Last week I taught an adult writing workshop at our public library. I brought eight objects and arranged them on the table. The ladies' assignment was to choose which object represented them at this point in their life and then explain why. Their work was incredible and insightful. I chose the ship.
I am sailing in “waters of unknown depth”**. I cannot see land; there is no shore in the distance—only the great expanse of sea. My sails are high and billowed because the wind is catching them and filling their hidden pockets and propelling me forward.
The wind blows where it will.
I am not yet adept with my navigational devices. My skills are limited. The constellations and their positions often confuse me. I often get the quadrant and the sextant and their purposes mixed up. I just keep my compass in my hand and simply attempt to keep sailing true north.
The size of my crew has diminished. They stayed in ports or got on other ships of their own choosing. I remained on my ship determined to continue to sail through the dark, deep water.
The deck is wet from the cold, briny sea. Slick and dangerous. And I don’t have sea legs yet. I stagger from one end of the ship to the other like a drunken woman. I grab the ropes and holdings as my feet slide beneath me. But I make it to the bow, and stand for awhile—resting. I look longingly up at the crow’s nest.
I want to climb there. I want to stand in that wooden basket and look far out into the horizon.
I want my sea legs to grow strong, and I want the liquid in my cochlea to balance. Then I want to grab those thick ropes and climb even as the ship sways and tilts. I want to have a monkey grip on the holding lines. I want to feel the wind whip my hair and billow out my clothes as if I were the sails.
I don’t care if these are waters of unknown depth. I don’t care if I can’t see the shore.
I am sailing.
And the needle on my compass is pointing north.
**”A Life that Enfaiths”
New & Selected Essays
By Denise Levetov