We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
August 2, 2014
on board M/V Kennicott, Alaska Marine Highway System
I woke this morning to the gentle rocking of waves and the steady mechanical thrum of the engine below our boat. Last night was spent sleeping quite comfortably on a beach recliner extended fully out and my Thermarest and sleeping bag cozy in the quiet solarium. I sat up a bit in my early morning sleepiness to watch the endless island land masses roll by, forested like round hedgehogs sticking up out of the calm water. Those trees- they seem everpresent, steadfast, sturdy, and immortal in their expansiveness.
People of all ages walk about the boat- looking through binoculars from all the decks, hair blowing. They construct puzzles together on the flat-topped tables, or passively sit in one of the many observatory decks, standing guard. There are people my age- single woman seeking adventure, there are children running around like we used to en route to Orcas, there are countless retirees seeking solitude and silence after busy careers, and there are young couples finding retreat on a vessel bound for the wilderness. Last night, scores of people watched the sunset from the deck, quiet and meditative.
How vast, how wide, how deep is this place, our home. Standing here, it becomes apparent that we are not alone. All life itself began in these oceans, the deep, endless tracts of water that are home to creatures that only reveal themselves at times when we are open to beauty. When we stare out into the mirror of the surface, out they come. Tails last, fins first, alerting us to their presence. Can we let the wild be wild as we start counting, as we line up the perfect photograph? How much wild can we vicariously absorb? Can we imagine what it must be like to always be wet? To always taste salt? To come up for air with an exhale out of the tops of our heads?
We walk in circles as we move forward through the seemingly endless emptiness of the ocean, feeling our hair whip violently into our faces, feeling our hearts freed by openness and wildness. We all seek it, despite the telephoto lenses and helicopter blades slicing air, looking for a glimpse of the other. These are our excuses, these tools, to help us touch the wild with a trembling finger. To look out onto these gently curving islands covered in pointy tracts of grey-green forests, shrouded in swirling white mist, is to seek hope, to see what on this Earth we haven’t yet missed.
To know that despite all our shortcomings as a greedy, self-centered, overly-intelligent species, that our hearts beat just as wild as our neighbors with the sharp claws, flapping wings, and tails splashing water. That these tracts of land may persist, do exist, stand tall and proud amidst guns and fire and a world heating faster than ice can freeze. That even though we are smart, there is too much that we don’t know. That our minds are still invited to wonder, to marvel, to run after that which is unknown to us. All those endless swaths of land, of sky, of water that we can never control or hold down do exist. When you’re on board a boat, when the bow slices a space and time between the water droplets and the great white mist of the day, when the powerful foghorn announces our presence, we’ll be coming home. Home in our questions, our insistent optimism, our wonder, our awe in wildness. Home in those trees and that water that go on forever unspoiled.
And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it