What do you think of when you imagine the future? The time surely coming, when we can gather again, with loved ones, to eat together, and talk, without fear? What do you imagine?
On a bathroom shelf, a barnacle, with a holdfast of kelp. When I gathered it on one of the long beaches in Pacific Rim several years ago, I saw it as a sibyl. An open mouth (on the other side, you can see the openings of two barnacles), a mediator of liminal space, voicing the future. On that day, walking on miles of sand with my husband and daughter, the future was unknown but somehow safe. We were healthy, we were together, in a place where we’d once been with extended family members spreading the ashes of my parents. John and I had been coming to this part of the west coast for decades, together, and long before we met. I came alone and slept on the sand in my old down sleeping bag in maybe 1973 and woke to deer prints around me. I remember taking off all my clothes (I was 18) and tying strands of seaweed to my ankles, beaded with tiny shells. John came with an early girlfriend who was a surfer (from Santa Barbara) and they stayed on the beach in their Volkswagen van for a few days so that Dulcie could compete in a surfer event. Every year or two we’ve returned. Our children love it. And on the phone earlier this evening, Angelica hoped that we could all get together again there, maybe in the summer, but next year for sure. I think of us all, together and in smaller groups, walking, swimming, body-surfing, and sleeping to the sound of waves, and tonight I hope to dream of this. Not like last night when I dreamed of a house-fire and people screaming.
What I imagine is asking the barnacle shell on the cedar shelf in the bathroom to give me good news. The Cumaean Sibyl fended off Apollo who wanted to sleep with her (of course) by asking to live (in exchange for her virginity) for the number of years represented by the handful of sand she held. When I picked up my Cox Bay sibyl, a few grains of sand fell onto the shelf. Are those years or promises or both?