life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


периферия / the periphery

courtesy of Jeff |

Note: Sarah says my writings have been "angsty" lately. I'm not sure about that. I suspect if future anthropologists were to discover this link and hold my blog up as a standard of human achievement in early 21st century literature, the last few posts may be considered to constitute my "wistful" or "pensive" period. It's what's in my heart. So sue me.

Last weekend, at Half Moon Bay, Adam saw the ocean for the first time. The pumpkin festival had the highway choked for many miles around, but once we actually arrived at the beach, it was nearly empty. Only after exiting the car, which we parked at the edge of the cliff, did the sandy postcard beach below, with no people, present itself.

I came to California to get closer to Siberia, which has been whispering past my ear since before I can remember. Even as I stepped cautiously to the cliff overlooking the ocean, my body, like a magnet, oriented itself 45 degrees to the north. The unifying capacity of oceans is remarkable. Even thousands of miles away, it felt like it was just over the horizon.

Just as with oceans, the concept of distance is hard to grasp within Siberia as well. Such vast emptiness plays tricks on the mind, especially when you step past the last house in town and find yourself on the periphery. The next Siberian city, after all, is considered "close" when it only takes an overnight train to get there. I can recall countless instances looking north, especially from the taiga forests outside Ulan-Ude and Novosibirsk, thinking that if I could just walk straight in that direction, I could reach the Arctic Ocean, hundreds of miles away, without encountering a soul. Of course, I'd never survive the trip. I could just soon walk across the ocean.

There's something about being on the periphery that's really mystifying. It's impossible not to notice it. In Siberia, of course, that's everywhere. That's all Siberia is--the very edge of a gigantic abyss, as dark and cold and inhospitable as the surface of the moon, and just as far. It's incredible. I guess the ocean's the closest thing we have around here.

I wanted to explain all that to Adam, and I will someday, after he's older. Hopefully I can show him in person, so he can feel it too. All I told him last weekend is, "Adam, this is the ocean. Isn't it beautiful?" And then I pointed north, and said "that's where Siberia is." I think I may have said a couple more things, certainly kissed him on top of the head, and then after we took a picture, we returned to the car. Hopefully we'll be back soon.