Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Retro Sail – 1979

I once lived in Greece. Sailing the Greek islands, hence there is a Greek flag flying aft in the 1979 picture. I was 28 years old and my son Gene was 4. In the photograph, we are sitting together on the port side of the sailboat, the right side of the picture. I was so thin then, 108 pounds. I worked at the Hellenic International School, teaching French and English. In the Greek school system women could not wear pants, only skirts below the knee. Heather, also in the picture, was the music teacher and her husband was manager of Cape Sounion Marina, where the temple of Poseidon still stands. She had two children and we would all sail together whenever there was a sailboat available to deliver or test. That’s where the sailing spirit seduced me, and has faithfully stayed with me in good times and bad times.
Cape Sounion Marina

Oftentimes I have asked myself how a young girl from the green highlands of Naranjito ended up so enamored of the blue sea and sailing. Julia de Burgos, a well-known Puerto Rican poet says it best in her poem, Ronda sobremarina por la montaña. This title has been translated into English as, Supersea Stroll through the Mountain, in the bilingual book, Song of the Simple Truth (1996), where one can read her complete poems.

--Almamarina… Almamarina… 
Eso me dijo el viento cuando le di la mano en la montaña. 
Eso me dijo el viento ruborizándose en mis ojos,

(--Seasoul… seasoul… /That’s what the wind said when I gave it my hand in the mountain. … 
--Seasoul… /That’s what the sea said blushing in my eyes, /nervous, /courting me.)

Temple of Poseidon
Poseidon, zealous god of the sea, kept Odysseus lost at sea for 10 years after the Trojan war. He eventually sailed home to his wife Penelope who waited for him in the island of Ithaca. The Temple of Poseidon still keeps a watchful eye over the god’s realm. The marina, at its feet, is still a humble reminder of human courage. Greek men (and one woman that I know of, Atalanta) dared to explore this realm on floating islands, challenging fears, risking life and fortune, defying Poseidon.

I sailed the Cyclades, a string of islands southeast of Cape Sounion. As we approached an island, the whitewashed homes with aqua blue doorframes painted the hillsides. The port areas were sprinkled with tavernas boasting outdoor tables and chairs, intertwined with boating shops, souvenir stores, ferry boats, buses, lots of people and noise. The children couldn’t wait to explore the shore, find the ice cream shop, and run around in town. Trying to save a little money on dock fees, we would anchor out and dinghy to shore. An adult stayed on the boat to keep watch. I often volunteered for this task, which made everyone happy. After so many hours at sea, everyone wanted to go ashore. These were my moments of freedom. Illusory in retrospection, naïve at best, I felt free. I’d stand open-armed like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, facing the wind and singing, screaming, dancing, and laughing out loud. It was a sense of freedom, not so much from people, but more so from social norms, proper behavior, and lady-like roles. I was Atalanta with the Argonauts, looking for the Golden Fleece.

The Cyclades or Kycládes form the plural of Kyklás, from kíklos, meaning circle or ring. My Greek sailing experience was the beginning of a new ring in my life’s spiral. A mother bird’s push unto the open sky, and the young bird soared with open wings. I feel that same feeling every time we motor out of the marina, when we raise the sails, and turn off the engine. The instant the engine is off, and the wind presses on the sails, I soar.

Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos (Dual Language Edition:: Spanish, English) (Spanish and English Edition)--Almamarina…
Hubo luego, en silencio, como un desplazamiento
de una niña de agua en la sed de los valles,
La voz sobremarina se irguió sobre los cerros,
y partió para siempre con la niña en el talle.

(--Seasoul… /Later, in silence, there was something like a surge / of a water-girl in the thirst of the valleys, /The supersea voice rose over the mountains /and left forever with the girl on its waist.)

As I fast approach 60, the rings in my spirals are narrower, but they still soar, in Puerto Rico’s easternmost islands, circling, like the Cyclades off Cape Sounion, Fajardo’s lighthouse.
Atalanta-detail in Rubens painting