Posted by: nicksiebels | October 10, 2011

place blog 3, night time experience of the sublime

About a month or so ago, I took a weekend camping trip with
my friends Dave and Kelsey. Our destination was Cumberland Island in St. Mary’s
Georgia. Neither Dave nor I had been ever been there but his girlfriend Kelsey
had visited the place a couple times in the past and said it was an absolute
must see for outdoorsy people like us. The biggest draw was the fact
that for the most part this island, larger in size than Manhattan, is completely wild. Wildlife such as
turkeys, pigs, snakes, and even horses roam freely and there is plenty of
untouched forest, swamps, beaches, and dunes to escape in peace and quiet from
the bustle of daily life. Although I enjoyed many of my experiences there such as the
ferry ride, seeing horses up close on the trail and on the beach, and climbing
massive oak trees, the most memorable ( and also most frightening) memory I
took away from Cumberland, was my encounter with something incredibly sublime.

After a dinner cooked over the fire, the
three of us walked to the shore to wait for the sun to go down. The only remnants
of human existence on the beach were the occasional bits of trash that had
washed upon the sand, and even these were few. It was the first time I had been
on a beach virtually untouched where horseshoe crabs and fully intact conch
shells were strewn about like primitive ornamentation and unkempt nomadic
horses roamed throughout the dunes. With the sun falling fast below the western
horizon, we began to notice a chilling and daunting presence; total blackness.
Now this may seem quite natural to anyone who has waited for dawn’s last kiss
of orange to wash out in the sky, but for most anyone living today, the fading
light of the sun simultaneously trades place with the glow from street lamps
and electric bulbs. On the shores of Cumberland Island, a person loses themself
in the abyss of true nightfall.

This night in particular proved
especially eerie, hearing the roar of the ocean to the east and the rustling of
night creatures in the timber and in the dunes.
We all felt completely abandoned: abandoned by sun’s power to reveal the world around us, abandoned by the familiar substitute of LED, halogen, and
incandescent devices, abandoned by the comfort of even a solitary star or the
corpselike face of the moon.  A lantern
that I fashioned from a candle, a hollowed out beer can, and some wire provided
the only source of light for the group. As I walked toward the groaning hiss of
the waves, I could barely catch the glimpses of white foam winking in the light
of the makeshift lamp.  The scene was
akin to Ishmael’s account of how the “waves rolled by like scrolls of silver”
in chapter fifty-one, although his perspective was illuminated by the moon,
mine by firelight. As we decided to walk northward on the beach in hopes of
catching sight of more horses, the sea wind inevitably blew into the can and
doused the flame in a deathly whisper.

The three of us let out a single
gasp in astonishment, and Kelsey immediately clung to Dave’s arm. We looked
upon the menacing pitch of night in every direction. It stood indomitable and
pure in front of us, behind, above, below, to the side, within us, and filled
every physical and mental space in between.
Defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “of lofty bearing or aspect”,
the sublime defies the ordinary. This is certainly true, but after that night, that most lucid and most
disturbing night of my life, I am not sure that one can know of the sublime
until it is encountered.

 

-Nicholas Siebels

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I completely agree with you, most don’t understand it until it hits them. Beautiful language in this blog, particularly like “Now this may seem quite natural to anyone who has waited for dawn’s last kiss of orange to wash out in the sky but for most anyone living today, the fading light of the sun simultaneously trades place with the glow from street lamps and electric bulbs. ” Awesome imagery and all too true.

  2. Thanks, I wanted to write more about my trip but I know the limit is 600 words. When the light went out we actually drug a line in the sand across the beach from the dunes to the water and lined it with shells so we’d have a land mark to find our camp after we went for a walk. Definately a bizzare yet sobering experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: