Welcome to my Gooseberry Journal . . . or perhaps I should call it the “Gooseberry Lost and Found Department” . . . or maybe, “The Once and Future Gooseberry State of Awareness.”
It is those things and more . . .
. . .and it is a simple, straight forward accounting of what I see on frequent walks about this 73-acre island that can be reached by a short, connecting causeway and that separates Rhode Island Sound from Buzzards Bay – the ocean, from calmer waters. It seems to be a prime stopover point for migrants – Monarch butterflies, warblers, and a variety of shore birds and ducks. It’s also a playground for wind sports, jogging, fishing, hunting, and birding. And it’s an escape from the many things – politics, business, society, and an endless list of other concerns that crowd in on us, clutter our monkey brains, and prevent us from seeing the simple, awesome reality of our world.
In short, it’s a place to wake up. A place to look at the simple and natural and in it experience the awe that Einsten spoke of when he said:
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
But what’s mysterious here, you ask? The biggest mystery we see on these pages is trying to unravel whether or not this little bird you have photographed running up the October beach is a Black-bellied Plover or an American Golden Plover. Or whether this strip of concrete, buried in the brush, is part of a summer cottage wrapped in hope, and love, and fun – or part of the World War II military base, wrapped in fear and dread and dreary, fruitless, beach patrols aimed at catching saboteurs coming ashore from a U-boat. Aren’t these just more distractions? More clutter for the monkey brain? Yes, they may be – and they may be a window into something more. It depends on what you and I make of them. For me there’s a simple, surface goal here that I’m enjoying – simply identifying what is here and learning its story – its history. And the pictures and identification process may help others to know and appreciate what they see should they visit Gooseberry in spirit or in reality. So I guess I feel on that level my time is not wasted. But I don’t want to live only on that level.
There is that experience of the “mysterious” of which Einstein spoke and I sometimes feel. Not often. Certainly not every time I come to Gooseberry, nor everytime I sit here at the computer trying to understand on both a simple and profound level what it is I have just seen – just experienced. When I call this the “Gooseberry Lost and Found Department” I mean simply that there have been rare, profound moments for me on Gooseberry over the course of four decades when I saw something more – when I watched the Sun rise over what I call East Point and I saw and felt the Earth turning. That’s ultimate reality – and in the final analysis, ineffable reality. I certainly can’t in these words convey to you on what level I experienced this. It went beyond any words I had at the time, or have now. And so I can take a picture of another rising Sun on another day – and maybe point out to you that the Sun isn’t rising – the bay, Buzzards Bay, is sinking and we, on this little island – we butterflies, and beach roses, and birds, and people – we are all rushing eastward at 800 miles an hour, or thereabout, while sensing nothing of the sort. And I wnat to document the pieces of this disconnect in the hope of maybe reconnecting them.
My point is, I have been there – I have done this, found this, and lost this – and I hope, as I wander about in the same territory, I will find it again. And in that respect I feel like I am stepping into the shoes of the Wandering Aengus of the William Butler Yeats Poem which concludes:
- Though I am old with wandering
- Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
- I will find out where she has gone,
- And kiss her lips and take her hands;
- And walk among long dappled grass,
- And pluck till time and times are done
- The silver apples of the moon,
- The golden apples of the sun.
Silver apples of the moon . . . golden apples of the sun . . . the mysterious . . . wonder . . . rapt in awe. . . as I said, I’ve been there – my eyes open, rapt in awe – I want to go again. There are such apples on Gooseberry. But in the final analysis I don’t know how to find them. I have no map, just a general idea that if I explore and keep my eyes open – if I stay aware, perhaps . . . perhaps at some point what I seek will find me. Thus the “Once and Future Gooseberry State of Awareness.”
Others wander the world. I notice that a lot of those my age travel. They say they are going to Germany this time, or maybe the Galapagos. It doesn’t matter. I think they’re going where I go, seeking something similar to what I seek. I just think that for me it is here, closer to home. So I am taking a cue from Thoreau, who said:
I have traveled a great deal in Concord.
In truth I have done most of my long-distance traveling from my backyard, observing stars, nebulae, planets, and galaxies. That’s the macro world – the world that is ineffable in its hugeness – in its expanses of time and space. My Gooseberry explorations go in the opposite direction. Here I am trying to see a world that starts on our human scale and drills down. Scratch beneath the surface of this world just a tad and it is as ineffable in its smallness, and wonder full in its complexity, as anything we can find any where in the universe. So the key is this – my explorations and reporting is mundane. I am simply sharing what I see on a very superficial level – what seems to me to be of interest – and reflecting on it. I ‘ll spare you most of those reflections, but if there is an epiphany, I’ll try to report it.
And the reporting too, is for my benefit in the final analysis. See, I learn by doing this. As the poet W.H. Auden once put it:
How will I know what I think until I can see what I say?
So in the final analysis, if there is something awesome to find on Gooseberry, it must be found by you. I issue my standard invitation, borrowed from a much wiser and more articulate explorer, Robert Frost:
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait, to watch the water clear, I may)
I shan’t be gone long, – You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long – you come too.
And so I’m going out to Gooseberry now – you come too.