August, 2022. I have rented a cottage in Branford, Connecticut, to take time off from taking time off (the writer’s strenuous life), and to recover from a wound in my back. Nothing dramatic or ostentatious, but enough to make me feel the pull on my skin when I turn the wrong way. I have been known to turn the wrong way. This time the penalties are minor.

My wound looks like the Philippines, the main island of the archipelago. I don’t know how it happened. It’s just one more—the wound, that is. We are a compendium of wounds, after all, little histories of breaks, cuts, abrasions, lacerations, contusions. Add to those twice the number of inner wounds to the ego, to the heart. The invisible wounds that leave invisible scars.

All of which are encompassed by the wound of the world in which we stumble-dance to the endless cosmic note of sweet sadness, bowed on the cello. The wound of living.

We are a compendium of wounds, little histories of breaks, cuts, abrasions, lacerations, contusions.

Molly doesn’t concern herself with such things—at least not so that it shows. Molly, our seven-year-old Labradoodle, is great company for me, especially when I’m on my own. I talk to her frequently, about one idea or another. She thinks all my ideas good, even inspired, occasionally wagging her tail enthusiastically if I hit on something of genuine significance. I can tell she likes the subject of wounds very much. She sniffs at the oversize bandage on my back with intense curiosity and sympathy. And even the word “wound” intrigues her, as it sounds like the baying of a hound.

Molly, do you know what the Persian poet Rūmī had to say about wounds?, I ask her as I pull up a chaise on the terrace, to be closer to the water. Rūmī said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Isn’t that interesting? I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I assume that the light has something to do with wisdom and clarity, and that being wounded makes one especially available to enlightenment.

Not a big fan of poetry, ancient or modern, Molly yawns and curls up at my feet—though I must have told her that poetry is the highest destination of language, I don’t know, maybe a hundred times.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. —Rūmī (1207–73)

I always wanted to live on the water, and now, for a while, I’m doing it. And I never wanted the ocean, magnificent world power that it is. What I wanted is what I have here in Branford—a snugger of a bay, an estuary, a self-reliant little duchy bouncing with rafts and rowboats, canoes, paddleboats, Windsurfers, kayaks, powerboats, independent Sunfish tacking against the wind, and other sparkles of life. A coffeehouse of a Sound. A tavern of a Sound, where the bay itself is the bartender. What’ll I have? Everything. From this terrace, I greet and bless my little world. In the middle distance, a dim light from a house on its own island.

The mouth of the Sound meets the ocean somewhere. I’d just as soon not see where. I prefer to think of it as self-contained, like Thelonious Monk, a strange genius, unaware of its audience. Smaller and less enclosed than a gulf. Like a fjord. Perhaps the Sound, too, was created by a glacier or by the coastal erosion of rivers. Big bays are called seas, or bights.

My rental house, positioned where it is, takes in the setting suns but not the rising, which occur out of my sight to the right. Too much is probably said about the spectacle of the setting sun—the thin line of firelight, a kiln under a lid of clouds. Once in a while, the sun drops like a match, and the fire bunches up in a single cloud, appearing as an explosion.

Invisible wounds leave invisible scars.

When the day goes fully dark, I watch the last of the dawdling boats. Once in a while I pick up a human voice on the water, but the Sound is generally without sound, save for the one it makes naturally—the old men’s mumble of the waves against the shore. Bare ruined choirs. I wait for the announcement of the sturgeon moon, which enters like a night-court judge and silently reads the docket. Whitish pink, the moon then rises over the darkening bay, and, in a moment, ripens to a glow.

An instance of kindness, a glimpse of help, a flicker of salvation: I believe in moments.

Ginny and I as teenagers on hot summer nights at an outdoor table at Pete’s Tavern, where O. Henry hung out long ago, having beers illegally and holding hands and speaking of what then. She would be teaching and I would be writing. What then. And we would be married. And we would go up to Harvard, and find a place in Cambridge, and I would study poetry with Robert Lowell, and we would make new friends.

And we would sit around playing guitars and singing Pete Seeger folk songs. What then. And we would meet other students and other writers. And we would talk about writing late into the evenings. And we would drive north to Crane Beach and have lobster rolls, sitting on benches and watching the sea go dark. What then. And prowl around the caverns and tunnels of books in old used-book stores. And play tennis on the public courts. And go for long walks by the Charles River. What then.

But for the moment we would have another beer. And Ginny looked like a sigh in a light-blue cotton summer dress. A sigh in a summer dress. And we would lose ourselves in each other’s eyes, and begin to kiss. Pre-wound, pre-life. What then.

A blood-red wound becomes a brown scar. Which is more beautiful? The changes in nature bring us to a state of wonder. The greenness of a forest deepens the more one peers into it. The handheld roses sanctify the holder. The scar reminds the wound of its value.

These monkish retreats of mine, as much advances as retreats, I need them. Branford, my ashram—not a hermitage, just secluded enough to allow for getting work done.

An instance of kindness, a glimpse of help, a flicker of salvation: I believe in moments.

And I like this town. People read here. On my daily walks I pass clusters of straw-hatted residents, settled under beach umbrellas on their lawns, reading books. Friends come by, poking their noses into what others are reading. I watch the readers politely shoo them away, like no-see-ums.

The other day I passed a 50-ish woman in a Cubs cap reading one of my own books. Given the sales of my books, this would be a remarkable sight under any circumstance. But seeing her in this serene, removed place reminded me of the occasional pleasure in writing things. They get around.

In Saipan, where I spent the night before flying to Tinian, the island from which the Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima (I was writing a Time-magazine cover essay on the 40th anniversary of the bombing), I nursed an Irish in a bar. The only other person there was a native, about my age then, in his 40s, who was eyeing me with a mixture of curiosity and wonder. Eventually he approached and asked if I was who I was, and said he recognized me from photos in Time. He read my Time essays on a Pacific island in the Marianas, 7,800 miles and 22 hours from where I wrote them.

This all comes back as I stroll in Branford with Molly, nearly 40 years later, thinking about wounds and picturing the runway on Tinian, made extra-long because of the weight of the Enola Gay carrying the A-bomb on a mission that would wound the whole world forever.

So much talk about the end of the world. “It’s not the end of the world.” Who would say such a thing but someone who thought the end of the world possible, even imminent. Why worry about the end of the world when the continuity of the world is the problem.

Excerpted from Roger Rosenblatt’s latest book, Wounds and Other Blessings, completed under a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship