Thursday, March 26, 2020
My father was a sailor. He often entertained me as a boy with tales of the sea, of adventures in exotic ports: Bermuda, Oslo, Copenhagen, Majorca, Naples, Venice. His voyages at sea were only 10 years in the past and still tangible to us both: I played with the shoulder boards from his uniform, worked the knob on his shortwave, tapped his telegraph key. Dah-dah-dah, dit dit dit, dah dah dah.
He'd also talk about the more practical aspects of sailing, how ships would have to be occasionally hauled out of the water and repainted, the barnacles scraped from their sides.
"If you can figure out a way to keep barnacles off ships," he say, "you'll make a fortune." And I'd grab a crayon and a pad of paper and design systems for peeling the tenacious little crustaceans off the hulls of my triangular vessels, with scrapers and nets and such. It passed the time.
I thought of dry dock Wednesday, passing the Landmark Inn, Northbrook's downtown bar. They were taking advantage of this enforced idleness to replace their old deck—why not? No worry about customers blundering into the work, and a way to keep busy, not to mention a vote of confidence in the future. We'll need the deck by summer.
With our 24 hour, global economy, we've lost the natural rhythm of voyage and port, work and repair, sailors and farmers. We don't spend the winter mending nets and sharpening plows. I don't want to romanticize that life, a hard life, I imagine, but there were fallow times when everything shut down and you did repairs and carved scrimshaw and told stories, resting and waiting.
We are in such a time now.
So we wash our hands and swab questionable surfaces with antiseptic wipes, keep track of The Situation and monitor The Crisis , which feels, to me, as if it is just beginning, rather than just ending, as the president imagines and would like us to believe. I'd say come Easter he'll look like a fool, but he looks like a fool now, to those with eyes to see.
While hunkered down—I'm going to prepare a post on that word, "hunker," I've been hearing it so much—waiting out the storm, listening to the wind pick up, there is only so much news you can absorb—I haven't watched a second of the president's endless propaganda sessions, some reaching 90 minutes, rants that edge into Castro territory. Just seeing the aftershocks through social media is enough. Why gaze directly at it?
"Teach us to care, and not to care," T.S. Eliot writes. "Teach us to sit still."
I like the idea of dry dock, of off-season and hibernation. We are instructed to keep to our homes, and I largely do that, with breaks to walk the dog and, today, to walk one of the lovely Dominican Republic cigars my son brought me—save your lectures.
Yes, it's scary. Only a fool wouldn't be scared, and we see those aplenty. My gut tells me they will be scared too, eventually, as understanding dawns, too late, gasping for air in the parking lot of a besieged hospital.
Before that sets in, we are all suddenly rich in time. Why not use it, best we can? The temperature hit the 50s today and I went outside and put on my elk skin linesman's gloves and started to finish clearing out the garden, a task I abandoned last October. I don't have an expanse of hull to scrape, but there are leaves to rake and branches to clear, a winter's worth of trash that has blown into the woods alongside my yard to be picked up. There are things to do in every household, and why not pull yourself away from this social media thing and do them? That's an order.