Some choose to sit on the shoreline, resolved to merely watching the waves. I choose to chance the waters and I dare to dance the tides. I have never been one to settle in and make myself comfortable. I may rest this body on the sand for a time, drying out from the voyage I have taken, but I prefer to go with the flow and sail the seven seas. It would be easier, some would argue, at this stage of my life, to permanently take up fishing off a dock or a pier. Instead of collision with gale after gale, I should find a nice beach and retire my sails, they say. I cannot fathom a life on dry land, a life without knowing the wild, raging curls that lick at my hull and tickle my stern. I'm not even sure that I have an anchor left for to settle my boat in a cove or lagoon. I could caress them, but only then to drift away. The days I have left to travel the oceans will not find me stuck in some puddle of safety. I am at home on the deep and I travel so freely.The rougher waters I have known made my journeys less calm, less sure. The wind from the storm would not have ripped my sail had I not ventured out to face it once more. No safe harbour I have known; no escape from the relentless whispers of mist and breeze. Sometimes it seems like I have been sailing out on the waves forever, but I would not sacrifice this path even if it was to take me to the bottom of the sea. For all the riptides and every breaker, I go on. I could not float firm in anything less. Each shift, each commotion is like a lullaby, rocking me into sweet surrender. I am one with the journey; it takes me where it will. Past coast and lighthouse, beyond the most southern peak of a distant land, I challenge each tide and surf each flow always moving, always seeking some place I have never been before.
I’m not one to stand on the shoreline, screaming at passing ships, begging them to take me for a ride. I do not sit in the sand hoping for some reason, some purpose to dive into the water. Truth is, my life has been a constant motion. I would rather be tossed and turned, to struggle with the crashing waves, to fear the hidden reef. I would rather be abundantly soaked by abandon than to live my life just watching.
"I'm sailing away,
Set an open course for the virgin sea,
'Cause I've got to be free,
Free to face the life that's ahead of me,
On board, I'm the captain, so climb aboard,
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore,
And I'll try, Oh Lord I'll try, to carry on"
(Come Sail Away, Styx 1977)
The tickets were mucho expensive; especially considering the other two times we had seen her in concert. I picked up Ben at 4:15 pm as we had arranged. After a visit home for a quick change and our stuff, we headed out to see Madonna at the Air Canada Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto. It was a lovely day for mid-September and the 14th day of the 9th month held great promise, full of sunshine and an unseasonably warm temperature. I had lost a tooth earlier in the day; it cracked and found itself floating in a mouthful of coffee. I innocently assumed the day could not get any worse; so much for assumptions. We hit the 401 highway around 5 o'clock, stopped dead almost immediately by a harbinger of what was to come.
The comments started subtly, each of us taking our turn and venting it off. As the sea of cars and trucks thickened, comments turned to insult, then insult into yelling, our contempt for karma and time simply muffled by the glass of the car. You could tell we were not the only frustrated drivers on this paved piece of damnation. Face after face, at 10 miles an hour, scoffed and scorned and ranted on in silence. I saw less traffic in Los Angeles, travelling out to Hollywood on a Greyhound bus. Mile after mile after mile crawled on into forever, an endless ocean of metal and rubber tires. I felt like turning around and sacrificing the cost of the concert for simple freedom and a direct way back home. Despite the storm, we pushed forward.
Frustration turned to escapism when I suddenly jumped into a different pool. I sped off the highway, so sure I knew a quicker way. I was wrong. I failed to take into consideration all the construction the summer of 2012 had brought to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Resolved to my suffering, Ben led us back to the QEW with hopes, at least, of resuming the quicker way. With less than half an hour until the advertised show time, we slowly made it to Lakeshore Blvd. and even more traffic. I am a confessed creature of habit, most comfortable with the familiar, particularly in the dense congestion of a large metropolitan city. So badly I wanted to park where I normally do, but I felt compelled by my travelling companion and the clock ticking inside of my head. I jumped into the first parking lot I came across and paid $25.00 for the not-so-exclusive rights of leaving my car in the hands of foreign caretakers. We fell out of the car like whales beaching on shore, not yet defeated but well on the way.
