My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light,
He slept with a mermaid one fine night.
Out of the union there came three,
A walrus, and a porpoise and a little old me…”
–An Old Sea Shanty
I’m sure that you think differently of me now. Now that you’re thinking of me as a real mariner. A real old salt. A man
who goes down to the sea in ships…
But, life for me is not all tattoo parlors, ex-flamingo dancers named Contessa, hard living gypsy women named Esmeralda and rum bars. Not to mention the mermaids so fair and beautiful and alluring that you need to have someone lash you to the mast and pour wax into your ears to prevent you from sailing to your doom on rocky isles off the coast of Zanzibar.
Oh, the call of the sirens are songs you can not resist. No normal man, like me…has the fiber and purity of heart to not fall into their arms…arms that ensnare you and lips that whispers the secrets of the eternal seas into your ears, and then drag you down to the abyss. The abyss, where you meet Blackbeard, Davy Jones, the Kraken, Jack Sparrow or even the death-like Keith Richards.
I’m bidding farewell to all those whose feet never leave the safety of the sand and pebbles of the land. My destiny is on the lee side of tomorrow and the starboard side of yesterday. I can feel the salt water in my veins. I can feel the sea spray on my gray beard, spraying me so hard, I can not tell the ocean from my tears. I can feel the sun on my forearms and the sweat on my shoulders. Yes, I feel the sun and wish I had used SPF #60. I can feel the gentle rocking of the boat. I can see my backpack stored in the cabin. My eyes are on the little zipper pocket that contains a small box of chewable Dramamine.
It is Day 2 of my sailing classes. We leave the calm small bay where our boat is moored. We enter the waters of the Gulf. Still there is no wind. We practice a “man overboard” drill. Not enough wind to tack.
After three hours, we return to our slip. The class is over for the day.
I won’t be an ‘official’ sailor until Russell (the Canadian) and I take the boat out on our own…on Friday.
What kind of sea will be meeting us that day? How will Poseidon greet this old man who dares to enter his abode? Will I be challenged to my limit? Will the elements be greater than my limits?
Do I even have limits?
Does the god of the sea know that I will win in the end? We humans have no limits, do we?
Then I think of the tens of thousands of souls who went down to the sea in ships…and never sailed back in their safe harbor.
Those New England whaling village homes had a place on the roof that is called “the widows walk”. There must be a reason for that.