Just after posting the last blog I was driving along the highway to take Jack for a walk in a favourite place. A chopped-up, lowered-down, stretched-out Fartley Davidson blattered past us with a mufflerless exhaust. I watched the bucket-headed dude receding ahead of us and thought “There goes Hooker Fairybell.” He’s the invented character in a photo caption of that blog. I wonder if that moment’s inspiration is now a permanent fixture in my hard drive. Will every character on a mutilated motorcycle be a nominee for the ‘Hooker’ Award? How many influential ideas start as a single fleeting notion? What good comes from those bursts of inspiration and how many are lost? The only thing to do is to write them down and see where they lead.
Once again the morning sun is beaming through the window. I’ve found a new-to-me John Prine song on YouTube. Jack has risen from his state of dog zen and it’s time to wade into another day. The slanting light reveals a crud of dog hair and popcorn bits on the living room rug. I drag out the vacuum and marvel at where dirt comes from. I hoovered the joint just a few days ago. Another cup of coffee after I’m done and the vacuum is stowed. I listen to that song again. It is quick, simple and deadly eloquent, typical Prine: ‘Knockin’ On Your Screen Door’ There’s a line, “I’m dreamin’ about a sailboat” and for some reason that simple line rips me apart. I take my leaky face and dive into the shower.
I think of all the times I’ve bucked into black haystacks of frigid sea, numb with cold and wet, wanting to be anywhere else. Those long hours when every hundred feet of vertical movement might produce ten feet of forward progress and the nearest harbour, and rest, is an eternity away. Right now, I’d take all this shorebound nothingness, this unmoving ground, and trade it for a few more minutes at sea. Oh yes I would! The thing about being at sea is that you do it for all the time when you are exactly where you want to be. The peace, and even bliss of that is what carries you, at sea and and ashore.
In the shower I progressively turn the water colder until I’m breathless. I ask myself if this is indeed really what I miss. “Quit yer snivlin’ ya old flower! Stand by to gybe, gotta keep going.” Flowers! Grab a camera, go for a walk. Jack is laying by the door, waiting. We’ll go down by the shoreline. We return much later in the morning. Jack has met some lovely dogs and I their owners. I’ve photographed the faded glory of last week’s splendid glacier lilies. The day is cloudless and warm with a forecast high for this afternoon of 24°C. The air is filled with the drone of lawnmowers. Up the alley, a cigarette-burned voice shouts as usual at her two, barking as usual, mad dogs. “Shaddup. Git over here!” My longing persists.
Then I remember this classic poem and look it up. For now I can say no more. I have not read ‘Sea Fever’ for years. Suddenly written words have never seemed so poignant to me. I need to get back out to sea. I found myself writing to a friend this evening that the problem with swallowing the anchor* is that it will not pass on through. It hurts like hell at times!
(* not going to sea anymore.)
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.