From a scenic overlook at the Greenport Conservation Area this morning, in the middle distance the Hudson is a still, iridiscent glass, the same green-grey hue as a hummingbird I saw the other day. The mountains are a line of dark grey waves. They remind me of days at the beach, at Riis Park, years ago. I stand waist-deep in the ocean, facing breakers that have crossed the Atlantic and now advance in whitecapped lines, one after the other, towards me. When they arrive, they roll over my shoulders, lift me off my feet, and pass. I regain my footing, which means that I've won, and like a gymnast nailing a landing I raise my arms, anticipating the next set of building swells. Aware of reports of storms far out at sea, I am mindful that an overpowering wave could come. When I see it, it is too late and so must hold fast. The wall of water, several feet taller than me, doesn't lose force and break. It approaches and I am helpless in its thrall. Then it's upon me, pushes me down and swallows me whole. Submerged inside its grey-green roil, I somersault, and there is no more sand, murk, or sky, only my panic and the insensate force of water. My heart races, I hold my breath, I pray. At last there comes the relief of shore as it rushes up to me, and the wave, done crossing, deposits me at the edge of wet sand.
This morning, the mountains are frozen breakers, at a safe immoveable distance, not going anywhere, and I'm on this side of the river, in a wood gazebo, the air vibrant with pulsating insects. For minutes after it passes I hear the sound of a train – a scale-model railway from where I sit – as it pulls to the north.
My Philosophy of Life, by John Ashbery