I hid my wallet, foolishly thining that the promotional claim of "protected lot" would actually mean something for the price I paid. We hit the bank machine on the way into the arena, bought a few pricy souvenirs, and then headed to our reserved seating. As the stress of the journey withdrew like the tide, we sat waiting for her majesty. I left Ben glaring at the stage below us and headed out looking for the one thing that might calm my nerves, coffee. I wandered about, asking security guards and service clerks where I could find the Tim Horton's much promised on the marquee when we entered the building. Level after level, staircase after escalator, I was misdirected, misinformed and misled so many times I felt like Odysseus en route to Ithaca in Homer's The Odyssey. I finally found my Penelope, tucked far away on the ground floor, but refused to battle more than 200 Mnesteres for a mere cup of joe. I set sail back to where I had set out from, almost castrated and only worse for the $5.00 bottle of root beer in my hand.
It's ironic when you rush and rush to get where you are going, turning moments of tranquility into cries of despair, only to sit waiting for over 2 hours for the favour. Just after 10 pm, the lights cascaded, the music roared and a tidal wave of senses hit me like a wall of wet. Having experienced her at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) once before, and having travelled to Montreal for the experience the first time, the jumping, bouncing and gyrating fans in front of me did little but to amuse. I sat for almost 2 more hours taking pictures and video for Ben. Upon completion, with a ringing in my ears, we floated back to the vessel by which we had come. Once the car door was opened, you could instantly tell we had been pirated.
I was lucky enough to take my credit cards with me into the venue, but that did little to quell the raging sea within me. The lack of buried treasure did little to stop some intruder from ransacking through everything they could find. When it came down to it, nothing but my wallet had been taken, other than my pride and sense of fair play. Resolved to defeat, and chancing a dangerous riptide, I headed out, back the 100 kilometres to Kitchener but without my license. Ben was unable to help with any steering as the motion of this ocean made him rather seasick. We crossed over, back onto the 401, believing that after midnight would have cleaned up the damage of the day; to no avail. Right near
Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water, the water tried to come and carry me away. Although the next few days were spent productively restocking my new wallet, calm and peace were not long for my world. At first we thought that the water had turned on by itself, but withdrawing our black shower curtain revealed the soft and soggy truth. Throughout the day, older toilets had been replaced on the upper floors of the building. All seemed well with my crapper as the plumbers left and my coffee kicked in. Around 10 pm the floodgates opened, in the form of a giant inverted tit hanging from the ceiling over the tub. As it grew, we just knew that the roof was soon to cave in. I popped the paint udder like a bubble, not thinking of what might lie within. I guess I should not have assumed that it was my plumbing that was not working.
Once the ceiling was cut out and the water drained from the crawl space, I washed my arms and hands a dozen times, trying to scrub off the invisible shit. As I lay in bed later that night, I felt like I was 12 years old again, wondering why God was punishing me for something I could not imagine I had done. I felt like if karma was a bitch, she had consummated over and over with my leg, perhaps even my soles. I know there are bound to be rough waters in life. I know that no sea is constantly calm and smooth for sailing. I am well aware that if this was the worst series of events that could happen, I was lucky, lucky to have made it through relatively unscathed. As I tried to drift into slumber, I wondered if it was over. Was it safe to go back out onto the sea yet?
"Water turns cold and gets to freezing
Before you even know it the old girl's easing
Away from her berth round by the point and out of our view
Off in the mist her engines pounding
Back on the banks that old horn's sounding
A little good-bye
A little I'll do what I must do"
(River Lady, Roger Whittaker 1976)
You can spend your entire life on the shore, as ships come and go, or you can ride the waves and travel past the very same ships that might well have passed you by. A life on the sea has something wonderful to offer those brave enough to face existence without solid ground. The ocean can be your friend if you let it be. We are built for travel, built for speed, but there is certainty on the rocks and hills, assurance no body of water can offer. I prefer to take this trip with a different view. There is no need for some vigil, as I won't be home soon. It is a foregone conclusion that a ship at sea will never stay in one place. It will always find movement, always reaching for the places that it wants to be. We must travel with caution as the deeper we get, the easier it is to sink. Not every vessel we pass has our best intentions on board. The rush of something tidal can sweep you away and the sting of a whirlpool might get in your way.
“Morn on the waters, and purple and bright
Bursts on the billows the flushing of light
O'er the glad waves, like a child of the sun,
See the tall vessel goes gallantly on.”
(The Convict Ship, Thomas Kibble Hervey)
Port Burwell, OntarioAugust 31st 2012