07 November 2009
the lonely sea and the sky
near Taieri, New Zealand.
What is it about the sea and the sky that exudes such loneliness, and why despite the hollowness of that theater do we long to fling ourselves into it?
English poet laureate John Masefield captures it well in twelve lines. His poem "Sea Fever" begins:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a gray dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
While broad tundras and dense forests and empty steppe offer parallel remoteness in some parts of the world, the sea and the sky bend solitude into an untenably alluring arena. Open. Free. Unpeopled. Directionless.
I am reading the autobiography of Francis Chichester, an early aviator and sailor, and I'm aching to fly again. When I first arrived, I stopped by a one-room airport in Oamaru and took a 172 up over the gravelly braids of the Waitaki River in northern Otago. I haven't been up since, although yesterday I received a package from home that contained a balsa wood airplane. Almost as good. Southwesterly winds were blowing a constant 30 knots and gusting to god-knows-what. The balsa wings stayed in their hangar.
Next week, Omarama is hosting the South Island regional gliding championships. I'm headed that way with the only pair of wings I've got.