Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#9 Canoe

It is the fifth sunrise since the storm, and still no wind.

I am close to land. I knew it even in the dark of night, from the way my canoe moved beneath me. The long, gentle swells of the ocean were accompanied by a different pattern, a cross-movement, an echo that came from some unseen shore. I turned my prow toward it, hopeful, and began to row again.

My sail, useless, lies lashed in the prow of my canoe, where it has been these five days. It looks like a piece of sunrise cloud has come down to light there, red in the dawn. Later it will be my shade, unless there is wind.

I pray for wind.

Rowing, I can not bear the sun and the thirst much longer. Resting I might live, but would not live forever. So I must row now while the sun is low.

The bright light lifts over the horizon, making a river of gold, a line straight across the water from my canoe to the edge of the world. I marvel at the direction it strikes. I know where this river runs, I know the sea and how it lies beneath the stars, and for land to be in the direction I can feel the swells running means that the storm has blown me much farther off course than I ever dreamed.

I know this land ahead of me, though I have never been there. I know it because I know the chants, the chants that hold the knowledge of where every land lies on this vast ocean. I sang them in my mind last night, to keep myself awake as I lay in my cradle-canoe and stared at the stars, for to sleep, fully sleep, out here on the ocean is to loose my way. I know those chants, and they speak of this land, though I have never seen it, nor have any of my island ever been there. It is a place of legend only.

As the sun rises higher, more signs that I am near land. Sea birds stream from that direction, flying out to sea for a day of fishing. I see them moving as white specks in the distance. Later, a white cloud sails up from the horizon, passing over the place. Its belly shifts from the blue of the sea to the green of jungled hills. There is land there, much land. There will be fresh water to drink, and fruits to taste.

So I row, still, though my blistered hands ache and my lips are cracked and my mouth is swollen and dry. When the sun is too hot to bear I stop to get out my sail, to lash it to the mast and stretch it over my head, my own little red cloud while the others above me have all gone white.

I pray to the God that Hears Me, the Creator, that I might live to see the top of a mountain rise from the sea ahead. I pray that I might reach the sand. But I wonder, over all this vast earth, among all the creatures that must struggle and die today, why I should be spared. I, a man of the earth, who has ventured out onto this sea.

But no, the sea is my highway. The thing that connects all lands together. My road. I am its friend. It tells me its secrets, its ways. I have crossed over it, been carried from place to place. I may yet reach the shore.

I wonder if God can see me. Is He in the sun, staring down with a fiery, blinding eye? Or perhaps the ocean is His Eye, and I a tiny speck, drift across it as he stares into the heavens, the cloud and clear of the blue daytime sky.

And still I row and pray for wind. Perhaps I am already passed into the next world, but then where are my ancestors, who should have come to meet me? Do I row on this vast ocean for eternity, alone? Is this my punishment?

I pray for wind, and for sight of land.

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