Point notes

Hello patient readers. Here we are well into July and I’m sending you June’s letter. I’ve said it before: summer’s stride waits for no one. It is true as ever.

This month I offer you a loose triptych of point notes from my recent stays on North Manitou Island at Point Turnstone. I camp and work there about half the time in summer, and the place is positively brimming with image and sound, form and flux. I’ll share three views from the point.

The leaves of pitcher's thistle cross and lap to form an unruly lattice. The plant has entered its final year of life, rising to send up a number of blooms. What's this? A single blade of marram tucked among the leaves.

As I walk the point after sunrise, four trumpeter swans paddle in the waves offshore. They are a symmetry of arced necks, of rounded backs above water. Three are touched with amber, yearlings. Amber an offering back to the mother and the cracked shell, back across that calciferous threshold. Fog slips down from the forested slope above the dunes.

The sand at shore is patient, cool; at home even where just deposited — mineral abides in the turning lattice of change. Another day, another bank of fog. A June, a summer. A birch sprouts and reaches and dies, is buried and exhumed a silver skeleton. A dune rises and walks inland, pausing beneath marram for a spell, then proceeds to climb the bluff. Water ebbs and flows, carves and piles. But ever here a point, it seems; the point an image of an archetype. It rises repeatedly from an underworld beneath the waves, rises in irrepressible cycles. Rises and falls at once like a turning wheel. Precisely like a stone turned in the waves. Even the sharp angle of mineral traces a cygnet arc when wheeled.

From the high dune I count forty-five pelicans flying over the flat water south toward the point. An elastic line of them wingtip to wingtip; white black white undulating, a swell in from the north. One beats the wings once and then the next in line and the next down to the last who passes the swell to evening air. They rise and fall slow, the line undulates. A pelican constant. Silent and steady over the water — gimbaled, dampened, smooth. Great bill out front a bowsprit, back flat and direct, big wings hold air. The line wobbles and stretches, pliant and tuned like the water inches beneath. Long fair lines, slow arc. As above so below with pelican.

I pitch my tent on warm sand and lay down to sleep at sunset. Coyotes, or something like coyotes, circle and pass in dream. Expectations precipitate to imaginal form; shades move out onto the sand surrounding a sleeping body. But the animals pass without touching the earth, without a sound and lacking entirely in weight.

I call them coyotes although I’m not so sure. What passes is the notion of a hunting presence, the sense of birds disturbed on the nest in the dark. They are hunter and prey, gaze from two directions at once. The birds and mammals both; bill and snout, wing and trailing tail, omnivore. Dark eye wide, dark eye set. Circling in dream a paradoxical hunter-hidden.

When I wake the sky has cleared to reveal the starry heavens, that field which even fresh from sleep strikes anciently familiar. From the cradling arms of the hypnopomp, the carrier-from-sleep himself, constellations loosen and drift. Each tensegrity is revealed from this perspective as an elastic and incidental process, as a living withness of stars. Constellation a tent pitched against the wind, a web spun between bowing grasses. Swan dances at the shore, triangle wavers, a foreleg quivers in wait.

When I wake again the clouds have returned and the horizon is blooming hematic in the east. A nourishing wind comes in over the water.

Thanks for reading along with this brief June installment of Polylith, the fortieth since I started sending them a few years ago. Forty is a week at the office, a spell in the wilderness, eight pentacles hammered and hung. I’m glad you’ve come along.

If you dig these in situ musings, you might check out Island lines, which come from the same place in space, another in time. And as always, I welcome all forms of correspondence. Toss a message in a bottle out toward the island, write a postcard, drop by the garden some Tuesday evening for a handful of berries.

Until next month, which is striding our way as we speak, happy high summer.