Thursday, April 27, 2006


We have recently had a few such days but from the bayside this one is striking for its complete, still, grayness. Gray sky, gray water, gray air all rendered more drab by the presence of two long, slender, wind-surfing boards pointed sharply at both ends, left leaning up against the dark skeletal dock near the water. They exert a fiercely discordant effect largely because those are the only colors out there except gray--they are bright red-orange, with purple accents—shades of Mauna Loa!

Looking in the other direction great merchant ships and oil tankers float at anchor on a calm, murky ocean, waiting to dock and discharge cargo. They invoke memories, worn and faded images of these same ships berthed and waiting to be boarded. It was important somehow to go aboard off one’s watch and get a special place out on the bow. Once the vessel leaves the breakwater and the harbor mouth in its wake, this vantage-point becomes an elevator plunging from 40 feet to six feet and back, above the sea spray; there were dolphins, and in some parts flying fish on either side--escorts out into that wide expanse of billowing sea air and an unknown future. “When ever I feel myself growing grim about the mouth; when ever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;…--then, I account it high time to get to sea.”—so go the familiar lines of Melville.

Merchant ships are noted in Proverbs 31:10 and14; “A wife of noble character who can find?...She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” In war-time of course, it was aviation gasoline and munitions, but the simile is appropriate; not that I could reliably manage a rowboat these days, but the lure is powerful and compelling. Especially on a gray day like this one I can just begin to note a touch of grimness around my mouth, a surge of November deep within, and feel mildly resentful at being caught up in a land-locked state of mind and body.

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