The Same Boat


In Florida we embark on summer’s long, liturgical Ordinary Time as a voyage on the strands and foils of a variegated sameness–sun-buoyed air that yields ninety by noon, storms by five and somber evening skies. Part clockwork, part kaleidoscope, we navigate the elements laced around the odd hurricane and accrete the heartbeat of a six/eight seaborne shanty. After twenty-five years its rhythms return like a friend who reminds you of your best self. You sail, you smell the salt, you chart by stars and passing islands. Even down below, out of the sun, you feel your feet. But in this story, Ordinary Time is still three days away.

“I want to go to a movie,”I said to my wife. “The Tom Cruise flick. Edge of something.” The residual emotion from an argument with my son had short-circuited my recall.

“Tomorrow,”she said.

“It opens tonight,”I said as I walked away, at once glad she either did not hear or restrained from engaging. The demand to see a movie was a self-prescribed distraction after the phone tilt about a car repair, a car that seems irreparable and the onset of guilt. An instance overblown into raging crisis by the expectations of a father for a son who is so much like him. We go and it helps. Cruise is infected with alien DNA that allows his days to recur postmortem. He dies a thousand deaths and with each new life remembers better where the beast is hidden. It saves the world. That was Friday. Saturday morning I reviewed a script for Sunday about Pentecost wind and fire and three thousand births and I went adrift on something that felt like Melville:

“…for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.1

Ordinary Time is winsome and resists particular answers. It blows out of the west and is the flash of the morning sun. It is the fump and skush of oars in a dead calm and the groan of rigging tacking into a gale. It is form, via negativa, by elements both unsubstantial and powerful. It is the strange exhale of letting high ceremony unfurl into open life. You need room to take it in. By Monday I texted an apology about love that is too often too loud. His answer returned like the wind in my sail. “I am grateful for every day,”he said.

1 Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick

(Painting by Edward Hopper)


bear water

I leaned in, only inches from certain death. A thin slab of glass was all that separated me from nearly five hundred pounds of claws and teeth. It was a rush standing there, stared down by a creature of immense power. Even with the many safety precautions that zoos maintain, it’s hard to avoid a visceral apprehension when confronted with an animal that could easily take my life. Though I understood well the security of my position, my recognition of and respect for this potential remained.

What are heroes for?

27 phoropter_big_o

I hope it’s no spoiler to consider for a moment how the structure of BBC’s Sherlock has become more self-aware. To be sure, Doyle’s original mediated our view of Holmes through Watson’s frame. (“As readers, we are always aware of Watson,” Mark Gatiss, one of the show’s creators, said in a recent documentary). The new series, in one sense, simply increases the frame rate: stories collapse into other stories, or rather, they hurtle out of one another, like the creation of an erupting phoropter, before being unified to a single point of focus in the thrilling final moments, when the truth is seen. 

Fairy Tales, for Life

24 Fairy Tale1

It was a hot summer Saturday when I uncovered a book of fairy tales at a vintage shop. It sparked a conversation with the shopkeeper, who asked me to recommend fairy tale books for her two young daughters. They wanted stories about fairies, princesses, dragons, witches — stories about adventures and quests for true love and truth.