Dec 29, 2005

Down To The Sea In Ships

I know it's nothing more than escapist flummery, but there are times when I wish I could go back to the days I sailed the mighty rivers and seas of this world.
Perhaps in a previous life I was a captain of my own vessel, or I was a sailor on a stout ship and true.  Maybe I plied a steamer up and down the waterways between Ohio and New Orleans, carrying sleekly dressed gamblers and beautifully powdered madames.  Maybe I wore work clothes and brogues instead, and wielded a hammer and pitch building ships in some shipyard, laying skeleton and skin like some magic film reversing the slow decay of a beached whale.  Whatever the case, I've always loved the lure of the water.  In my current incarnation I can't swim a lick, but bodies of water still draw my spirit.
When I was a very young kid my younger brother and I were allowed to play outside in the rain, assuming of course that the lightning and thunder had stopped and it was just a steady rainfall coming down outside.  I had found an old wooden fencepost somewhere, pointed at one end and wide at the other, and with a child's imagination and a child's eyes it was a magnificent ship, long and slow and stately, making it's elegant way up and down the length and breadth of the muddy ditch that ran alongside our house, or through the rough and tumble rapids in the clear water that ran in the front ditch.  Blessed were the days when the side yard would flood, because then the river became a sea, and I was free to ply the seas as well, always mindful that I could run around on a berm of Saint Augustine grass if I wasn't careful with my navigation.
How many times have you as an adult looked at a pecan shell that has split perfectly in half, or a walnut shell's coracle shape, or even a milk carton cut in half and seen with your child's eyes the boat that lies within.  There was a time for each of us, back when we were all small, a time when we saw the entire world that way, when everything was an opportunity for play, and the only responsibility lie in playing until you fell down from sheer exhaustion.  What happens to those times?  Where have they gotten to?
Some of us, myself included, seem to be able to hang on a little longer to that child's eye, but even as young as people seem to think I am mentally there are still times when I lose sight of what it was like to be foolish without fear of retribution, or unafraid of making mistakes because I knew there would be somebody nearby to pick up the pieces and make the scrapes feel better.  Unfortunately, those days are long passed.
I've got three walnut shells sitting on my calculator right now, here on my office desk.  They're remnants of a Christmas basket assortment that someone gave us.  I cracked the nuts just to see what they tasted like, not because some big-eyed youngster inside me recognised therein the makings for a boat so tiny that only a spider could use it, or a tiny beetle with sea-going ambitions.  It was only when I had eaten the nutty insides when I realised that I had created for some cricket a lovely wrinkled tan coracle, needing only it's captain and a close-by puddle to set sail for adventures that would make Sinbad seem like a yellow-bellied landlubber.
Oh, to be sailing once again, ankle-deep in ditch water, steering stick in my hand, carefully navigating the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

1 comment:

Vulgar Wizard said...

You were Popeye in a past life.

I used to play in the rain when I was a child. I wonder if kids still do that? I'm thinking they don't . . . rain means all day Playstation gaming.