Maybe I’ll write about the Sea

studio etc 016

I rebed pad eyes by day and rewrite the wandering craft of my prose after dark.

Our plan is to leave September 5th on the new moon-the time propitious for undertaking our voyage north through Saratoga Passage, by way of the Swinomish Channel, to the funky wharf town of La Conner.  We then cross Rosario strait into the San Juan Islands.

I paint the deck a battleship gray that colored my 50’s childhood with visions of martial efficiency projected in the gaunt, strident scenes of the Great War.

I read Look Homeward Angel, marveling at the luscious prose. Who are these characters that populate Thomas Wolf’s stories? The stone carver, grave ornament maker, who had an Angelic vision as he chugged west to die among granite hills.

O lost!

The refrain Is heard throughout the story-as if our prodigal hero was born lost in this juicy world whose co-ordinates had been firmly laid with ancestral rites and arcane laws of property.

I’ll bring back McWhirr to tell of the Sea.  I miss the old guy during long spells of writer’s block-as if he were my inner navigator admonishing me to hold a steady course through the endless watches over the dim sea. It is his Saturnine compass that scribes the boundary of possible outcomes. Only his stentorian oaths can direct the wandering track of my narrative along a course that is true.

As the wind freshens, strange voices call my name. A woman’s voice beckons over the slimy, creaking sea, and vanishes when I turn to hear.   It’s as if she called softly from in the groaning, weathered piles that sway with the tides; when I least expect a visitation from the other world.

I hear faint drumming that-like a star that is seen only peripherally-falls silent when I listen.  Are they ghostly drummers chanting over the bright waters of Port Madison on a moonlit night. Grandfather said their voices still sound over the waters, calling from the other shore.  Haya, haya, haya-the song carries on the cool breeze.

How does my own story fit in here? How woven into the warp of necessary fiction?  Shadows ebb blue violet as blackness rakes the mudflats between two tides-between two lights. Raccoons paw the foreshore where starfish glow.   A heron is perched on Reah’s dockhouse like he owned the place.

I change writing pads so my crimped hand may expand in florid loops beyond the web of type-into fictional streams that draw me toward a vague landfall in some maritime dream of adventure.  I’ll write about the sea, about Old Hand’s tortuous passages into far reaches of the Skagit Channel. As ensign of our great endeavor, we shall festoon the masthead with laurel, and call upon the gods to bless our voyage. It is toward the faint sound of chanting drums that we set our course, toward an ever-receding song dimly heard from the north.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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