The first thing to know is that the scene is laid out before us objectively. Like a panoramic still life, it’s there for us to contemplate at our ease. The second, contradictory thing to know is that we are wholly embedded in the scene. We are there, in and of that peace, and nowhere else. We have just followed the trail up the hill from the Salt Pond and pivoted from a wooded view inland to a vast, open view of the dunes and bay below, and the ocean beyond. All, or almost all, is still. The sun sits high in a solid blue sky, with no clouds to gauge its distance or its path. There are only the rolling surf, too far off to hear, and a single gull wheeling over the flat, glassy bay to suggest that we haven’t left time entirely. It’s a pure moment. Whatever cares plague our life at home, or even back in our guesthouse or on the ride down, don’t exist here and now.
It’s thirteen months after our wedding, which is to say fifteen months after my father’s death and about eight months after her father’s death. But in that moment, on that bench on that hill, we’re the only two people alive, and aside from that gull animating these instants, the only two creatures alive. All of the space, light, and air denied us in our apartment and our offices is here, if not for the taking, then at least for the having, and we’re overwhelmed by it. She lays her head on my lap and closes her eyes. I abide with my hand on her shoulder. Neither of us says anything, because any word, any further movement, would break the spell and we would fall back into time and life.
But eventually, in our naive and needful benightedness, we do move. We get up and continue along the trail, back down and around to where we started from. She needs to get back to the restroom, so we don’t take the additional loop in the trail out to Nauset Beach and back. We hurry to the parking lot and the visitor center, and having tarried there a few moments more, we drive back to the unexpected (foolishly so) melancholy of our guesthouse and the rest of our vacation.