Cormorants are huddled like a conclave of robed mystics brooding over lost fish. The wind blows from all directions in Port Madison.
I write windy dialogue that transpires between two contrary characters. I suppose the I of the story refers to myself, but even this first-person identity gets pretty tenuous at times. I am obtuse foil to McWhirr’s exacting command, and he is confounded by my poetic flights. This tension, this ever tipping dynamic, propels the leaky vessel of my prose.
In the voyage of this yarn to it’s “conclusion”, fact and fiction are interwoven to create a tapestry of associative episodes in order to express some ineffable truth about man’s impulse toward adventure.
But to what degree can I actually claim these adventures mine? Where was the line crossed between inspiration and plagiarism? All my powers of expression are called upon to render a fictional account of vaguely recalled events in the transient world of sensations and ideas.
I’ve come close to foundering in a fog of fantasy, relevant only to myself or to those souls fortunate enough (or unlucky enough) to be conversant with sailing lore, and experienced in the sea’s fickle ways.
Where has McWhirr gone? While his vanishing act seems a natural outcome of the narrative flow, it has left me without bearings-without a meaningful waypoint. He’s left me becalmed at slack water, transfixed by sunlight on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with only an obscure missive from Virgil’s heroic verse: From me learn courage and patience, from others the meaning of fortune. Then again, maybe this is all the bearing I need.
Though the dream of finding a copy of the Aeneid happened some 20 years ago, it’s true import remains enigmatic. But I feel it has to do with carrying on a lineage, the bearing of the household gods to establish a new homeland or mode of awareness. It’s also about a mutual need, a pact made with the dead to honor them. My dad’s ghost comes and goes in the story, and recalls me to some forgotten bond. He says I should heed McWhirr.
The View from the Wheelhouse is a fluid one, and successful navigation depends on an ability to tolerate a constantly shifting perspective. The conclusion of this tale is as elusive as a Micronesian landfall.
So I trust this isn’t the last we’ve heard from McWhirr. The wily old coot’s vanishing act may be prologue to his reinstatement on a more believable level of fictional existence.
Wars are started by mistaking the thing in itself for the metaphor, and the inability to see through the symbol, as through a veil, to the symbolized. Scientists have recently discovered that the north wind doesn’t really have a beard and puffy cheeks. We’ve evolved beyond such nonsense. But this knowledge is of little use to the sailor driven on a rocky lee shore by a fierce northerly gale. For myself and everyone, I pray to the household gods.