Saturday, July 14, 2007

Long Bay, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: E-SE 10-15 knots, gusting to 20 at midday

On our little plastic boat today, we settled down into our infamous waiting game. The weather forecast is just a tad more windy than we like, so we’ll sit it out, wait for a dead calm day or close to it. Our next goal is an overnight passage, our first since the Gulf Stream, so there’s no reason to rush it. We fall into laziness a little bit when we’re anchored and waiting: I let the dishes sit for longer than I should, books and magazines litter the cabin, and the interior slowly falls into chaos

It’s all right, though. I continue to remind myself that I’m in paradise, the bright light glittering off the aquamarine water and the white beach, the gentle lapping of waves against the dinghy’s stern, the tangy smell of salt water as I sit outside under our shady awning, the brilliant, liquid heat against my darkening skin as I sip our too strong coffee in the mornings.

I’m reading a great book called The Dolphin Reader, which actually appears to be an English composition college textbook. It’s one of those books I’ve been carting around with me forever and hoping to read, but never have had a chance. I always believe that I’ll read them at the right moment in time, that my awareness and the book’s art will intersect each other at the perfect moment, the fated moment, when I’m ready to here what the book has to say. That’s why I cart them around with me, from state to state, country to country, continent to continent.

This one’s particularly good, a collection of essays from throughout the twentieth century arranged topically. Combined with my continued New Yorker reading, I’m blinded by great prose. Essays are a particularly interesting art form. For one thing, many of them originate as something else: a letter, speech, column, chapter of a book, or (dare I suggest?) a blog entry. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a “person of letters” in the old-fashioned sense, someone like Carlyle, Keats, Samuel Johnson, or Leonard Woolf. These people thought and lived brilliantly, and then they wrote it down in letters to their friends and family, private journals, newspaper articles, memoirs, and essays. They’re the people no one reads anymore and everyone should--we’re entranced instead by novels and poetry, if we can find any time in our digital age to read at all.

I want to be one of them. I’ve always envisioned vast volumes of my posthumously published epistolary prose (hasn’t everyone?), but they seem to be something else that computers have done away with. Sure, I’ll pick up a copy of the collected letters that Simone de Beauvoir wrote to Jean-Paul Sartre, but the “Complete Emails of Melissa A. Jenks”? Come on. Let alone “Distinguished Web Journals of the Early 21st Century.”

Still, though, one must aspire to greatness. As usual, as my contact with civilization recedes into the far past, and I think of my month-old emails being deleted silently, without protest, by AOL, I feel more and more isolated in my writing. Even if I write it, will anyone read it? Who can afford the time to spare? I know that there’s enough material published every day to keep one reading for the rest of one’s life. That’s an immensely discouraging statistic for an aspiring writer. How can my few jots and tittles, no matter how carefully wrought, stand up to that? Especially if I keep writing and hoarding 700 words a day, only to offload them in one giant month-long dump.

Karl keeps insisting (as my muse) that I must have faith. As Kevin Costner so famously said (but has anyone really seen this movie? Not me), “If you build it, they will come.” I keep writing my prose in the face of the darkness and the silence. Maybe someone will read it, and keep reading, and know how it feels to be out here in the sun and the wind, to feel the tingling of starshine against their skin as they dive into the limpid nighttime water.

Even if no one does, at least I had an insane surf and turf for dinner tonight: a giant steak as tender as filet mignon, two grilled lobster tails, mashed potatoes with basil, and coleslaw with two-month-old cabbage. Maybe it’s God’s way of rewarding my effort. “Here,” he says. “No one else might think you’re doing a good job, but I do.”

1 comment:

bob said...

Hey, I'm reading it. Since your entrance into the Delaware Bay.