2013 Grateful 34

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May? Remember those girls? From the E.E. Cummings poem?

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May went down to the beach (to play one day) and Maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,
and Milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were;
and Molly was chased by a horrible thing which raced sideways while blowing bubbles,
and May came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.
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 I was reminded of them recently when visiting the seaside resort of Majori in Latvia. I have a thing about the sea and prefer winter beaches with solitary walkers rather than the thronged sands of summer. It was a cold day – a wet one – and yet the minute we hit the sand, the sun came out, the temperature rose 10 degrees. It was like stepping into a micro-climate of sorts, one that enveloped us in warmth and held the cold at bay.

IMG_3805 (800x600)For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live by the sea and one day it’ll happen. But it has to be a strong sea. One that crashes against the shoreline and screams in the night. One that howls its way to eternity and back and makes you believe in the fragility of life and the tenuousness with which you hang on to it. I have very vivid memories of an Easter weekend spent in Ocean Shores in Oregon and  a New Year spent on Achill Island off the West Coast of Ireland. I’ve a bank full of flashbacks to long beach walks either alone or in company and hours of time spent sitting on the rocks listening to waves crash and thunder as I felt so utterly and completely alone.

IMG_3812 (800x590)Were it not for the fact that summer fast approaches and the quiet solitude of this gorgeous old beach house will be broken by the raucous noise of tanned ravers, and its clean air disturbed by the toxic smell of suncream,  I’d have spent some time imagining a life there. As it were, I coveted the view and mentally refurbished it to my taste and style and wondered if I could live there just in winter.

Summer houses in Majori apparently attract a monthly rent of up to €25 000, depending on their size. It’s a popular spot for Russian money and the newly built houses are part of a growing body of evidence that money and taste are not necessarily constant bedfellows.  Some of the older buildings are tarted up in pastels, while the boutiques showcase the blingiest of bling.

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Indian poet, playwright, and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Rabindranath Tagore, said: You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don’t let yourself indulge in vain wishes. But what, I wonder, if I didn’t want to cross it … would standing and staring at the water be so bad? And I wonder, too, if I am indulging myself in vain wishes, or am I simply biding my time till that day I pack up and head for the coast?

This week, as thunderstorms of both a meteorological and a political persuasion rage across Hungary, I am grateful that I get to indulge myself every now and then with trips to the sea. I am grateful, too, that my wishes are not vain. One day…

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

6 replies
  1. Jeremy Wheeler
    Jeremy Wheeler says:

    A very powerful piece, Mary, many thanks. I wondered about your re-interpretation of e e cummings poem (I have always thought his deliberate use of lower case names, along with the repetitive ‘and’, was all part of giving it a child’s voice) but your version perhaps says something different about adult longing and needing. Whatever… loved this.

    Reply
    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Ta, Jeremy. Mind you, I did give it some thought (surprise, surprise – it wasn’t all a reflexive copy-edit :-)). While I’m a min-cap woman myself, I think that a person’s name is deserving of an initial capital and that not using one makes them somehow seem less important. Rumour has it that the e.e. cummings lowercase initial thing stemmed from a typographical error. And apparently his widow took some to task when they claimed he had his name changed legally to lowercase initials.

      I like your interpretation though of it being his intention to amplify the child’s voice in this poem – yet even still, I just couldn’t bring myself not to capitalise. If not ‘poetic license’, I wonder what I’d call my changes to his original text…?

      Reply

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