Madison media came rushing to the Monona Terrace Sunday morning after police responded to reports of a body in Lake Monona in front of the Monona Terrace. Photographers came with their long lenses that allow them to be the all-seeing eyes for the rest of us news consumers, while perhaps triggering a Freudian chuckle here and there as they work.
We usually go for a bike ride Sunday morning, but this Sunday we left later than we had planned. By the time we got to the Monona Terrace, the bike path had just been cordoned off and there were police and emergency vehicles eveywhere. Tragically, there had been a drowning. (The victim was later identified as Juan Cathy of Milwaukee, who Madison relatives said often went fishing with them here.) We couldn't help but wonder what we might have seen if we had left sooner, and were glad we hadn't.
We escaped to B. B. Clarke Beach, where we sat on a bench and looked out at a perfect late summer morning. It had a timeless, almost surreal quality, perhaps because of the toy clock in the playground that always reads the wrong time. Out on the lake, the fishermen and boaters seemed oblivious to the tragedy that had taken place less than half a mile away. I couldn't help but think of Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts," his poem about the fall of Icarus. As Auden reminds us, people have been going on about their business for a long time.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns awayAnd so life goes on. As did we.
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.