Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Am The Sea

Everyday thousands of ships set sail on the seas that cover this world. Their destinations and their paths will forever be different, but their journeys are the same. These vessels have one common tie that binds them, whether or not they know it, for every ship is at the mercy of its mother…the sea.

With the greatest of ease the sea can swallow whole the ships we call “unsinkable.” It can toss tons of metal with a gust of wind and rip in half the strongest steel. Men have been lost at sea and never seen again and countless ships lie in ruin on its mysterious floor. Many have died exploring its vast expanse, but the ones who survive leave with something they did not possess when they left land.

Those who return unscathed are strong from the fight. They are iron willed and determined, but perhaps more important is the fact that they come back for more. There is a fraternity among those who battle the sea, a mutual recognition of the sheer will it takes to win the fight and to come back for more. You can see the fight in their eyes, the tenacity and the urgency, for they are never satisfied with a simple life.

There is one ship that has been at sea for years now. Its journey is long and it has seen the roughest seas imaginable. It has taken on water and its sails have ripped, but it does not return to port. The ship continues on despite its injuries, without a destination and without a star to guide it. Many times in the dead of night other vessels have passed in silence unbeknownst to it. Perhaps these ships carried salvation for our wayward traveler, perhaps not, one way or another…the wanderlust pushes it on.

In the distance black clouds cover the sky and churn the sea into a frothy fury. Behind is a similar storm, the lightning still touching the water as if crying out for the ship it let live. The captain steers his vessel through the calm seas in between, all the while knowing that the worst is still coming. He wonders how he will keep his beloved men alive and his ship afloat. For the first time on this journey fear grips him and chokes the breath from his lungs. He stands at the helm and clutches the wheel with whitening knuckles, determined to master his fear and to defeat the sea.

The captain stands tall, for he is strong and his gaze is icy. His eyes dart back and forth, scanning the sky, staring at the impending doom he will find in the next thunderhead. He knows his fate, but he sails on, unshaken. He runs his hand through his hair and sighs, lighting his tobacco as he leans over the ledge, gazing into the deep. How will he win this fight against this ancient enemy when his ship is battered and broken and his men are weary and frightened?

As night falls the captain remains standing on the deck, lost in contemplation as his men sleep in the quarters below. He looks to the sky and asks the gods of the sea forgiveness for his transgressions, the salty spray coating his face as he prays. He thinks of his men, of his ship and of their unknown destination and he cries out for something to save him. He looks off into the distance as the first rays of sun shoot off in arcs across the sky, when he sees something.

Over the next few days, the small twinkle on the horizon grows from a small light to a piercing beam in the night. Every hour it is closer and the men are ripe with anticipation and excitement. As the light draws closer it becomes apparent that it is another ship, locked in the same perilous battle with the sea. The captain paces, pondering the danger of a meeting on the high seas and its implications. Soon enough he can make out the faces of the opposite crew through the lenses of his monocular, they look different than his men…smiling, healthy and enthused. He decides it is time and boards his rowboat with his finest men and defenses at his side.

After a while the defenses are lowered and the captain allows the men to board his ship. As the two tether to one another, it becomes clear that the captain’s prayers to the emptiness of the sea had been answered. Perhaps she is not an unforgiving mother after all. With repairs underway the two captains forge a friendship which will not be divided when their binds are cut. The storm they saw in the distance gets closer everyday and they know the toughest test is still to come.

But the fear that once haunted our fair captain’s dreams is slowly subsiding, for he knows he is not alone. The storm continues to approach and the two commanders know it is time to raise sails and head into the fury together. They will support one another and if one takes on water the other will ensure it is not consumed. From now on they will sail and fight together; the bond forged will not be broken.

Our captains stand at the helms of their respective ships as the rain begins to intensify, stinging their faces. The waves churn below and the boom of thunder pierces the afternoon air. The sky grows darker by the minute, but there is no look of fear on the faces of their men. They stand fast, confident in their leaders and the desire to fight on which now burns fire in their eyes.

A wall of water builds strength in front of the two ships and the raindrops turn to missiles. The captains look across the abyss into each other’s eyes, knowing that it is time. Their arms rise, a silent gesture and acknowledgment of their bond, for they know they may be separated in the melee ahead, but will be reunited on the other side. The rescue ship climbs the wall and disappears over its crest. Our captain’s men glance back at him as they begin their ascent up the wall of furious sea in front of them.

Their gazes are met with a deafening cry from the captain’s lungs as the ship disappears into the maelstrom, pushing onward into the unknown sea. The men reply and their voices drown out the sea; unable to be defeated they push onward knowing that this time they are not alone.

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