June 4, 1999
Hawaii to Tarawa Voyage, Update #33
Day 32. Friday, 4 June 1999 0316 GMT
Wind ENE 4-5. Heading 195M.
Latitude: 11deg 06.953N
Longitude: 171deg 37.388W
Blustery day. Trades have kicked back in complete with frequent dousings down the hatch onto my head. Seems like there's never a perfect day to be had out here, there's always something to grumble about.
Following on from yesterday's topic of being alone on this voyage, and in fishing around for suitable parallels to make sense of it, it occurred to me how this existence is a bit like being a ghost - both to myself and perhaps those from my 'past life' also.
May 3rd I left everything familiar to me, pedaling out into this strange, nether-nether world where I can hear the voices and visit the places dear to me in memory, but can't actually be there in substance. The first month alone is the toughest: like a drowning man I've been clawing desperately at the disappearing threads of my past life, trying to keep the old reality alive. This is the stage of haunting my childhood, rummaging through boxes of freeze-framed images and sound-bites of school and home, searching for missing pieces to the puzzle of what I was back then and what I am now, taking a sort of 'posthumous' inventory of myself. Then after 4 weeks comes the acceptance stage: the letting go, release and surrendering to the ocean I mentioned in an earlier update. This is a threshold point at which the drowning element is finally suffocated. The sensation of panic is replaced by a warm, cozy feeling like a return to the womb, and the ghost ceases to haunt its previous life and is free instead to face forward, embracing the brave new world of the ocean.
Except of course on this voyage, assuming the ocean will let me pass, I get to be resurrected back to my former life when I hit land - in a sense reborn. It is this way at the end of each extended voyage - everything will seem brand new, crisp and sharp like I just walked off a space ship. I will be struck with how beautiful and vital things I usually take for granted are - and set out with a spring in my stride to put into effect all the resolutions I made while out on the ocean. The degree to which I surrendered to the ocean during the crossing will determine the degree of re-birthal back on land. Its old wisdom - nothing new here: in order to really live, it is first necessary to die - perhaps even on a regular basis.
I guess the bottom line here is that every animal needs to shed its skin once in a while, become a 'ghost' to itself by stepping outside the familiar and take a good look from a different perspective. Ancient cultures still practice it I think - the Aborigines of Australia go walkabout, the Plains Indians of North America will go on a Vision Quest - but it seems like we've lost the art in the west. Places like this - the ocean, the desert, where ever - are useful spaces for the purposes I mentioned above. For me its not about pedaling a boat from A to B and having a nightmare in the process. It's about trying to learn the art of how to live. And being alone for certain periods is - for folks like me anyway - an essential part of this rather tricky process.
CLASSROOM EXPEDITION: End of the Week Tidbits.
I know that some of you are breaking for the summer vacation today - so its been fun having you on board. Enjoy your summer, don't do anything we would, and maybe we'll catch up for the next voyage later this year.
ANSWERS to YOUR QUESTIONS:
Q. What is it like being alone on the boat?
A. See yesterday's update
Q. Are there any major adjustments needed from traveling solo on the ocean as opposed to on land?
A. They are two very different environments so it's hard to compare. But traveling alone on land I was always more vulnerable to being taken advantage of - on the ocean there are no humans, so in a way it makes things a lot easier. But in many other respects, traveling solo on the ocean or on land is very similar.
Q. What is your daily diet as a vegetarian?
Today's breakfast: porridge oats, nuts and dried fruits.
Lunch: left over pasta and veggie-fry from last night.
Dinner: re-hydrated carrots, broccoli and onion, marinated tofu (good for protein), lentils, wild rice all mixed with nuts and dried fruits.
Q. Any problems/pluses with nutrition?
A. No. I do take vitamin and mineral supplements. But by and large I'm eating better than I do on land.
Q. Is food a psycho-carrot for you?
A. Definitely. The more I get into the voyage and the more my body eats into its reserves for energy, the more food becomes a motivating factor.
Here's a excerpt from Arthur Grimble's 'A Pattern of Islands' that can be read out to the class, on what teenage kids in Tarawa did for 'fun' earlier this century: hunt for octopus that can grow up to 9-10ft long! After reading the piece, discuss what 'trust' means to you and whether or not you would trust a friend to do what would be required in hunting octopus.
"...they hunt for it in pairs. One as the bait. His partner, his teeth as his only weapon, as the killer. The human bait starts the real game, giving himself into the embrace of octopus' waiting arms. The killer must wait until his partner's body has been drawn right up to the entrance of the cleft of the reef. The monster inside is groping then with its horny mouth against the victim's flesh, and sees nothing beyond it. The killer then dives, lays hold of his friend and jerks him away from the cleft; the octopus is torn from the anchorage of its proximal suckers, in the same second the human bait turns on his back, exposing the body of the beast for the kill. The killer closes in, grasps the head from behind, wrenching it away from its meal. Turning the face up towards himself, plunges his teeth between the bulging eyes, and bites down with all his strength. That is the end of it..."
The Moksha motor
Posted on June 4, 1999 3:20 AM