Colombia – First Light on the Sea
We entered the Colombian Caribbean sometime around 2 a.m. and he was just as tempestuous as I remember. About a year and a half ago, Gabe and I almost drowned going for a swim in Cartagena and many of the beaches of Parque Tyrona had placards warning of imminent death for those with an urge to take a swim. Only the gloriously aquamarine blue bays were safe to swim in… the paradisal view is still ripe in my memory.
The captain got little sleep during the night and, though I had retired to my room, I spent the majority of the time wide awake, listening to the pounding waves that echoed through the darkened chamber. It was enough to make me wonder if the boat wouldn’t fall victim to a similar fate as unweary swimmers and all I wished for was sleep so I wouldn’t be awake when the boat filled with water. A few fretful hours of slumber and I awoke, just before the break of dawn. There were signs of light peaking in through the overhead window and I decided I may as well watch the sunrise.
And so it was that I fell victim to the love that legends and literary works commemorate; it is not only men who fall in love with the sea. My first intention in getting up was filming, of course, and I did manage to grab some video and photo before I was overcome by an indescribable force that threatened to rip my entire being asunder. Never in my life, though I have often felt full of every variety of emotion through various mediums, have I felt something so powerful and pure welling up from inside of me, that sent me from tears to laughter and heart-throbbing elation as I was tossed, along with the boat, up and down by the sea. The next three hours were like some sort of inescapable trance and though I have little patience for religion, I can only assume, that my spirit element was crying out to me for the first time. Water. Why he so suddenly chose to manifest himself on this morning and none of the previous days is beyond my comprehension, though I’m sure he was partially goaded on by the Sigur Rós I was listening to. Sadly, I cannot induce the same experience in a reader through my writing nor can my photographs capture properly the immensity of the vision as the love of the sea is a visceral one, but I will try nonetheless to describe some of the journey and my thoughts for those who may be interested…
We’re sailing towards west (LOTR symbolism already! more to come…) so the sun rose from the back of the boat and I spent a few minutes sitting on the deck filming until I saw her rising like a fiery golden globe — I always think of her as Arien, but you may call know her as the Sun. She burns me worse than most because of my light skin, but I’ve always felt connected to her and consider her one of my dearest friends. Everyone loves the sunset and the eruption of color she sets forth as she goes to rest; it is indeed magical and I readily recall the finest I’ve ever seen on one of my nights in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. But, like Gimli with Galadriel, I have chosen the sunrise and I love her more because she is not for everyone. I have been endowed with the gift (and curse) of being both an night-owl and and early-bird so I’ve seen the sunrise shatter the clouds many a time. Her finest display, for me, was a morning on the South Island of New Zealand, but this one was like being endowed with a new life force rather than a pretty painting. I changed my position to the top of the boat, where I taken up the custom of pretending to fly while scanning the horizon. It was from this locale that I put my camera aside because I was inexplicably tearing up while watching the golden light rain down on the water. Putting the camera down intensified my feelings and with each rising wave I felt surges of joy jumping from my chest. Morning, however, was not bringing calmness to the sea and my position began to feel precarious as I turned to look towards the front and saw only a the rollercoast-like descent into the deep blue. Time to get down, especially since I had my camera with me.
I quickly placed the camera inside and returned, Sigur Rós still playing in my ears, to plant myself above the bench along the backside of the boat where I remained fixed for more than two hours doing nothing but staring out behind us at the silver light playing off the rushing current of water and wind that was speeding us forward. This time for me was like the minutes and seconds had turned to hours… an entire life age of the earth was passing before me. No nostalgia, no anxiety about the future, nothing but pure moment by moment life. It’s a rarity that I think most people have difficulty capturing. The thing about ‘the moment’ is that if you could feel the sheer power and beauty of every single moment on this planet, whether happy or tragic, its existence and consequential force would destroy you. This was the sensation that called for release, escaping my body in the form of tears, fond smiles at frolicking waves, stomach-churning awe, and shortness of breath (just to describe a few).
Beyond the molten mithril waves that transformed to chasing foams, my thoughts turned to the tales of The Silmarillion, so oft tossed to the side by most in favor of Tolkien’s more-beloved novels, but whose powers are those I have come to semi-worship. Tales before the count of time, the First Age, the Ainur and the Maiar, the Elves, and all things only true Tolkien nerds love (am I right Stephen Colbert?). Here was the meeting of Manwë and Ulmo playing out before me, they were always together the wind and the water, the strongest, and furthest reaching. And it was Ulmo who never forgot Elves or Men in Middle-earth when the West became removed. The notion that he was there and that I was sailing West pierced me more keenly still as I thought of the buried sea-calling all the Elves of Middle-Earth had. I know I’m small and a hobbit would probably be where most people would put me, but I have always felt the deepest love for the Elves and their ways. For many moments it felt like I was sailing home and if I closed my eyes I could see the grey-rain curtain open like a silver glass… the sharpness of this sentiment, even before now, has allowed me to call tears at my will to almost any occasion (why haven’t I taken up acting???).
“Legolas Greenleaf long under tree, in joy thou hast lived beware of the sea
If ever you hear the cry of a gull, your heart shall rest in the forest no more.”
The warning could as easily have been written for me. Forests have been my happy place since I was a child, wandering from childhood through the green lands of Sweden to the sunlit woods of Minnesota, then onto the vastness of California redwoods into a world populated by every type of tree from New Zealand, through Asia, Europe, and South America. I love the forest but now the peace and stillness will never return to me there. My heart cries out in pain to feel the raging storms and playful currents of the sea murmur that is now firmly planted in my soul… even past the setting of the sun.
Damn. Congrats if you made it through that! But I assure you it was nothing compared to what I felt; I was near hyper-ventilation and heat-exhaustion and had to sit on the bench for several minutes to regain control of my breath before remembering that I should probably put on some sunscreen on right about now and assuring Freddy’s dad there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.
P.S. Stephen Colbert do you relate your life like this? I can’t be the only one…
P.P.S. I wrote this on the boat a few hours after the experience and as I sit here my chest is still burning; I can hardly look outside at the sea without feeling the need to cry/smile/just breath all at once. Though when this piece is published or read I may be far away from my one and only true love.