Friday, August 13, 2010

"Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"

"The Atlantic is not my Gulf, that much is true. She's choppier and grittier and colder, less inviting--just, I suppose, as she should be. But she's my ocean now."

I was splashing around knee-deep in the water at Edisto Beach when I composed these lines rather dreamily, dragging my fingers through the surf and squinting in the low sun. I got to But she's my ocean now at exactly the moment a three-foot wave overtook me from behind, knocked me off my feet, and swept my glasses from my face.

I grasped after them wildly as the wave pushed me, limbs akimbo, into shore and then sucked me back out again. I caught nothing but fleeting handfuls of churning water and sand.

they were my favorite pair.

I paid enough attention in grad school to understand the symbolism. No one knew about seeing and not seeing like the ancient Greek tragedians. And no one likes to talk at excruciating lengths about the tensions between seeing and not seeing more than classicists.

Remember Tiresias? The prophet from Oedipus the King and Antigone and Seven Against Thebes and lots of other incredible stories?

Sporting a sexy hipster beard on a Lucanian Red-figured calyx-krater c. 380 B.C

The whole thing with Tiresias was that he was blind, but he was a prophet, a seer. He couldn't see but he could see. Get it? Get it??

Get it???

Tiresias is emblematic of a recurring issue in Greek tragedy: is seeing knowing? Is not seeing not knowing?

As I groped half-blind and sopping for the shore, all I could think of was Tiresias. I knew this had to mean something, my new ocean blinding me. Maybe now I can see?

The only other time I've ever lost my glasses in the sea, they came right back to me, washed up at low tide and rescued by an alert lifeguard. I guess that's why I'm not too worried--they'll come back to me one way or another. And anyway, I had the foresight to bring a spare pair with me this time.

You got me this time, Atlantic. But I hope one day we can be friends.

Discussion Question:
When is seeing knowing? When is not seeing knowing?

* * * * *

This is part two in my series about my August of Camping and Tramping.

one: we're on the road to nowhere
two: "Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"
three: miles covered
four: you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains


  1. so wait, you did get your glasses back? or did you lose them another time?

  2. Ooh Meghan thank you, I forgot the word "other." The only OTHER time I've lost my glasses in the ocean I got them back. Still no word on the ones I just lost! BUT I've already ordered an identical pair so I only have to suffer with these nerdy backups for a few weeks.

  3. It seems you have learned The Most Valuable Lesson about the ocean: one should never, ever turn one's back to it.

  4. Nerdy? I am sure you look just "normal."

  5. Mimsy, you are so right. An important lesson was learned.

  6. I forgot to mention that I love, love, love the title of this blog. And I totally get what you are doing, which is why I LOVE IT SO. xoxox

  7. I reckon you also learned the second most valuable lesson about the ocean, which is don't wear nice glasses in it.

  8. Hmm, I don't think you should take anything Greek tragedy says too seriously, especially on vacation!! Like the illustrations, though.