I envy sailors that watch as a storm rolls in. It is not that they can do much more than stow a few loose items. They can’t outrun, evade or hide from torrents of wind and water that rend the sails from the mast, shear the ropes and jigs that hold their vessel together, and smash the contents of the galley stowed deep in the keel. I envy those sailors because they can see it coming.
My storms are stealth; by the time I know there is a storm, I am already disoriented in violence, dizzy and sick with imbalance, and in full every-man-for-himself survival mode.
I’ve been in calm seas for quite a while now, sure there is always the mild squalls, but nothing more damaging than a swimming headache that subsides quickly enough to keep me watertight and more importantly, keep my crew from abandoning ship.
I have magic little pills that boost some of this and retard some of that; they give me blue skies and sunshine even on rainy days. It has been very pleasant, better than in years. Without rough seas to hold my attention, I have spent joyous time navigating my journey, charting my progress, and enjoying the sail and my crew. But magic pills aren’t really magic. The pharmaceuticals are formulated to work against a known and measurable tempest. There is no tiny bio-chemist hidden inside the capsule with the ability to bulster the strength if the seas begin to boil.
When the last storm struck, I was not only surprised, but unpracticed in emergency procedures. I failed to get the bow turned into the waves, and I neglected to shout the warnings and instructions to those who have chosen to sail with me. I am in charge of my ship, I am the captain, the leader, the owner. Therefore I am sole bearer of responsibility.
I lost some of my crew, one that I had planned on making my first-mate. Not that I blame anyone for abandoning such a carelessly piloted boat. I am the only one at fault.
The waters feel better this morning, but now it is too quiet on board; no conversations, no raucous laughter, no contented banter.
The note spoke of spiraling eddies sucking us down into an abyss and how the course is unhealthy for all the reasons that it is so wondrously right. Fear is our greatest enemy, when it is ours, and when it is someone elses.
I don’t want to sail on alone, without hope no matter how fleeting, without plans no matter how improbable, without a chart and the sexton that I have come to depend on. I need my crew.