Friday, August 8, 2014


Back in the days when I sailed the South Pacific, I spent some time in the doldrums, that bizarre confluence between north and south where nothing moves, nothing happens and as you wait for escape, you begin to question not only your sanity, but reality itself.

In college whilst studying the English Master Poets, I fell under the spell of Coleridge--specifically The Rime of the Ancient Mariner--though in an abstract way because at that point in my life, I didn't have any experience with the deep and endless ocean.

Until a few years later...and his words held more meaning than I ever could have imagined:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
'Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean

I wonder sometimes, looking back at that twenty-something girl, why I wasn't afraid, didn't think about what could be lurking in the becalmed nothingness of such a foreign seascape. Instead, I took the night watch. The loneliest, darkest watch, where specters came alive in the phosphorescence and strange echoes rolled across the flat, featureless water.  Oh how I loved the solitude, the quiet by myself.

Five nights of imaginings and ponderings under an immense bowl of stars arcing across the sky.  The Milky Way seemed close enough to touch, somehow more real than the teak deck under my bare feet.  I remember musing on my life--anticipation and dread in equal measure--as fanciful possibilities bloomed in my mind.  Some nights the overwhelming vastness of the sky and ocean made things feel surreal, otherworldly and disorienting; being human was meaningless in the grander scheme of the cosmos.

On the sixth day, early morning, a soft breeze began to whisper and by late afternoon we were once again on our way.  It was wonderful to feel the wind, to move, and though the rest of the crew was jubilant, I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry that the experience was over, my solitary vigils at an end.

This week I've been in the other doldrums, the mental ones.  I have felt motionless, no sign of a breeze to fill my sails.  I go about my chores, read books to escape the heavy weight of ennui, struggle to see the beauty in our world, not the ugliness of cruelty and despair. Mostly I fail.

While I was eating breakfast this morning, Ozzy started growling out one of the front windows. When I looked, there was a young buck, one I have seen before, though not this close. He's missing an antler on the right side and has scars on his flank, side and around his face. And he's always alone. None of the other deer will accept him, or tolerate him anywhere near them.

He's eating my lilies.  I usually go out on the deck and gently shoo the deer away, but I hesitate this morning, then decide he can eat what he wants.  He's already had a hard time of it, judging by his body, and rejection from the herd.  I took a few photos through the window, then left him to his breakfast.

As I watched him, I felt a slight shift in my mental doldrums, an imagined breath that just might grow strong enough to blow the stagnate air away, if I let it.  Being kind to the animals is a start, I suppose...


  1. With your purported aversion to heat, it's hard to imagine you in the south Pacific, unless nearer to Antarctica. Be that as it may, it sounds like it was a grand experience.

    Hopefully, the metaphoric breeze continues to blow...

    1. There is no comparison between sailing the South Pacific and being landlocked in southern Oregon. Or maybe it was just being twenty-five, wild and free that made me immune to the heat... ;D