I've been reading the book The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare. Every day Hoare goes to the sea and swims and sees what he can see. And he sees many things. The book is part memoir, part science writing, part travel writing, part philosophy and history and literature, part many things. Being at the sea, Hoare riffs on the seagulls and crows, shore stones (I particularly liked his pencil drawing of a stone with a hole in it), seals, the people who’ve lived nearby and their ancestors, whales, Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sea, ships, the sea itself and the sky, medieval monks, and more. There seems to be an endless number of things to catch his attention and be worth thinking about and writing about.
“You assume you know your home. It’s only when you return that you realise how strange it is. I first saw this beach half a century ago, but all those years have made it seem less rather than more familiar. I’ve taken it for granted. But now, as I look out over its expanse, it occurs to me that what I thought I knew, I didn’t really know at all.”
When I was in junior high I met a woman, perhaps 10 years older than me, who was writing a 70-page paper for graduate school on what happens inside the body when you pick up a pencil from a table. How can that be? I wondered. 70 pages on such a simple action! Her assignment grabbed my imagination and was one more clue among many to my young self that there was more going on here - right here - than the eye could see.
Henry James famously wrote, "Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" Here's an experiment to do today. Stand in one place wherever you are and slowly spin 360 degrees and make a note - mental or written - of every thing of beauty or interest or meaning or intrigue or mystery that you see. Imagine how each could trigger a stream of thoughts and questions.
[Photo: taken of a mural painted on a dome in one of the many lovely libraries here in Minneapolis.]