Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hear the Swish of the Prow

Hear the swish of the prow moving against the dark foam of the icy waves, as the ship heads into the fog, icebergs floating by, the wind blowing through the braided hair and rime-coated beards of the sailors. See their looks of wonder as they move slowly but steadily into the unknown, across those waters where maps say there be monsters. Feel the religious wonder and awe they feel in the discovery, in that perilous process of penetrating the never seen waves that lead on to mystery. Watch them pass shoals of fish, and the curved fins of dolphins cutting the waves, as the sailors feel the floor boards of the ship rumble and undulate across the waves, their feet bringing up unspoken knowledge that beneath these waves lie behemoths larger than dolphins, for this is the whale-road, a path where humans are guests and the creatures of the deep have their sport and cold untold travels. Feel that strange mixture of marvel and fear they feel as they shiver with the thoughts of those whales beneath, their gallop on the wave-horse their worship of Njord.

For some, their eyes wander in the daze, trance-lulled by the great bobbing of the briny mead, thinking thoughts of home, thoughts of destination, letting the cold tell their bones they're real, and relishing in almost nonchalance their slow gradual growth into the strength of a maturity hardened against the weather, ample enough to swallow a little bit of the storm the world throws their way and digest its rough edges without flinching. These are big men, not big in girth, though some are, but able to embrace dissonance, journeymen stretching their talents towards the masterpiece of mastering difficulty, and drawing joy from the clash. Going out to meet the stone of the cliff crags, the roughness of reefs, the ice of the bergs, the relentless salty sleet and sharpened brisk breeze that stings into aliveness, in order to find what's real, to know the edges of the world, the shapes of the basins, chasing the fleeting horizon where sky touches water, to know the forms Gods shaped with terrible, loving hands in the dawn of time.

And the Captain gazes out, his eyes searching through the fog for lunar beams in the night, as that moon-ship sails the higher oceans and beams forth ivory rays gently silvering fluorescent through the cloudy mist, a guiding light. His figure upright and strong, straight with sternness, eyes that have known a dozen battles, yet soft in their curiosity, and the heart thumping, onwards, onwards the call pulls him out towards his uncanny destiny, and he carries the hopes of the crew on those strong shoulders. They hold cargo, they seek adventures.

The first mate dreams of encounters, strange ones in strange ports, herbs and spices from unknown lands, foreign feel of eyelashes against his cheeks and skin different than his own, the way only sailors can know strangers, and the crew's strong arms will grasp and love strange flesh with the desperation only the sea can breed, for the sea has no arms, no legs, no torso to grab and stroke, no lips to kiss, and they would love the sea, so any stranger is a stand-in, and this is a kind of worship. Then his thoughts shift as he thinks of the clash of swords, the clang of iron in a brisk fight, the way melees can turn and spin the whole tenor of a mission. The possibilities of booty, great treasures, each with a name and destiny and past, a heritage to be adopted into the family like a foster son to add its luck to theirs, and they will bring this back, if they can, for loved ones. And they will etch the name of their bride upon the rings. And the loneliness carries the love as the ocean holds the ship, medium and vessel, and in the emptiness there is vast fullness, a fullness so vast many cannot fathom. That fullness, found in eerie emptiness, the chilling lull of wide-open spaces far from home between encounters, calls them like some siren song.

And the fog rises up like steam in Aegir's cauldron, as if the sea were raining upwards into the skies through cloud. This fog defines them, speaking so much of their Northern soul, and in the fog they feel the future, feel it with fingers that stretch out, although they cannot define it nor see it with their eyes. It lies just beyond. For the future is unwritten, or rather it is written and etched on the autumn leaves of surprise falling unbeknownst and hither-thither from the Great Tree. The great-grandchildren's grandchildren will live in a world much like this one, yet changed in all ways, changed. Wyrd keeps turning. In slow ineluctable turns pulling in more into the weave, and the weft gets more complex, and the patterns of surprise turn kaleidoscopic on that terrible, immense loom nine leagues below, beneath musty roots, in the land where ancestors walk. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow. No matter how much time has passed. This is religion, feeling out the future with shadowed eyes through fog, and longing to touch that never-reached horizon. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow. Even if days come when most have forgotten, when axe- and wolf- age have spread ruins across barren plains, there will be eyes that wonder, that wish to know Odin's workings in the world. And they will find it here, out on the sea. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow.


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