Thursday, March 27, 2008


From being everything, the sky slips too easily into nothing. It makes us die a little, I know—all of us—as we lose the horizon. We wake one morning, and the day and night have gone. They are now just arbitrary measurements, relative to nothing.

On this so-called morning, the 15th day of our voyage, we have lost our sense of identity. There is nothing, now, for us to frame ourselves against. We rely on manufactured points of reference; a magnet against which we plot our path; these maps spread like hope across entire cabin floors; using time and blind deduction where we would have once used our eyes. The grey-white stretches out forever, or perhaps just as far as we can see.

I am fortunate to have suffered this fate a number of times, and even though I know I can survive it, this does not make any difference each time it begins. At first, I think the ship is creaking—pressed between two muscled waves, then I realise it is the dogs, below my feet, howling low and strange. It is no wonder, the blind captives we have made them. This canine moan will be a sound we will learn to regard as natural, as the wind whipping our hair against our ears, as the pillow-snap of sails: another frequency with which to contend. A body’s rhythms change on such a journey: normality broken, collapsing back against each other, like ill-met waves before a storm.

And so I am first to-decks this morning, and I do not blame any other human head for remaining longer than usual under blankets; the urge to remain within dreams, or the darkness of your eyelids, is as strong as any drug when the alternative is a morning such as this. Sleep, now, is a vanishing world, but one in which you can at least feel safe.

My fingers stretch deep within my greatcoat, and I move—just for the sake of moving—across the grain of the rear deck. For the next five months, this sixty square feet of timber will be my observable world. It is far worse to remain rooted to your cabin bunk than to be up here experiencing something at least different to what you would on land. To many, they try to replicate, in their quarters, the exact conditions to which they are accustomed in their bedroom or their study in their own houses. This is not travel—this is ignorance. No matter how trying the circumstances, travel is an experience to be savoured, not an inconvenience to be endured. It is not as if every one of us on this voyage did not know, from the very earliest mentions of its planning, what we were to expect should we agree to join.

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