Nordic Sea meditation

“Time, even when inhabited by the one who has no home, becomes a palace for the traveler who leaves no one behind. For three whole weeks its halls, filled with the sounds of the waves, stretched out in a row towards the north. Seagulls and towns, flowers, furniture and statues appeared on their walls, and light shown through their windows day and night. …

The boat was sailing southwards. There was still some light to the west. But what happened now to the birds — or to me? — was inspired by the power of this dominating, lonely place, which, out of melancholy, I chose in the middle of the quarter deck. All at once there were two tribes of gulls, one to the east, the other to the west, left and right, so utterly different that the name ‘gulls’ was no longer appropriate to them. Set against the extinguished sky, the birds the left retained something of their brightness, flashing with every upward and downward turn, agreeing with or avoiding one another and appearing constantly to weave before me an unbroken, unpredictable sequence of signs, a whole, unspeakably changeable, fleeting — yet legible — network of pinions. But I kept slipping away, each time to find my attention drawn towards the other flock. Here I beheld nothing, nothing spoke to me. I had scarcely begun to watch those in the east, when they, a few sharp, deep black pinions flying towards a final glow of light, vanished in the distance and returned, in a way that I would no longer have been able to describe. I was so transfixed by this that I, too, black from suffering, returned to myself from the distance, in a silent flock of wings. The puzzle to the left remained unresolved, and my fate hung on every nod, on the right it had been resolved long ago, and was one sole soundless beckoning. This counterplay continued for a very long time, until I myself was no more than the threshold across which the unnameable messengers exchanged black and white in the air.” [From “Nordische See” in the Frankfurter Zeitung August 1930 GS IV]