Friday, June 16, 2017

The Mast-Head

There are times when I have to get above it all—somewhere I am free to be who I am and witness the horizon all around me. What I see may look much the same, whether I am looking west, east, starboard, port, fore, aft, then, or later. Even as I move, the flat line is there.While the cross-tree should be a place of watchful work, I find it is a good place to speak to the birds, the horizon, the wind and the sun. They seem content enough to listen.

This sort of solitude is best when I am forced into it—when it’s part of my job. I sail ahead, a figurehead for my employer, because I am going to a meeting where I represent an abstraction and we talk about abstractions. But I put the meeting out of my head. However I get to this moving place, I have nothing to do but stay alive—a dangerous solitude where one false step or a hesitation in my grasp would mean a fall into a terrifying flux so vast we cannot hope to encompass it in thought.

Many seek distractions: music, or people talking about things that you can either hate with relish or find the sweetest confirmation of all your biases. I try to remain silent, but it is difficult. I am an only child and so am so used to my own conversation. I find it aggravating that when you sing to yourself you are considered happy, but self-conversation reveals you as insane.

My mother was fond of this particular insult when she chastised me for this habit until finally I told her it was the only way I could be assured of intelligent conversation at our house. Which was doubly insulting, for my mother is a very intelligent woman: a tenured professor with many publications and academic honors. She had always focused on her career, navigating across the charts with the precise strides of a compass, and I know that I was an accident—a port she had not intended to visit and certainly not remain in for many years.

I sailed away at twenty-two. I have never really gone back. She and I left our home on different tides and we sail upon separate seas.

Oh, I looked for my father. Like Geppetto, I knew he was out there, but every time I thought I was getting close he slipped further away within the stomach of Leviathan. I grew strong so that I could snag him with a harpoon, then kill him with a lance, and cut my father from oblivion. It did not occur to me until much later that perhaps my father preferred to remain undiscovered.

And so I stopped looking because I finally began to see. In the dead reckoning of my memory, I can understand how far I have sailed away from my parents and the fata morganas who resemble them.

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