Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Skull Creek: more essential than blood; 'Piper to the End'; a thin membrane

        I ate dinner of a micro-waved Lean Cuisine on the screened porch, accompanied by two minitinis.  You may recall that the glasses I bought from Amazon are half the size of those we have in Evanston.  So two Hilton Head minitinis are the equivalent of one Evanston martini, which admittedly is strong.  Four ounces of gin, one ounce of vermouth,  one olive.
        Abruptly I decided to abandon the land and to sleep on GANNET.  It is fine to be able to execute such a decision in a few minutes.  I stowed the air mattress and a few other items in the exterior storage closet.  Packed my laptop, foul weather parka, and other items in my knapsack, and was off.
        As I walked down the ramp to the marina dock I felt the wind, as a great poet once wrote, ‘more essential than blood’ against my skin.  It blows still through the forward hatch against my back.
        My bird apps tell me there are two species of egrets here, Great and Snowy.  I have seen both.  A relatively small, about two feet/.66 meter tall Great Egret politely stepped to one side of the dock to let me pass.  I politely stepped to the other.  Neither of us took flight.


       I have had clearer understanding of my life than most do of theirs.  I have thus far divided it into Longing and Being and I know the exact date of the  transition:  November 2, 1974, when I pushed EGREGIOUS from her slip at Harbor Island Marina in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn.
       If I reach San Diego in GANNET next year, the Being part of my life will come to a pleasingly symmetrical end where it began forty-five years earlier.  What will come next, I do not know.

        It is not entirely unrelated that I decided today to answer differently when asked what I do.
        Knowing that most people really aren’t interested, and in my case there is a dog whistle effect, where they can’t comprehend a life so far from their quotidian own, I have said, “I sail boats alone around the world and write about it.”  They then often tell me about a relative who once chartered a boat in the Caribbean.
       Well, in the future I am going to say, ‘I have gone to the edge of human experience and sent back reports.’  
        They won’t understand that either, but it is the truth.
        In some ways I have mellowed with age and in others become harder.


        I was listening to music this afternoon and ‘Piper to the End’ came up on a playlist.  I greatly admire this song and thought it a traditional ballad.  I googled and found that it was written by Mark Knopfler, my favorite male singer/song writer, in memory of his uncle Freddie.
        To quote from Wikipedia:

The song is about Knopfler's uncle Freddie who was a piper of the 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish, the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment. Freddie carried his pipes into action in World War II and was killed with fellow fighters at Ficheux, near Arras in the north of France in May 1940. He was just twenty.

        That would have been on the retreat toward Dunkirk, a year before I was born.  Maybe better to have died early in the war than late.
        There are several YouTube videos of the song.
        And here are the lyrics.

        Rain just began to fall causing me to stop and raise the spray hood over the companionway and lower the forward hatch.  I am glad to have only a thin membrane between me and the elements.

        To return to Mark Knopfler, there is a resonance in some of these lyrics to the early ‘Brothers In Arms’.

        Now the sun's gone to hell and
        The moon's riding high
        Let me bid you farewell
        Every man has to die
        But it's written in the starlight
        And every line in your palm
        We are fools to make war
        On our brothers in arms


       And I am going to leave you tonight with some words of my own, written in 1978 before I left on what might have been my most audacious voyage.

        judge a man, then, by that
        against which he must strive
        against what 
        if not this soft night
        against the wind and sea
        against the myth
        he must become
        and his own will

        the ocean waits
        to measure or to slay me
        the ocean waits
        and I will sail

        Although I let the poem stand, I never had to struggle against the myth I must become or my own will.  I have embraced what I am.

As I have been writing a thunderstorm has arrived.  Heavy rain pounding on the deck.  GANNET pushed around by wind.