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learned to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires.

It was then I began to have a feeling for the ground. I walked a great deal, mostly alone, perhaps mostly on a hill, or then again it may have been a small mountain. Certainly it seemed solid enough.

As the scenery passed by, I could now put words to it; there was a sense of dwarf mastery in this; the achievements of the mind have their own satisfactions. However minor, however transitory.

But before very much more time had passed, I realized I retained a powerful longing for the open sea from which I had come.

This feeling of longing has remained with me to this day.

File:Stara planina suma.jpg

Mixed deciduous forest, Stara Planina, Bulgaria: photo by Snezana Trifunovic, 2007


gamefaced said...

'dwarf mastery'


Ah, to remember how one actually 'found' words (in relation to things) in the world. . . . and connect to being on the ground/at sea. Maybe somehow links
to this (?) ---


first grey light in sky above still black
ridge, lines of pink clouds above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

optical effects of distance,
depiction of reality

this sort of reading, “real”
observation, surface

grey-white of cloud to the left of point,
whiteness of gull standing on GROIN sign


TC said...


We are all giants in our imaginations.

TC said...

Thanks Steve.

Here's another capture of the Bolinas Groin

Anonymous said...


i have great difficulty
in findng my footing
while trying to swim
across the sea

you sail a ship
into the reefs instead
of paying attention
to the beams
of the lighthouse

we meet where
foam defines tragedy

Anonymous said...

a wracker (from wrecker) was the name given to/taken by the inhabitants of block island located off the coast of long island, ny near montauk during the 1800’s-1900’s who made their living off the salvage of the many wrecks which came to grief on the treacherous reefs and rocks along with their cargoes which washed ashore.

i wonder if they still go by that name. it feels like it kind of fits my life.

Nithin RS said...

Well portrayed.While reading i felt as if a baby is expressing his feelings.Everyone can relate to these words.

TC said...


We take these emblems as we find them.


Some things are universal.

Mariana Soffer said...

I guess soner or later the longing becames more evident, it is not avoidable anymore.
Beautifull post tom

TC said...


Yes, isn't it oddly saddening? To be able to speak of a prelinguistic state is to be no longer able to have the feeling of experiencing it.

Something has been gained but something has been lost.

(Here I recall Jill Taylor Yorke's recollection of the inability to form words in the minutes immediately after her stroke as a state of ecstasy.)

~otto~ said...


just beautiful

I am floating