Wind Shadows

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December 15th 2015
Published: June 10th 2017
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Geo: 12.4768, -61.4534

"Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I." This is a stanza from one of Christina Rossetti's famous poems, but given these weeks living on a boat, I would add two lines to it: But when the waters ripple through, The wind is passing by. Apologies to Ms. Rossetti. Has anyone ever seen the wind? It is impossible, of course, but then how is it that sailors are able to see wind shadows? Since I was taught what to look for, I have also seen these, what are called wind shadows. When you are looking out at the ocean, either sailing or already anchored, if you watch carefully you can sometimes see a rippling across the water that is not a wave; it is heading for your boat. When it finally gets close enough you will feel it hit and pass, and the boat will rock with the wind. What a lovely term 'wind shadow' is! The shadow of something that is not there, or at least not visible except in its effects. This describes quite a lot of the unseen human condition, experiencing the effects of things that are invisible: emotions, feelings, desires, fears, hopes, love.

This morning, as is typical for me here on the boat, I awoke at 4:15 AM, but instead of meditating or just sitting in bed thinking, I went upstairs and out on the deck to look at the stars and watch for any last lagging Geminids. What is it about falling pieces of ice or rock that enthrall us so? I sat on the port stern steps above my cabin, where Orion was busy falling into the sea. 45 minutes or an hour or so went by as I sat there, my neck aching from looking up for so long, early dogs barking, roosters crowing, lights from little shops and restaurants still shining much too brightly just behind the shoreline, anchor lights bravely broadcasting their ships' presence all along the bay. No one else on our boat was up. I saw six or eight more meteors before passing clouds rolled through. There was still enough night left to stay longer, but the wind had picked up, I was chilly in only my thin nightie, my neck hurt, and more clouds were wafting through. Now it was 5:30AM. At home I'd be up and working already, but our crew on this boat doesn't come alive until 6AM or so. So I usually meditate, or write, or watch the stars.

When I was a child my oldest brother, David, used to wake me in the mornings to see the stars and constellations, and to learn some of their names. As an adult I think I remember very little from those times, but who knows how much is retained in residual memories? Maybe those early teachings helped ease and solidify my learning star's names and constellations years later. I absolutely believe whatever we learn, however insignificant or esoteric it seems, is never wasted.

Even though the roosters crow at 4AM, in Grenada sunrise doesn't occur until nearly 6:20 or so. In our northern home, during these darkest days of the year, the sun rises well after 7AM and sets before 4PM, but here we are close to the equator, so daylight and darkness are almost equal year 'round. Happily, every day on this boat sunrises and sunsets are both acknowledged and appreciated. I enjoy each one, but the night sky holds me enthralled with its ancient stories and beauty. I only wish we could experience the enormity of the darkness the way it was before electricity. It must have been breath-takingly overwhelming and awe inspiring; I don't believe anyone experiencing primordial night skies could have the misconception of humans being the center of the universe or the most important things in it. Egos probably didn't even exist back then. I think people must have understood themselves to be a tiny part of the whole, only a small piece of creation. Or so I like to imagine.

Today some of the crew is leaving. Sue and Elrose, my new friends, are taking the ferry from Hillsborough back to St. George; they need to be home to welcome early Christmas guests, and so we are seeing them off. But they don't leave until 3PM, so we have the day to play in Hillsborough. There are several interesting shops here; the best is Patty's Deli, where we found almost everything one could possibly want to buy--except for fresh fruits and veggies, but there were wonderful Grenadan chocolate bars, mustards and breads, and even raw fruit and nut bars. (What a find!) There are other markets with fresh fruits and veggies galore, plus a delightful restaurant and refurbished hotel renamed the Mermaid, originally called Callaloo by the Sea. (A charming name!) We ate a scrumptious lunch there, looking out at the ocean, bittersweet in knowing this was the last time we'd be a complete crew; I was already anticipating the quiet and emptiness after Sue and Elrose left. But that is the nature of becoming entangled with other lives: we allow ourselves to love, fully knowing that there will come a time when we will be separated, and that it will hurt. But what other response would we want to choose?

December 16, Beethoven's birthday, was spent sailing to Petit St. Vincent (in the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines), an exclusive resort island owned by an American, directly across from Petite Martinique (in the country of Grenada), an island populated by mostly natives, and therefore much poorer financially. These two islands are so close in proximity--a dinghy can go between them, and yet enormously far apart in terms of socioeconomics. We took a morning to explore lovely Petite Martinique, walk some of its roads, and eat at the Palm Beach restaurant right next to the beach. Chickens and sheep and little boys wander through the dining area; this is definitely the locals' favorite spot to gather and eat. The next morning we dinghyed over to walk the beach at Petit St. Vincent. Here even the sand was softer; we were not allowed to intrude further than walking on parts of this beach, although people anchoring in their waters are allowed to spend money at their restaurant or at the beautiful Goaty's Bar. Even though the security guards on PSV were very friendly, I find such exclusivity disturbing. Who should decide who is greater or lesser than another? Aren't we all equally human, regardless of wealth and/or power? How did this separation first happen? Or is domination and marginalization of others an integral part of human nature? Such are my philosophical thoughts when anchored between opposite ends of the human condition, looking between islands, one of wealth and one of near-poverty. Who is the happier? Who has the more content life? I ponder these questions as I sit in a beautiful boat, looking over at the shining lights on the native island of Petite Martinique.


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