Comes A Time (again)

“This morning…I felt a longing for the sea. It has a great cleanliness. There are moments when everything on land seems to me torturous, dark, and squalid”

               — Dr. Stephen Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s “Post Captain”

Just as there came a time to leave Lerwick, Shetland, and also Bodø, Norway, now comes the time to leave my home here at Plum Island, Massachusetts. It’s time to hit the road — er, water — again. Tomorrow morning I’ll head to Boston and board a midday flight back to Reykjavik, Iceland.

The original plan was to fly to Constable Pynt, Greenland, on Saturday and rejoin Polar Bear, the boat having journeyed there in my absence. But the boat was unable to push through the sea ice last week and was forced to return to Isafjördur on the north coast of Iceland. So I’ll fly there Saturday morning and we’ll shoot for Greenland next week.

Frankly, I’m psyched. I’ve heard that the flight to Constable Pynt is one of the loveliest in the world: winging low over the ice cap and mountains of Greenland. But I’d rather my first view of that strange land (not counting the times I’ve seen it from 36,000 feet) be from the deck of a boat. There’s just something unique and enticing and captivating about making landfall in a new place.

“It was not that he did not like the land — capital place; such games, such fun — but the difficulties there, the complications, were so vague and imprecise, reaching one behind another, no end to them: nothing a man could get a hold of. Here, although life was complex enough in all conscience, he could at least attempt to cope with anything that turned up.”

               — O’Brian writing about Capt. Jack Aubrey, also in “Post Captain”

I’m looking forward to getting back to the simplicity, the clarity, of life at sea. I’ve loved watching my beloved Red Sox have a great July, but this being connected 24/7 — via phone, Web, text message, email, radio, TV — is just too much. I detest the Pavlovian way we respond to the ringing of a bell or the “you’ve got mail” sound. And though it’s my own damned fault, I just get too distracted — I’ve missed writing day in and day out.

And perhaps that’s what the point of this interlude was (in addition to taking part in the beautiful wedding ceremony between Deana Moody and Tom McLaughlin on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire): to realize that once I return to the “real” world for good, I need to knuckle down and apply myself.

“It’s easy to be a wise man in the mountains,” say the Zen monks. Maybe the corollary is: it’s easy to write regularly when you’re on the sea.

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