Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Another excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:

“Mr. Hollis arrived promptly at seven o’clock again. By late morning the hammering was becoming a little hard on my ears and nerves, so I went down to sit on my favorite ledge for awhile. A couple of gulls were standing a little farther out, close to the water level. From their ribald chuckling I gathered they were swapping dirty jokes. They didn’t pay any attention to me but they flapped off with raucous indignation when three boys about eleven or twelve appeared and wanted to fish for cunners from that spot.

I spoke to the boys when they passed me and they responded with a polite ‘hi’ but it was clear they regarded me as an interloper. They’ve probably been coming all their lives and have a proprietary feeling about the place. Whether because of my presence or because the fish weren’t biting, they laid down their poles pretty soon and began racing along the rocky shore with the same carefree recklessness with which Don and Cynthia and I used to race along it.

It was easy on the broad, spread-out, dry ledges which were solid and immovable. All you really needed were good springy knee action and quick judgment, even though you had to be alert every second as to whether your next step was to be higher or lower and whether your foot would come down flat or at an angle. But down where the wear and tear of centuries of waves had broken the granite up into boulders of varying sizes, you never knew when you might come down on a small one that would move under your weight and dash you headlong against other boulders; or when a wet slippery one might slide your feet out from under you in a split second and fling you flat on your back.

Even when we stayed on the ‘safe’ ledges there were those occasional chasms gnawed out by the ocean, which our leaps, stretched to the utmost, could just barely span. There was always the moment of breathtaking exhilaration as you floated in mid-air, and the moment of breath-holding suspense as to whether you’d make it across.

We weren’t really risking our necks when we leaped over those chasms. We knew there was the possibility we might not make it but only if we lost our nerve. We knew that as long as we made the leap with all caution thrown trustingly to the winds, we’d land safely on the other side.

I miss that recklessness, which was as much of the spirit as the body, of course. I miss it not only in my own life but as a way of life. There’s plenty of recklessness in the world today, God knows, but it’s a different kind, born of despair or rebellion or indifference. Like play Russian roulette. What we need is a recklessness that requires boldness facing a problem or challenge, and confidence that it can be met and surmounted. Not only that but it requires what may well be harder for most of us: a willingness to stick one’s neck out and risk failure, risk being ridiculed for something one believes, risk being made to feel like a fool.

Suddenly there comes back to me that curious remark Cynthia made several years ago when I, astonished to find she had joined a church, said dubiously, ‘I suppose it gives you a feeling of security.’ ‘No,’ she said, her eyes dancing with amusement, ‘it gives me a feeling of recklessness.'”

Advertisements