A Salty Rumination
08.01.2008 - 08.01.2008
The Motion of Life in Water, by the way, is a play on the title of Samuel R. Delany’s autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water. I read it so long ago that I don’t recall the origins of his usage, but Delany was an early writing hero of mine, particularly his masterwork Dhalgren, which is among other things, a novel about inner journeys.
An interesting part of this journey for me is not just the destinations themselves but the manner in which I’ll be getting there. I’m not particularly fond of being in water. I’ve never enjoyed swimming, partially because my eyesight is so bad and partially because the sensation of salt or chlorinated water in my nose and trickling into my lungs has always struck me as the unpleasant precursor to drowning.
As for boats, well, I’ve been in rowboats and canoes here and there. Suzanne’s dad still talks about the expression on my face and the way I clutched the sides of the canoe during our little outing up north one time, and that was more than ten years ago now. Marie and I went ocean kayaking once during a trip to Vancouver. Hated it. Was sure I was gonna die. On that same trip, we went whale watching in one of those Zodiac watercraft. Now that was pretty cool. I actually felt fine – until the driver sped directly and purposefully into a wave. A cold, cold one. Marie and I, seated in the front, bore the brunt of it, which found its way deep into our suits and made our teeth chatter during the remainder of the half hour ride back to the shore. Then we had to walk around Granville Island with wet clothes for the rest of the afternoon, looking like the tourists we were. At June Lake outside of Yosemite a few years ago, the Hermans commandeered some kind speed boat thingy and that was okay for a while until Marc cut the engine and Dave dove into the water and swam to some gigantic rock jutting out of the water. The problem for me there was whether or not he would tip the boat trying to get back in as he nearly did when he jumped off. My point is that being in large bodies of water makes me uncomfortable. Swimming pools make me uncomfortable. This is the sea.
Not the sea near the shore, such as the one and only time I went body surfing down in Pacifica w/ Patty K. and Marie. That I had to do, because I was new to Cali and felt like I couldn’t claim it as my own if I didn’t get in at least one time. Patty always claims that I had fun, and I suppose I did to a certain degree – but not enough fun to wanna do it ever again. Nor is it a securely walled off portion of the sea like the Millionaire’s Pond that Shez took me to on the Big Island, Hawaii. There the water never came up past my shoulders even if little silver fish did nibble at me if I stayed in one spot too long. Nope, this is the sea – the wide open, mammoth, vast and endless ocean that I’ve always preferred shore side.
In SF, I became enchanted enough by the sea to feel out of sorts if I didn’t ride my bike to it at least every couple of weeks, if not more frequently. There I would sing to it, a little snippet picked up from a U2’s Joshua Tree album: “Oh great ocean / oh great sea / run to the ocean / run to the sea.” I spent many a moment alone or with friends at China Beach. I spent my first New Year’s Eve in San Francisco at Ocean Beach, with new friends and old. We laughed raucously when Jennifer, in Cali for a visit, gushed that she’d never seen the Pacific and in that instant a rogue wave struck her from the knees down. She froze the rest of the night despite the bonfire, but she was a real trooper. Patty K. took me to Ocean Beach the day my mom died. I remember the particular way the light was that day and the way the sun was perched in the sky. Probably I was there in the very moments that she passed on. I also spent a very day at Ocean Beach with Alex last year; it was memorable because we were both down and out our luck and it felt like the beginning of the end. Not long afterward, we both left California.
My mom also feared water, in fact, much more so than I do. Yet, we bandied about the idea of taking a cruise down the Danube. That never happened. And if she were here now, I’d invite her along on this trip. She’d probably say no, too much water, but I’d ask anyway.
Yet despite my mistrust of water, I am a water sign. At least partially. Scorpio. Water. And Sag is Fire. Hence I have always tended to view myself as Steam Driven. If either element is out of balance, the train will not move.
I have spent my life thus far courting Fire much more so than Water. So now, comes the time to switch my allegiance. If I don’t make friends with water out here, I may find myself resting in it forever. I suppose that could happen anyway, but where’s the romance in that way of looking at it?
An afterthought In reference to a previous post: I guess it’s only fair if some of the world views us (Americans) as gun-toting Jesus freaks, since that’s how we reduce Islam, viewing most Muslims as gun-toting Allah freaks. O Great ocean. O great sea.
Guess what? I love the sea. Every morning I am thrilled to gaze upon it, whether we are moving or whether we’re anchored. I love looking out and seeing nothing but sea for as far as the eye can see and knowing that even far beyond the horizon, there is nothing more than what is already at my feet. I also love it when we encounter a fishing boat here or there or better yet, a fishing boat posse. Right now we are anchored somewhere in the Taiwan (aka Formosa) Strait and though land is not visible, there is a community of ships out here: fishing boats, cargo ships, and even a few house boats! Yes, it’s odd, but I am truly enjoying the great ocean, the great sea, which is an extraordinary feeling for a landlubber like me. This is a part of myself whom I had not yet encountered and could not have hoped to meet because I did not know she existed. The sea in me.