three seas away
April 7, 2011, 6:35 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: ,


When I was a toddler, I spent two weeks in the nursery aboard the Queen Elizabeth II which steamed from Bombay harbour across the Arabian sea, through the Gulf and the Suez Canal (before it was closed), through the Mediterranean, the Straits of Gibraltar, across the Atlantic to New York Harbour.  One ocean and three seas away.  There were marigold garlands when we slipped away and ticker tape at the final port.

A ship is an island, bounded by a black steel hull, a complete miniature civilization, with its own social code, transient citizenry, micro institutions, canned rituals, beautiful and crazy people with no escape learning to thrive with or tolerate each other.  A ship has it’s figurative birth and death too, arrivals and departures, tinged with sweetness and sorrow.

In university I read the modern Irish playwrights and novelists, their obsession with the sea:  how it gave life and took it, how their strong women watched their sons go out on boats, how they were wracked with worry, buoyed by hope and then, inevitably, emptied again by word of the loss of another boy.  Their worlds were bounded and also harsh and isolating.

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