the middle of the ocean.

There are many different routes to get yourself to the middle of the ocean. My cousin Lydia, for instance, would put on her best pearls and sun hat and take a cruise ship. There is the dip-your-toes-in-first-that-eventually-gets-you-waist-deep approach [and maybe that's far enough for some]; there are charts and graphs, tides to track and wind to mind and strategy - did you not know people have created a (very detailed) map to the middle of the ocean. If you've not a coast line well then pray you have even the smallest of streams, for every stream weaves through pebbles and tree roots to a rushing river, and that river makes its way, thrashing, into the sea. There is the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow that make a little boat, modest as it may be, and you get in your boat and you row until you get there. And then, there is this approach: that of dropping yourself in the middle of it all and fight like hell to learn to swim. And once you get out to the middle of the ocean, there are days. Some days the sea is so blisteringly unforgiving, no clouds to shade your leathery skin, but then at night the sea is calm and the wind whispers and whistles, swirling, and you lie there on your raft/ boat/ pool noodle/ cruise-ship deck, you lie there in the stillness, maybe a foot dangling into the cool water, and maybe in that moment you’re reassured that your journey across the waves is worth the toil and sweat, the dead heat of no wind to move you anywhere. Or you look at the limitless ceiling of stars, putting dots and lights together to make the faces of those loved ones you left on the shore behind you, and feel as small and insignificant as the furthest galaxy. There are days filled with storms and crashing waves, and you are screaming sinking ship. It is too busy to think about the coast, it is too dangerous to consider tomorrow. All you have is your rushed prayers of deliverance and your tiny bail bucket scraping the bottom of your boat, your tiny bail bucket a laughing stock to the crabs and creatures below. There are days when the wind is from the west and you sail so fast you’re almost scared it will be over too soon, and you stand with your face to the horizon line and the wind kisses your cheeks, showering you with reassurance, “my darling, right you were to take a chance on me.” And each day comes and goes and each feels like a million years; with each day you are a new man, an older woman, a stronger back, a wearied soul.

There is the coast that you leave from, there is a drop off, there is the winding through neighboring islands, there is the sea, and there is the shoreline that holds all mystery and all adventure and The Rest Of It. Leaving the coast is The Jump Off the Diving Board, say your goodbyes, hold your breath and close your eyes and away you go; the islands push you onward, give you landmarks to show you how far you’ve come, cheering you on as you get your bearings and figure out your compass; but the sea. The sea is where you find yourself and then lose it, the sea is where there is nothing but the blue of the deep and your heart full of songs and fears and hopes, the sea is where you decide where to go and who to be.

There are many ways to get yourself to the middle of the ocean. It doesn’t quite matter the approach, what is significant is that you chose to find and fight and pursue again and again a way to get there.

 

Posted on February 9, 2011 and filed under writing-.