Thursday, April 8, 2010

Getting Lost

One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.

Andre Gide
Today's entry is a boatload of events.
My brother's boat
The moose tracks
The German man
The cliff
The mariners.
The writer
I watched the approach and docking of the Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Sauce Station yesterday. For me one of the most fascinating things about it is when the shuttle first appears. The Space Station cameras are focused out into the void of space and suddenly a very small pinpoint of light appears and gradually grows larger. The Space Shuttle is more than 40 miles away from its destination. The astronauts are safe, snug and cozy inside their vehicle. But is the vehicle safe inside the vast sea of space? Even though they can still see the earth as a reference point, getting back to it involves a long, complicated process.

My brother Henry was a sailor. After he left the Navy he worked in the advertising business. When he retired he bought a small sail boat and moored it on the shore of Connecticut. He enjoyed taking people out in it and spending a night at sea. He told me that one day he had an advertising executive as a guest on the boat, a former colleague of his. When they reached a certain point out on Long Island Sound they could no longer see the shore. My brother's friend panicked. He couldn't bear not knowing where the land was, where the Earth was. So my brother turned the boat around and headed back to the Connecticut shore.

One bright summer day I was hiking a trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire when I suddenly came across moose tracks on the trail. I got very excited because I thought I was actually going to see it. I had never seen a moose any where but in a zoo. Although they occasionally have their bad days. Moose are gentle giants, big benign, herbivorous creatures who are no threat to humans. So I followed the tracks hoping I would catch up to him and observe him, from a respectful distance of course. But either he was too fast for me or he was successfully hiding. I didn't see him. So I turned away from the tracks and found I had wandered far off the trail. There I was in a sea of trees not knowing where my trail was. I hadn't noticed that the moose tracks crossed some other tracks and so following those tracks by mistake got me confused and they took me into outer space.

So I had to find the trail again if I expected to get back to civilization. It took some exploring but I eventually did.

I was walking through the Soho district of Manhattan in New York City one day. When I got to the corner of Houston and Sullivan Streets I saw a family on the opposite corner: a man and woman and three children. He was staring at a map. They were obviously tourists. When the man saw me he crossed the street and said to me "Excuse me. Vitch vay iz vest?" I pointed west and said "That way." He thanked me and rejoined his family. They didn't want to go "vest" they just wanted to know where they were. They were lost in the great cosmic sea known as Manhattan.

On another day I was hiking the same mountains in New Hampshire when my trail came across a cliff. It wasn't a large cliff but it was big enough so that I couldn't quite step from one side to the other. Even a taller man than I would have trouble with that cliff. It was sheer, with nothing below it but outer space. I could see a foothold and a handhold on the other side but I had to leap to get there, a leap of faith. I stood looking for a while. If I missed I would plunge down to certain injury, probably not death. I contemplated whether I should try it or turn back to the Connecticut shore. Finally I took the plunge and made it across.

On the way back I faced the same cliff but since I had made it once it no longer frightened me and I jumped across without a slip.

I sometimes thin of the sailors of the past, setting out in small wooden bottom ships with very little but the night sky to guide them through weather that sometimes turned the waves into mountains and sheer cliffs. Not knowing where they were going, how long they would be at sea or what they would find, they discovered new lands. They also discovered that the Earth is a globe, a globe the astronauts can now look at from outer space.

As a writer (published some day, I hope) I face the open sea of a blank page every day. I don't know where I'm going, how long it will take me or what I'll find when I get there, but I consent to lose sight of the shore for as long as it takes.

Sometimes I feel lost in space with nothing but a flicker of light in the distance. I get confused and lose a train of thought and want to turn back. I face having to write things that seem too difficult for me and want to avoid them. Sometimes I stand at the crossroad of ideas and don't know which direction I'm going in.

Ideas run the world, some wise man said. Ideas can come from peering in a map, steering through mountains of waves, on a forest trail, on the edge of a cliff or while lost at sea. The expression of those ideas through art is the discovery of new lands.

In the Autumn of 1960 I began a journey hitchhiking across the United States from Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California. It took me two weeks. I didn't know where I was going, how long it would take me, what would happen to me along the way and what I would find. I had never been further west than New Jersey.

Using the memories of my adventure as a plot, I have sent my comrade, invention and friendly Frankenstein, Brian Sims, on the same trip and written about it. That long story is now finished and has taken its place in The Brian Saga under the title "Brian On The Road."

DB - The Vagabond

May you suddenly trip and fall into a pool of happiness.
(This is not a contest.)

In your opinion what is the most amazing thing that could happen during this decade? Make it as outrageous as you want but keep it within the realm of what you consider a possibility.

Only 4 responses so far.

Answers will be published the first day of Summer.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

Fascinating entry db. I am very cautious and never want to lose sight of my anchor telling me where I am. Hard to believe that in today's world we could have fleeting moments of not knowing where we are with satellites, GPS, world phones, street cameras, spy planes and microchips charting our every move. When I fall asleep on the bus and wake up startled to find I do not know where I am, I become a bit frantic, searching the horizon for something familiar to ground me once again. Not often that I get to lose sight of the shore, but when I do, that mini second can feel so freeing. An amazing breathless feeling.

Judith Ellis said...

Love the various vignettes that are beautifully connected. It's a wonderful journey, DB. Love the Gide quote too. Thank you.

Gerry said...

I am feeling rather lost tonight in a whole lot of events I can't put into my blog involving crime, law enforcement, drugged out neighbor, possible invasion of my apartment so I am trying to think where is this all going to end without anybody else getting hurt (somebody is already dead because of it). I spent the afternoon visiting a long time friend in here who came home from the hospital to die. She is going on a journey she knows, but says she is ready, she is nearly 80, is refusing chemo now, made her peace and now the strangest most mysterious journey of all will begin for her, I brought her water, hoping to put off my own journey to the stars a while longer.

Nina P. said...

I love your stories of Life with all the twists, turns, fears and joys...
"Brian on the Road" sounds like a story that should be read by many... a mystery, an adventure, a biography, an inspirational tail to enlighten those wandering through life, a story of overcoming fears to challenge the world. I love it! Blessings to you and yours. Love and Light, Nina P

My Spring event would be building bridges... Bridges to cross countries, cross barriers, cross cultures, bridges to close the gap of hate to love, close the gap of differences to see the similarities of all... I'm Building Bridges...