These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

death by water

phlebas the phoenician, a fortnight dead,
forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
and the profit and loss.
a current under sea
picked his bones in whispers. as he rose and fell
he passed the stages of his age and youth
entering the whirlpool.
"Death by Water"
from "The Waste Land" T.S. Eliot (1922)

complete silliness, i know, but
i got to thinking last night after i finished watching "captains courageous" that lately i've been either reading books or watching old movies having to do with water, ships, sailing and death in the water.

last night i watched "captains courageous," as i mentioned. it was enjoyable, good acting and great sea scenes. the boat, during these times, kept rushing up over the waves, back down, rush forward, then follow the same pattern again. it's very dizzying. sometimes you see the ocean in the background meandering up and down. it makes you feel like you're on the boat. then there was death. manual (spencer tracy) climbs up the mast to work on the sail during the squall and ends up coming down with hte mast. he is cut lose and gently slides beneath the waves.

earlier this week, i saw "the mutiny on the bounty." it was an extraordinary film, also brilliantly acted by charles laughton and clark gable. once again, the waves crash up and down against the ship. in the background, the sea moves rhythmicaly as the men talk. also in this movie, a storm hits the vessel, waves crash over the ship, splashing men and boat alike. once, even, a sailor, while dangling from a rope, falls in the water.

but the water scenes are not relagated to the tv screen only. i've been reading "ahab's wife; or, the star gazer." while a vast majority of the book takes place on land, there are scenes where una goes to sea. once more lots of waves, storms and ice floating on the water. of course we all know what eventually happens to old ahab when the white whale catches up with him.

stil, it's been an interesting pattern for me lately. i think, other than finishing up the book, i'm done with water voyages and seas for now.

i've found the scenes fascinating to watch and enjoy looking at the vast sea as men look out on the ocean. at the same time, it scares me. i have such a fear of big, wide open expanses of water. i don't know if i so much mind being on a boat while on a lake or ocean, but rather in the water. i have a fear of the unknown beneath the waterline.

after living here a little over two years, i still have yet to enter lake michigan. i did go up to my knees on laketown beach, but that's it. one of the wacky thoughts is i'd finally decide to go out to holland state park and founder around, feel something on my ankle or leg, and discover it's one of the missing bodies of a person who fell off a pier or something. freaky.

or...even more ominous, is the lure of the lake. thinking of that scares me. it's sucha beautiful expanse of water, sun setting on it, blue surface, that it begins to call you. before you know it, splash. you're in. and you never come out again.

i think maybe i'll read moby dick soon.


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