|Here's a story that I wrote a while back. It should go with out saying that I own the copyright, although the idea comes from my friend Val Hodge-Williams.
clip art from Microsoft Publisher
t didn't look to be different or special as wood mosaics go--just a sailboat, and a rather abstract one at that, sitting beside an odd shaped pier, with a very plain house almost out of the picture. And two seagulls added on top of the mosaic as if an afterthought. What struck me next about it was here it was hanging. It somehow seemed out of place. It hung in a group of paintings and drawings and on the whole blended well into the modern furnishings of the cottage. And yet it seemed to say look at me, come aboard. I'm waiting to take you away, take you out to sea, into the storm, to where you have to go.
stood transfixed. I couldn't move. I was fascinated by that boat. Its every curve, every line, somehow seemed to be a part of me. I had never seen it before and yet already I could feel its deck moving under my feet, smell the salt air, feel the spray. I knew the feel of the wheel. I knew how it would cut the water. It had to be real, I had to find it.
was never comfortable after that. I would always come back and stand and look at that boat. And every time, the feeling came over me. I had to find that boat.
here were thousands of boats in the harbor, and I spent days searching in the vain hope that it might be somewhere in the harbor. I took drives up the coast and down--spent days at a time stopping at every marina--walking along the beach--looking for that boat. I knew I could not be content until I found it.
he summer had promised happiness--lazing in the sun, writing at my leisure--but every time I sat down to write I could only think of that mosaic and the sails unfurled, billowing in the wind, waiting to take me away. I became possessed. Soon it was all I could think about. All my thoughts were on it. I could only think about where it might take me. Zanzibar, India, a completely deserted island. I imagined storms--sliding down one wave only to be lifted up again in a Sysifean cycle that never seemed to end. But no matter how long the journey lasted the provisions always seemed just enough. Just as they were low, I sighted land. And then it would end--I never landed--the dream always ended--I never arrived--It was only a journey. And again I would be on the dock and the boat would always be there, beckoning me aboard, ready, fully stocked, to go again.
oon I came to expect these trips into fantasy. I would awake in the morning--eat some breakfast--then go and sit and stare at that boat. And dream. It was during one of these spells that she came. She knocked only very lightly at the door. But I heard it. That timid knock that seemed as out of place as the mosaic had first appeared to me. She was beautiful, but I didn't notice. I only saw her long red hair that was as heavy and turbulent as every storm I had sailed through on my ship. I don't know what she wanted or what we talked about. But we talked, and ate together, and walked together along one of the many paths that led through the dark, hot, wind-shaped forests that led from my cottage.
he stayed with me and I wondered if she noticed the mosaic and if I should tell her about the ship and my trips aboard it. I decided against it for I had become strangely possessive of its mystery. In the days and weeks that passed I thought less about the boat and spent very little time looking at it. She took all my time and I soon began to be able to write again. She loved my writing and soon I fancied myself falling in love with her. I would spend the morning writing out by the sea, and read to her all afternoon. As the summer drew to a close the thought that I might have to leave her and the lazy days in the sun behind began to grow in my mind. As we took our afternoon walk on the beach I tried to find a way to tell her that I didn't want to leave her. But I had to leave my cottage by the sea. I had to return to reality and the life I now almost hated.
s we walked I only remember following her down to the beach. The beach where I had walked every day before, and once--it seemed ages ago--looked desperately for the boat that was now seldom on my mind. We walked by the pier and boathouse and down to the rock that had become my favorite place to sit and watch the sea--to watch the waves pound desperately at my feet, never tiring, slowly, molecule by molecule taking my observatory out to sea.
, too, was being taken molecule by molecule into the mysterious world of the sea. Being captured by the haunting, possessive power of those waves. I watched her for what seemed like hours, staring out to sea, her hair tossing about her shoulders, lapping at her back, until I fell, mesmerized, into a turbulent sleep. When I awoke, she was gone. I got up and walked back toward the house, thinking she must have thought my sleeping unnatural and rude. I wanted to apologize and explain about the ship and how she reminded me of it. But as I passed the pier I stopped, paralyzed. There was the boat in the mosaic. I started toward it and suddenly stopped. Was it an illusion, was I dreaming, was I still on the rock asleep? I couldn't move. Had it been there before? Where did it come from? And where was she? I was torn. I should go back to the house and find her, only somehow I knew she wouldn't be there. And I couldn't leave that ship. Slowly I walked out to where it rose and fell--waiting at the end of the dock.
s I got closer I noticed that it wasn't tied. Its sails were unfurled, blood red, straining at the rigging and yet it just stayed there, waiting. I called out, and got no answer--I didn't expect one. In fact I knew there would not be one. And I knew every little nook and every line on board--I had sailed her many times. But only in my drams. Yet was this, too, a dream? I took one more look at the house, wondered where she had gone. I thought about my apartment in the city, about my friends, my job.
hen I was aboard. It was just as I knew it would be. I looked below and found every thing ready for a very long voyage. I wondered how it got there, why I hadn't seen it before, where it would go. But I didn't care. I had to be there. I had to take that journey. I had to go. The sound of seagulls broke my trance and I went above.
saw nothing but open sea.
by Bill Butler, circa 1977
inspired by Val Hodge-Williams