The grass sways in the wind, the sea reaches up to the cliffs, spraying ocean into the air before calming once again into itself. Seafaring birds drift in the distance, after prey out of human sight. The mid-afternoon sun draws patterns of glitter onto the surface of the water.
There is a smell to the air, a kind of salted breeze that carries hints of carnival taffy. In this space, with eyes closed, little vignettes of a life permeate the cabin. Moments of peaceful rest, as if in the interlude between the various acts of the on-going adventure. In just a few more moments, the curtain will rise, and life will resume its stresses. The gentle sounds of water reaching up the stone cliffs nearby seem to dance with the breeze, and settle once more into lulls of quiet anticipation.
Then, with eyes open, and the smell the mold creeps in once again. Springs jut out artfully from the broken easy chair, dancing in a rusted, industrial facsimile of the blades of grass beyond the back wall. Floorboards give way to the weeds, and the distant cries of seagulls are one of many reminders that this house has one wall too few. This house had cost Ness $7500, and like many decisions can turn out to be in life in life, it was not an investment worth taking.
However, the purchase came with a moment of rare maturity. Though a sizable amount of money had been lost in the transaction, little else of consequence was, and the resources would return in the same way they had been originally earned. Whether or not the house was overpriced, Ness’s adventure would continue, and money would follow, almost without effort.
With that context, it became a lot easier to forgive the house for being equal parts expensive and disappointing. As if there may be some hidden enjoyment to the house tucked between the floorboards with just a bit of searching. In fact, having personal space of any kind whose sole purpose is to allow a moment of joy is itself a treat, even if it doesn’t live up to preconceived notions.
Though it seems doubtful that there was any intent for this waterfront cabin to become a meditative space, the idea of having an owned, private space creates a sort of atmosphere that isn’t often found within the usual pacing of a world-spanning role-playing adventure.
No matter where the adventure leads or where it goes, the cabin will always be a haven to return to. The space isn’t anything special, but it is a home—a retreat, quiet villa of bare wood, overgrown weeds, and the slow and steady churn of ocean in the distance.
…Or perhaps I’m just finding something of personal value where there isn’t anything. Like many decisions, sometimes things that appear to be promising easter eggs or sneaky mechanics are just there to trap the player into making a stupid decision, and the moment of groaning discovery is the punchline. Congratulations on your bad decision! See? Your lamp doesn’t even have a lampshade. I hope you don’t need air conditioning!
But casting that kind of pessimism aside for a moment, I’ve long believed that there can be meaning in the mundane because meaning isn’t something that the piece of media develops internally, but rather a function of the interaction with its audience. I can’t, for example, change what’s written in a book while I’m reading it, but that’s terribly different than assuming I’m not interacting with it. Museums full of art are the same way; every person present is having their own unique journey with the art they’re consuming, and that collective journey makes up the experience of everyone else in the museum as well.
Seeing a man weeping in front of a Monet isn’t going to be everyone’s experience with that particular work, but the lighting, the placement, and the quiet sounds of a personal journey spilling out through tears is something that permanently exists in the lifetime of that piece, at least for the person present for that moment, in that lighting, on that particular day, in that particular museum. So who’s to say that my feeling meditatively validated in the wake of what was intended to be nothing but a bad decision is the wrong way to interpret this particular art, too?
My experience with oceans, seas, and rivers in games makes me feel as though water has this miraculous ability to wash away anything too troubling. Water with enough time can turn mountains into valleys. It has carved canyons of incomprehensible size into the Earth. So, I suppose, it’s not entirely illogical to feel like the flowing streams and tides can also sweep away bad decision or regrets. The patterns of sound that dance with the waves are part of YouTube soundscapes and comforting white noise machines are such iconic parts of relaxation that I feel like I shouldn’t resist the association. Instead, I should relish the fact that the decision has brought me here, and despite whatever licentiousness the vendor of the cabin had for me, I should not feel bad for feeling this way.
Because another moment with eyes closed, and the sounds of the water once again become the primary sensation. Even if they’re entirely in my mind. The feeling that there is a price tag to this place fades once again into the eternal lapping of the deep blue pressing into the cliffs below, the breeze hums a quiet song between the exposed boards of the broken, vacant rear wall, and I can image the rusted springs sway with the growth of weeds. The smell of salt reminds me once again of places of rest, and I take it all in.
The world wait for a minute longer, I think. I’d like just a minute more to enjoy my purchase.
Written for Critical Distance‘s Blogs of the Round Table, for the Oceans theme. If this was to your liking, go check the other entries out.
Taylor Hidalgo is a freelance writer, editor, and friend enthusiast. He enjoys the feel of playing games more than playing them well, writing about how those feelings are an inextricable part of those experiences, and getting to share in the experience of all sorts of media. He would really like it if you checked out Haywire Magazine, joined in on the Blogs of the Round Table, and if you made friends with him on Twitter.