indian ocean

Outside this window #50

Outside this window the air wears its autumn filter: blue, bright and crisp. The sun’s warm smile is fading. She becomes increasingly distracted with us; she shines over us but her mind is elsewhere, wanting to warm someone else’s day.

I’m in the studio reading a few different things for breakfast; having a graze before I disappear beneath the surface. Does history make for an inevitable outcome. Does our human nature doom us to repeat the same cycle. No one knows the answers to these questions for certain but if we look over our shoulder we see patterns. All these virtual vapour trails, so pretty, form unlikely roads leading to a destination. If our collective history is to be regarded as saying anything, the roads are unrecognisable and intricately linked, and our destination is usually destructive. What I can see so far I don’t like very much; a hint towards my future position. There’s nothing I can do, other than treat uncertainty the same way I treat venturing into uncertain waters: pick your mark on the shore, check the time and see how long it takes you to unknowingly be moved away, then move yourself back to where you chose to be. And repeat. And repeat.

When I still swam in the ocean, the water’s ability to move me away from where I wanted to be without alerting me, fascinated me. I was never moved anywhere that was good for me. I was moved as a precursor to being swept out to sea, where all the great white sharks live.

The sweeping out to sea bit was always vague but the bit where I’m out at sea is pretty clear. Fatigue from squashing the sense that something is Wrong. Looking up to distract myself. Big sky. Admitting to myself something is Wrong. That cold clammy hand of fear gripping the back of my neck, my entrails… the fight against panic. The endless silence of deep water. Feeling watched. Paddling back to shore. Feet tingling. Trying not to look. …no thank you. Choppy water was sneaky. It was powerful. And it was indifferent to my petty needs. So it became a game. My mark was the old yellow and white lighthouse.

Sometimes the wind, backspray from winter waves and stinging dry sand made it impossible to imagine venturing into the ocean without something telling me where I am supposed to be. The water wanted her way. On those days I went with her, one eye on the lighthouse, watching the seeming unrelated sequence of how quietly she manipulated and manoeuvred me right across the beach. Nothing is unrelated. All roads lead to a great white shark trailing me to shore. She waited for me each time I marched myself back to the lighthouse, wading through shallow water, pushing against her, showing her I was on to her game. Each march was a victory. Ha! I will not be fooled. I know where you’re trying to take me. And I know if I don’t remain aware you will take me — even on those days where nothing appears amiss.

What if I had no marker? I dont know. Can’t imagine. I always had a structure anchoring me to shore. I was a bit of a daydreamer so maybe that’s where it came from. My marker gave me control. The illusion of control? Green grass and all that: maybe its liberating and as nature intended to be marker-less and at one with the ocean? Surely if you venture out too deep you’d know about it. Maybe my marker OCD is a fear based thing and I need to be more … spontaneous. In the moment. I’ll never know because when it comes to swimming in the ocean choosing a marker is as vital as wearing a bathing costume.

The essays I’m reading this morning ask us what our markers are. Or rather, they tell us what their markers are, and how their markers are markers for all of us. According to historians the choppy white water breaking across the world heralds destruction, and their words point back through history dusting off example after example highlighting how humans have survived yes, but at the time it was happening most believed they were witnessing the end of the world. And who wants that on a Wednesday morning. Or any morning.

I wonder: would we know? Do we see we are being swept away and think we have plenty of time to swim back to the lighthouse, or do we look up and not recognise anything around us, and try and remember where we were when first we entered the water? Do we ignore it and figure we’ll be alright no matter what?

Do we care?

When do we begin to care.

Does caring help us. Do we feel safe. Do we feel unsafe. What do we do. What’s going to happen. What if nothing happens. What if everything happens. What if we miss it. What if we pick the wrong side. What if we are wrong. What if we are right…

The lighthouse steadies me. No matter how the water churns and tries to spit me out, the lighthouse keeps me anchored to shore rather than caught up in the washing machine waiting beneath a breaking wave. I am not stronger than the ocean. I cannot change what’s going on in the world. I am anchored by a choice; this invisible umbilical chord tethering me to something solid as I splash around in the water. No matter how high the waves and how mad the tide smashing into the stone steps near the rocks I am tethered to something safe. I am not at the mercy of a mood — or a noisy cowardly narcissistic business man with a god complex, smeared with fake tan.

Outside this window is a beautiful Friday morning. And lighthouses. Lots of yellow and white lighthouses marking the choppy waters we navigate home.