Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Evanston: Dying: First Annual Report

On a rainy morning I am sitting on the sofa in our spare bedroom.  A year ago two thousand miles to the southwest I was entering San Diego Harbor, ending my sixth circumnavigation and the second part of my life, which I have called ‘being’.  I glance up and see on the wall a drawing of me made by the French magazine, VOILES ET VOILIERS, more than forty years ago.  I don’t often notice it.  That is what I was.  Here is what I am.  Or at least was recently.

Same smile.  Same mustache.  Considerably less hair under the hat.

So what I have done in my first year of Dying, other than expend 366 days of my diminishing time?

I have written four magazine articles, given interviews, made one public appearance, refined the main site, added 178 journal entries, read forty-four books, listened to music, sailed less than 100 miles, made myself physically stronger, loved Carol, and have begun to consider the future and to make tentative plans.

This is not because I have become bored, as some have said I would, but that something innate within me is beginning to stir.  I think of Milton’s ‘And that one talent which is death to lodge with me useless’.  I am aware of the Biblical reference, but there are talents that demand expression.

I have observed that it often takes me a year to move on after a great loss or a difficult voyage.

If you went to the main site, on the list of quotes used at the beginning of my books you would find:

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.
                                    --Grace Murray Hopper

My soul, your voyages have been your native land.
                                    from THE ODYSSEY: A Modern Sequel
                                    by Nikos Kazantsakis

Curtis probably never found out either [why Two Whistles, a Crow chief, had a crow on his head when Curtis photographed him] because after thirty-three years in the field taking photos of the Indians he went crazy and was placed in an asylum.  When they let him go he went down to Old Mexico and looked for gold, with a diffidence in recovery that characterized the behavior of many great men--let’s go to the edge and jump off again.
                                       from DAHLVA by Jim Harrison

(I) am, I believe, following the clear path of my fate.  Always to be pushing out like this, beyond what I know cannot be the limits--what else should a man’s life be?  Especially an old man who has, by a clear stroke of fortune, been violently freed of the comfortable securities that make old men happy to sink into blindness, deafness, the paralysis of all desire, feeling, will.  What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings, of painful settings out into the unknown, pushing off from the edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not yet become, except in dreams that blow in from out there bearing the fragrance of islands we have not sighted.
                          --from AN IMAGINARY LIFE by David Malouf

To which I would add a line from T.S. Eliot I have often quoted:  Old men ought to be explorers.  Why not?  We risk so much less than the young.

I chose those when I was relatively young.  Now that I am old, do I live them? 

In part it will depend on time and chance, as do all things, and in part how much suffering I can endure in my eighties.  GANNET brings joy, but she also brings discomfort.  There is the possibility that I will find lasting contentment in the waters and islands of the Low Country.  And there is what I call the Carol Complication, a complication I gladly accept.

My plans, such as they are, are inchoate and my commitment not absolute, as ultimately it must be.

The first step is clear.  Move GANNET from San Diego to Hilton Head.  I had expected to do so in June, but obviously that is not going to happen.  I hope it does before the end of the year.

Beyond exploring the local waters around Hilton Head—and the most enjoyable of the 7,000 miles I sailed last year were the first 10 on Skull Creek and Calibogue Sound—the open ocean calls as always and I am considering crossing the North Atlantic perhaps to Iceland and the UK.  My thoughts beyond that I will for now keep to myself, but I have embarked on voyages that interested me because I did not know if they were possible.  I have thought of another.

Again from the main site:


                                        judge a man, then, by that
                                        against which he must strive
                                        against what
                                        if not this soft night
                                        and 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


I sense, perhaps even know how the rest of my life should play out.  If time and chance do not intervene, I am curious to see how it does.

1 comment:

wallawallabob said...

Cheers Webb, I hope this finds you and your wife happy and healthy. I parked near the SGYC today and walked the loop of Shelter Island remembering one year ago in the morning, after following your track, persuading a dock worker to allow me in the gate. I felt fortunate to Greet you with bottle in hand and Congratulate you on the Completion of your Sixth trip Around! Success! it was nice to meet you. Bob CVM