I have yet to cross a whole ocean without using wings and a rather larger jet engine, but I am glad to have had the aerial perspective on them – the infinity of blues and greens and greys, flecked with white cresty bits, stretching out below, an immense watery blanket over the Earth. Talk about making you feel super small as your eyes struggle to pick out a container ship which you know in real terms must be massive.
They will certainly seem so if I happen to bump into one while heading to Mauritius next year in my wee boat. And wee she is – just 6 metres long. Yet sitting inside the cabin the other week when I went to visit, it seemed (dare I say it?!) spacious. I could sit upright with my legs outstretched and not have to hunch or squash myself in. I digress – the point is, that on my wee boat that ocean is going to seem mighty big and wide. And still, in my very excitable stage I can’t wait for that point – to be out of sight of land, and therefore safe from the coast and its dangers, and also well and truly underway. I am sure there will be many moments of missing family and friends, yearnings for fresh food or a bed that doesn’t move, but right now I am buzzing from the build up to it all.
My excitement for the first out-of-sight-of-land moment next year was re-awoken when I came across a quote that a very dear friend of mine had sent me. Walter Raleigh says it in ‘Elisabeth: The Golden Age’ (2007) , talking of discovering the New World. Now, while I don’t expect I will be discovering any new physical landmasses, (even though my geography is somewhat lacking!), I imagine I will discover new sides of myself and my perception of life, the universe and everything – this is a journey in more ways than one. One which, I am sure, will exhilarate me, exhaust me, inspire me, scare me, enthuse me, drain me, ware me, teach me, heal me and remind me each day just what it is to be alive. And what it is to cross an ocean, too, living the adventure that has for so long been in my head and my heart. Happy days indeed.
So – here to Monsieur Walter and his wisdom.
â€˜It begins with a journey. You must cross an ocean. Can you imagine – can you feel – what it is to cross an ocean? For weeks you see nothing but the horizon. All round you. Perfect, and empty. Your ship is small – tiny – a speck in such immensity. You live with fear, in the grip of fear – fear of storms, fear of sickness on board, fear of the immensity. What if you never escape? How can you escape? Thereâ€™s nowhere to go. So you must drive your fear down, deep into your belly, and study your charts, and watch your compass, and pray for a fair wind â€“ and hope. Pure naked fragile hope, when all your senses scream at you, Lost! Lost! Imagine it. Day after day, staring west, the rising sun on your back, the setting sun in your eyes, hoping, hoping â€“ At first itâ€™s no more than a haze on the horizon, the ghost of a haze, the pure line corrupted. But clouds do that, and storms. So you watch, you watch. Then itâ€™s a smudge, a shadow on the far water. For a day, for another day, the stain slowly spreads along the horizon, and takes form – until on the third day you let yourself believe.
You dare to whisper the word – land! Land. Life. Resurrection. The true adventure. Coming out of the vast unknown, out of the immensity, into safe harbour at last. ‘