A few months after The Big Birthday and still slightly reeling from the shock, finally the winter pea-souper of gloom is dispersing, the Reset button is loosening up, and the boulders are more disposed to be rolled a little closer to the top of the hill. Vamos!
Thankyou for joining me in this, my first foray into Blogdom, and seeing what the turning patterns of the world, especially the joys of nature and creativity, look like through my own idiosyncratic kaleidoscope.
The world-as-a-cushion is showing where my next mini-adventure lies. Its twin is aboard the good ship Blue Zulu, a 51′ ketch captained by my Salty Moreton brother and crewed by his family. At this moment, like tomorrow, they make their way up the huge locks of the Panama Canal from the Caribbean, along with gargantuan ocean liners, before dropping down into the Pacific Ocean a long day later. You can follow their enviable maxi-adventure on their lively Salty Moretons blog. Shortly I’ll be joining them for an exciting sail from Panama to Galapagos, like Darwin did in 1835, only from a slightly different angle. After a few midnight circular arguments with myself I have booked flights, and now have a short time in which to relearn any little Spanish I once knew, become (a waffeur-thin mint of a fraction) thin(-ner) and (a smidge of sweat) fit(-ter) and tackle the huge pile of overdue paperwork and exhibition preparations, all in an unrealistic sliver of time. Almost enough to make me retire to bed with the latest unmemorable whodunit, but no; not this time! Avaast ye life-gobbling pirates!
So what’s it all about? Why step away from beloved dog and a fridge full of cool insulin, miss a half-term of teaching an after school art club and the first block of a printmaking course that’s taken a couple of years to set up? They are in good hands, and will come back to me next term. I have clever cool bags for the insulin. So why the worry? John Masefield needed only “a tall ship and a star to steer her by”. He revelled in “the vagrant gypsy life, the gull’s way and the whale’s way and, where the wind’s like a whetted knife”. Brrr! But he wanted punctuation, too – to return home, or at least to a cosy hostelry to swap stories and to sleep.
W.H. Auden suggests that “To discover how to be human now is the reason we follow this star.” I believe his star is Christmassy, but the three wise men may have a thing there. We all need a personal star to follow – a mission to lead us onwards. How can we be better at living this life, big or small? We might take up Sir David Attenborough’s challenge of picking up the plastic litter we see, so it doesn’t make its way into the rivers, the oceans, and eventually into our own food chain, wreaking havoc on its way. Perhaps we can try to be more mindful and appreciative along our current path. It’s easy to catch the Eeyore-like cynicism that abounds, but that’s life-shrinking, not life-expanding. Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner can tell us all about that (and boy, did he – he stoppeth one in three of the unsuspecting wedding guests, and shook them with his tale. Note to self: is your audience only listening out of terror?). It was as he spotted that the “slimy things [that] crawl with legs upon the slimy sea” were actually “O happy living things! No tongue their beauty might declare!” What happened next was the game changer: “A spring of love gushed from my heart and I blessed them unaware”. Only now could the unfortunate albatross fall from his neck, could he sleep, could his ship move towards shore, and the Rime end slightly less awfully than otherwise.
I hugely hope the Galapagos Waved Albatross will be following us untroubled by crossbows, and we can learn from the angst of the fabled mariner rather than reinventing that ships wheel for ourselves. It is after the March (we are talking right on the equator, so Summer, not Spring) equinox that these critically endangered birds regroup on their breeding colony on Espanola. Probably closer to May, truth be known, but I live in hope. I met some of their number four years ago – I wonder if I’ll meet the same individuals again. That was bit later: in June when they guarded their egg, keeping it from frying by sitting down with feet stuck straight out in front, breast feathers teased down as a cooling cosy. The birds are as unafraid as most Galapagos wildlife, not having had a need to flee from land-based predators for the aeons of their occupation. They look you in the eye, as the Earth might, or perhaps David Attenborough (this is true – I once met him at a book signing for Life on Earth, and he seemed genuinely interested in every life form, including one shy and adoring teenager). I found myself replying (to the albatross, not to Our Dave), “Sure, I’m not busy. I’ll do my best to help you survive.” *adds to mission*.
However it takes shape, the adventure will be an immersion in family life, and in an astonishing part of the world. I’ll revel in it all and return with full sketchbooks, ready to share the treasure, refreshed and thoroughly reset!