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Waking and Sunrise

Dreams weave into consciousness, the hand of Neptune holds me, then vanishes. I wake, falling, dropping back to the mortal world. Adrenaline charges through my veins snapping my eyes open. In the darkness, my senses race, drawing all clues to my status -- alive, in my bunk, alone at sea.

It would be good to cry, just a bit. The roaring surf is loud, close to my ear through the hull, like surf on the beach, or the sea that has built up while I slept. Slept, finally slept, I have been sleep deprived. My survival instinct kept me on watch, day after day, until finally I succumbed, inadvertently, to deep sleep, and laid in the cradle of the gods.

The sea and boat roar together, surfing down the face of a cresting wave. I wake further, and trust in my well being. Too often I have sprung from my bunk only to discover that my panic was the backlog of hours not spent on watch. This first moment of what should be blissful consciousness is filled with enhanced panic.

Now aware of this cycle of panic, I have adjusted. I make an effort to return to a state of calm before leaving my bunk. I demand waking with calm, with an appreciation for my environment, and they take priority over my immediate concern for safety. Of course the danger is no less real, but the desire to live a life of peace is greater than any other force or fear. I prefer to risk death regularly and perhaps live a shorter life than to live a life of panic, and appreciate nothing.

I breathe the salt air deeply into my lungs, stretch my arm over my head, squeezing my fist tight, tucking it in next to my chest, with a controlled exhale, I punch forward in slow isometric resistance, a front two knuckle punch towards an invisible antagonist. My other fist opens to a block, remains open, curved palm on guard in front of my chest. While still in my bunk, I gain strength, tone my muscles, enhance my coordination, focus my mind and energize my body, in confrontation with the metaphoric antagonist, the antagonist which threatens peace, the metaphor for evil itself.

I fill myself with the energy of the planet, ride with the benevolent indifference of the sea. The wind, my lover, flows across me. The salt, the scent of the sea, and the life it holds, rides on the warm tropical breeze. Peace has displaced the panic; lust, for life, has displaced the fear.

Tilting my head back to look outside, the companionway frames an obsidian sky. Rich, black, flecked with diamonds, a bright, cool, sweeping radiance -- the Milky Way. In the daytime, it is impossible to see beyond our planet; the rays of the sun disperse through the nitrogen blue sky, but on a clear night out to sea, away from the lights of the city, there are no barriers between us and the universe. The sky is a transparent dome above our heads. The stars are bright and close. The milky way looms, a distant city awaiting our visit. The planets march, as gods, chasing each other across the sky, running away. At night, it can be difficult to imagine that there is a dome of atmosphere between us and the universe until some stray little mote of dust or fragment of space rock burns up in the atmosphere above our heads, betrays the barrier.

The scorching tropical sun has been at rest for twelve hours. The hot air mellowed by the temperate sea. The air is perfectly warm, perfectly cool in the pre-dawn hour. I live naked, sleep naked, uncovered. My bare leg, wrapped around the lee cloth. The ocean roars as she breaks and surfs my little boat along her back. She calls to me, but our love is always at a distance, but the allure of joining with her is sometimes so great ...

Habit guides me through the dark space. The sturdy life harness, waiting for me, stretched across the companionway, slips on like a second skin. The harness is already clipped to a solid pad eye, my anchor to the boat. I climb the four companionway steps which lead into the cockpit. The sky is clear; there are no squalls on the horizon. Instinctively, I scan for ships, and find none. In the east- south-east, Dawn stretches her rosy finger tips over the horizon, a Homeric voyage, runs through my mind.

With one hand, I grab the jack-line on the leeward side, with the other, I unclip my harness from the pad-eye and clip on to the rope on deck. I run lines fore and aft, from bow to stern, on each side of the boat so I can walk the deck and always be attached. I walk the deck to the shrouds and lean against them, one arm wrapped around for security as I relax.

The sea on the horizon is black and without dimension, but as I look down over the side of the boat the multitudes of bioluminescent organisms show me the way to the depths. The sea beneath me is over two miles deep; I can discern objects to six feet or so in the darkness. The bioluminescence leaves a trail of fire behind the boat. The stars above have not the same brightness, and have none of the great swirling, streaming motion of the light beneath my boat.

From a distance I see what looks like a submarine, an object in motion beneath the water, glistening in bioluminescence and streaking directly towards me. Like a torpedo, heading directly for my hull, it approaches, disappears. On the other side, the light continues, and then quickly turns to ride with me. The familiar sound of the dolphin's voice is soon joined by others: three, five, no, there are at least eight dolphins here, escorting me. I hear them breathe, blowing air, spraying the sea into the wind, into my face. They ride the wave of water pushed forward by the bow. I lean over and greet my morning guests.


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Format modified March 7, 1999