The Length of the Light

Urbanna Oyster Festival on the hill to the river

I sat on the porch and stared at the moon just near Jupiter, and to their right, Saturn. I didn’t get the large telescope, didn’t grab the deep space binoculars. My son is at work tonight in the bustling Urbanna, Virginia, where the weekend’s Oyster Festival draws thousands and thousands of people. I have been to the annual event a dozen times or more, ate a variety of oysters and deep-fried everything, listened to live music, negotiated the flow of people from Main Street down the hill past the old Tobacco Factory to the historic waterfront, also jammed with oyster-eating tourists listening to more live music. My son is there since nine this morning, bartending and serving food at a pub in the heart of all of that. I imagine he’ll be there well into the early morning hours, a constant flow of tourists and locals and noise and more. It all happens again tomorrow.

I sat on the porch and relied solely on the naked eye to grasp the wide-angle perspective of these distant, celestial transients. A small flock of geese just passed, headed toward the pond near the river. I could hear their call for a mile or more, and then nothing. Some frogs, a light wind. In the distance out on Route 33 a truck went by, east it sounds like, though they won’t get far before reaching the bay. Acorns are falling steadily now, and near the house an oak reluctantly lets them go and I can hear some hit the canoe, some the A/C unit, some the roof.

But with that it is still peaceful, absolutely quiet. I don’t mind the bustle going on right now up-county. I have tended in several pubs and listened to patrons lose their minds over a barrage of troubles; I’ve drank in several more, and I’ve settled into the ebb and flow of crowded streets in cities throughout the world. This, though, here, has my attention, keeps my mind focused, aware of the turning of things, conscious of the circular quality of things.

And one of my companions tonight, Jupiter, makes me understand how insignificant my daily troubles actually are. There is something about true permanence that underscores the temporal state of everything else. Even our moon is a child to that mother of a planet. And me? A speck, like sand, like grain, like a drop of water.

Always like water. I started my journey on the Brooklyn Narrows, learned to breathe on the Great South Bay and the Connetquot River. I came of age on the Lynnhaven and the Atlantic, found my footing on the Allegany. I took a deep metaphorical dive into the Neva, the Vltava, and the Congo, learned to let go on the Susquehanna, and learned to slow down on the Chesapeake and the Rappahannock, right there, where geese settle in tonight, disturbing the moon’s reflection stretching all the way to Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore.

I had a day, today. Quite a day. And tonight I am being what a friend of mine would call Unapologetically Bob. It’s peaceful tonight, here in my peregrino soul, and out there at the mouth of the Rap where the still waters of the Chesapeake are tangled up with planets, and out there further still, where the light I’m seeing now left Jupiter almost an hour ago; roughly the time it takes to walk through the crowded streets of Urbanna, Virginia, this evening, surrounded by drinking watermen.

These celestial companions will be my drinking buddies tonight. I have lost touch with friends because some sadly lost touch with themselves, and I have lost touch with others because for whatever reasons they have they no longer have a need to keep in touch, but tonight I’m at peace. I’m just going to hang out tonight, unhurried, breathing well, sipping some sauvignon and thinking about the waters and watching the moon and Jupiter as if I’d never seen them before.

One thought on “The Length of the Light

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