Why do people write blogs? More importantly, why am I writing this one? My ego is hungry enough to dine pleasurably upon the compliments of people that tell me they like this entry or that. Comments usually pertain to my writing style or some of the pictures I post, and sometimes it's just that they enjoy sharing my adventure. It is great to have such vicarious crew along, since I am, by-and-large, doing this solo.
There was a news article on NPR this morning about bloggers that are starting to self-censor their posts because of the brightening spotlight on surreptitious government surveillance. It evokes fear that something they write will, by some twist of federal paranoia, label them as jihadis. That made me realize that I do, in fact, suffer some indigestion from my own fear that what I have written of late might bore, if not actually offend some of you. With no real adventures to share this past month or two, I have indulged in some thought experiments that diverge from the travel log discourse. Response has been muted to those posts and I wonder if they're too heavy. I do, however, want this blog to be more than a travel log.
There are several cruising blogs that I follow, ...Estrallita 5.10b
, Bella Star
, and others..., and I get a lot out of them. Their anecdotes warn me of risks to be avoided and mistakes that, even forewarned, I will surely personalize in my own, idiotic way. Their photos stoke my eager anticipation of ports yet unvisited with gut-fluttering visions of white sand, blue water, and palm trees gently curving to one side or another under the moderate insistence of a tropical breeze.
Does it reflect ambition beyond my rightful expectation to think that I can offer all that and more? My opinion of my own knowledge of seamanship, though spread out over over four decades, is modest and untested beyond a few tens of miles offshore, so I actually only hope to take my readers on an adventure of self-education, if not folly. I compare my writing style to that of the authors I read and am embarrassed by my crude attempts at literate story telling.
If you've already read this far, you have at least faint lingering hope of reaping some small entertainment, though it is perfectly within your rights to abandon me to writing that may only reflect confusions of my own making. I hope, instead, that you're already so invested in following my tale that you'll either leave your thoughts on my doorstep as you turn away or blunder on with me over the ocean world I intend to explore and the insubstantial abyss of ideas that lies beneath its watery surface. Foolishly daring to mix my metaphors, I offer the following allegory from real life.
My brother, Russell, was into polishing rocks for a while. I suppose he still would be if he hadn't worn his little, hobbyist's machine to the nubbins. The poor thing toiled away hour after uncountable hour at the far end of a work bench in his cataclysm of a shop. For a year or so I contributed to his tiny version of Sisyphus' labors with donations of pebbles, stones, and rocks from my various beach landings around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. Although I supposed some of the morsels I hauled back in Zip Loc-sized bundles to be valuable agates, most were just small accretions of sediment that had been hardened by the pressures of overbearing earth into capsules of geologic time, then broken and rolled into rounded submission by the incessant waves of passing and distant storms.
Rose quartz striped with jagged white veins, surfaces dusky red from its tumble in the tides, would be unceremoniously herded into the black, mayo jar-sized plastic canister in the company of dark basalt, speckled grey granite, and assorted chunks of unknown, mongrel mineral ethnicity. Though you might argue that he only delegated his creativity to a mechanical understudy who slaved tirelessly away, forgotten among the havoc of misplaced chisels, used up sandpaper, and the curled offal of wood shavings that so often overruns his shop, I would counter that Russ' rock polishing was an artistic, if absent-minded endeavor. It was never wholly forgotten, tossing in the back of his mind along with the constant, low growl of the rock polisher's electric motor while he indulged his dominating passion for wood.
It may be the first time I've known him to refer to his work in such terms, but Russ joined some of his friends the other day in an "art" show. Undoubtedly and justifiably proud of his work, Russell normally refers neutrally to the urns and bowls and platters he makes as turning and to himself as a turner. (The photo at the top of the post is of one of Russ' "boxes". More can be seen on his blog at News from Knobstock
.) He'll probably, in his contrary way, try to be modest and argue with this statement, but I venture to call his work art and him an artist. Nonetheless, he would not dispute that he gets great satisfaction, even joy out of the transformative power he feels in spinning bark-hided, squared-off chunks of ash, fungus-ridden oak burls, and sanguine purple heart into vessels of beauty and function.
I have recently been prone to discover odd artifacts of Russ' presence huddled in the recesses of my car's armrest, skulking in the folds of his living room sofa, or going to seed in a potted plant on his kitchen counter. Marbles. Pretty sure it had long been unlikely, if not impossible to catch him kneeling in the dirt in ragged blue jeans and a dirty, striped t-shirt shooting squint-eyed for his buddy's best cat's eye, I asked him why he had them lying about. "I put them in bowls," he said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
Well, on the surface, it is. Deeper than that, though, I am interested in the contrast it evokes of a bright, perfectly manufactured sphere rolling hard against the soft contours of shaped wood that flows with the irrepressible variation of its grain, one of nature's most inspiring materials. I'd be willing to bet that Russell has taken up this practice of putting marbles in his bowls with this specific juxtaposition in mind. The marbles are, in my opinion, an inadequate substitute for the polished stones that played the same role in their hey day, and I wish he'd resume the practice. Emerging from his rock polisher several weeks after their first incarceration, the shiny nuggets added a happy clash of contrasts to the presents he made of his work to my brothers, sisters, and daughters.
Although he deserves it, my intention has not been to praise Russell for his creativity, but to impose on him as a tool to explain why I inflict this blog upon those same brothers, sisters, and daughters, ...friends, acquaintances, and unknown victims. Various of my confidants may recall that I've been complaining of my lack of good ideas for ways to make something more of my blog than yet another realtime travelogue of a sailor's waterborne adventure. The fact is that I hope Mabrouka will play the part of the rock polisher, with the long, quiet hours providing the opportunity to tumble rough stones of thought about in my head, bashing the jagged bits off against one-another with the passing waves, to be offered as small, polished stones for you to roll about in the smooth curved bowls I might fashion, however crudely, to hold the tales of our adventures on the sea.