Having dispensed with a cliched week of heavy drinking that is the want of many sailors returning home from a lengthy sojourn at sea, especially those without a wife, it is time to cast off the shackles that gallons of beer will so ably fasten and emerge woebegone and sluggish for a run.
I would like to make a case for kindness this week. Because of my continually bleak musings, because the world is still full of it and because it will make my mother happy.
Recently I had a minor surgical procedure. Nothing crazy, but enough to fill me with a higher than usual degree of the existential dread I walk around with daily. I had been prepped and all the requisite monitors, IV’s and things that go beep were attached. I was waiting for the oblivion that would soon enter via my veins when the surgeon came in. He stood before my recumbent form and laid a hand on my shoulder. He looked me in the eyes and asked me if everything was alright. Now, I’m sure he says and does this every day, but there was such empathy in this exchange, such a warmth, that if he had been a cult leader, I would have signed over my iphone, my library and my skateboard (about the only things of any value I own) right there and then.
And here’s a story from my past that always cheers me up. We were in Jost Van Dyk in the British Virgin Islands and had just dropped my friend and shipmate P. off at the ferry which would take him to Tortola to catch a flight that would take him home to bury his father. I was driving our ship’s tender, a rigid bottomed zodiac, and D. was along for the ride and moral support. Together we flanked the ferry as it left the harbor. Past the harbor limits the seas built to a frothy white chop and the winds picked up as they always do in the Caribbean. We could see P. seated on the upper deck, sadly looking out to sea. Without any prompting D. stood up, a beer in one hand, and with the other hand he loosened his belt and dropped his shorts, baring his ass to our friend and 200 other ferry passengers. I don’t know whether it was at this point or when we hit a particularly large wave that sent D. sprawling face first across the small boat, but I clearly saw a great smile emerge on P.’s face. Laughter. D. lay there a moment. Stunned. His white ass a glaring beacon to indignity everywhere. To his credit, I don’t think he spilled any beer. Kindness.
Consider nature. Daily such an inspiration to me. I read these words by Thoreau today, taken from his swansong ‘Walking’,
‘I wish to speak a word for nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil. To regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of nature, rather than a member of society.’
Recently as our ship left Thunder Bay, my old pals the ravens returned, escorting us out onto Lake Superior. We were met with a strong head wind, but this deterred our friends not at all. Three of them flew with us. They soared and dove, and paused static in the air, and wielded their wings in that strong blow like maestros before a maelstrom. It was magnificent witnessing this. Even a week later I am giddy thinking of it.
And now, consider the rain. It begins to fall as I am running. I am flushed, hungover and hot. I descend into the ravine where I regularly run. The rain grows heavier. Each drop is cool on my skin. Soon the ground muddies and I am striding through puddles. My gait lengthens, my breath quickens, but the fugue in which I have been laboring begins to lift. Ah, if I could shed this skin and start anew I would but I can’t, and I’m stuck with this rickety old scaffold.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ‘I’m Gonna Run Away’ comes on my playlist. I’m soaked. And it is good.