On the Water

August 2, 2018


We don’t care about the weather. We care about the wind. We look at the clouds, we feel energy in the air, and FEEL information. We make decisions based on that feel, based on the thousands of tides and winds and waves we’ve already experienced in our dance with the water. We put our lives and our equipment in the maelstrom every time we go out. If our equipment fails, so will our lives, and so we value both equally.

Thoreau talked about “deliberate living” in a quiet secluded cabin in New England-- extracting previously used nails from previously used boards, straightening them, and recycling both in a mostly cerebral exercise in practical existentialism.

But I wonder how creative Thoreau could have gotten with baling-wire and starter fluid as the waves are kicking spray all over your outboard that won’t start, and you can see the white-caps getting larger in the distance, and there is no one in the world to hear your predicament but you, the God above, and the God of the water.

And I’m convinced that the God of the water is independent of other Gods.

For those of us who make our living on the ocean, who have spent time around it, on it, and under it, the sea is more radiant than religion. Its effects on a man are more startling than a sudden ray of sunshine on a dark, cold day. What else can make you unconsciously sway?

The ocean has a rhythm, and when you dive underneath its waves, and see its power from the protection of its embrace at depth, it has a heart-beat. And the ocean surrounds you, envelopes you, embraces you completely, and slowly pulls your breathing, your heart-beat, and your body’s rhythm into the greater rhythm of the sea. The cadence doesn’t leave you once your feet touch firm land again, and you find your breathing, your body, and your pulse all sway as if you were still under the effects of the ocean. What religion can do this?

Despite yourself, you come to trust this uncontrollable and unfathomable wild. And every time you go out and the ocean doesn’t destroy you, but instead invites you to dance; always leading you, always showing you just enough of its awesome power to firmly fix your place in the universe, and yet always letting you leave the dance floor exhilarated, alive, and swaying- that experience makes humble and grateful believers of even the scoundrels.

We hear intelligent people talk of our responsibility to the ocean from glass rooms in cities that are as disconnected from the earth as the moon. We hear their words, and recognize the sounds as our own shared language, but our attention quickly turns away, as when you hear a drunkard braying against the government. We don’t give them attention, because we know they are hollow words without any connection to a real love of the real earth and its mysteries. Until you’ve danced with the parts of the earth that can kill you, what can you tell us about connection?

For those of us who make our living on the ocean, our connection with the water is as complete as with our mother in the womb; and we love the ocean like our mothers, sometimes even more-so. I’ve never asked my mother for help when my mortality was in the balance. I have prayed countless times to the sea.


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