Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I love the holidays. But, as I'm sure is the case for many people, they are bittersweet. In addition to the joy I feel being around loved ones and eating food and looking at lights and glittery paper and ribbons, I also reflect on those lost. Bittersweet. On my way into work this morning, I heard this poem and it rung so true. Anyway, not much more from me today, just this:


I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book's end more beautiful.

—And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, "I'm only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It's turning cold."

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That's the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage—

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it—

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

"Voyage" by Tony Hoagland, from Hard Rain. © Hollyridge Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Interestingly enough, my granddad was a ship captain. So was my uncle before he retired. My dad was in the Navy too. In her early twenties, Mom sailed from L.A. to Australia on the beginning of her great adventure that eventually led her to my dad in Spain.

My uncle posted this photo on his Facebook sometime this summer... it's of him on his ship in Vietnam. He met up with my dad there - he's in the reflection.

Granddad had Alzheimer's and many of my more vivid memories of him were in this state since I was old enough to remember. He told this amazing story about when he first left Norway to work on a ship, they still sailed on masted sailing ships. I'm sure it was part of some sort of hazing ritual, but when he was young, they dared him to climb up to the uppermost mast and balance there, entire ship and ocean below, on his belly. Crazy. Crazy what you remember when everything else is gone... Crazy how many life-changing moments in my family, on both sides, began with a ship.

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