It is said that sailors spend one day out of seven sailing. That’s because it takes a day to recover from the sail, and five to recover from the drinking. A day of preparation, and they are ready for the next sail.
Lately we have been in Port Elizabeth, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for two weeks. And it has been glorious. The island is very walkable and hikeable, the people are magnificent, the sailing community is strong, and the simple pleasures are abundant. And though we are not recovering from drinking due to sailing, we are moving about.
Bequia, as noted, is a walkable place. There are walks to the windward side of the island, walks to the turtle sanctuary, walks to the fort, walks to Mt. Peggy. It is a perambulator’s paradise full of panoramic payoffs. So we set out on one of these walks on a recent Sunday. And this is the part of the writing where I insert lovely pictures of flowers and lazing cats and smiling locals waving us in for refreshing rums to sustain the balance of our wanderings. Except it is not.
In writing, there is something called metaphor, where the writing describes—in detail—the events and the actions, and those things become representative of the deeper things, the deeper forces at work in the world. In other words, the humanity. And the reason for writing is not to share muffin recipes or chatter about the weather or anything else. Writing exists to reckon our humanity.* Our consciousness. Our very being. Why we are here. Not, “What does it all mean?”; rather, “Why does it mean anything?” Writing concerns itself with the human condition, even on the basic-communication level.
And so we had a nice walk with fellow cruisers. But something else happened. We talked. We listened. We stopped and faced each other. I sometimes wish I could float imageless above humans, observing them in their natural habitat, interacting with each other, gesturing, circling each other, watching each other. I don’t know what that observer would think, but I can tell you what was going on between us: I can best describe it as humanity manifesting itself in the shape of love as we created a shared experience, something specific to us alone.
Okay, I am just going to tell you the story of what happened at the end--the metaphor part. We returned to Port Elizabeth from our extraordinary walk: Let’s get a drink! So we walked over to Coco’s, a local restaurant. The bar was open, but Coco (a charming man of indeterminate age) said that the kitchen was closed because of a private party. No worries! Rum punches!
The private party that was going on was for the granddaughter of Coco’s lifelong friend, who came over and introduced himself to us, and it turned out that he knew one of our closest friends from the merchant marine. We all sang “Happy Birthday” to his granddaughter, and then they cut the cake, ate, and announced they were going to the beach to continue celebrating.
This is when Coco came over and said, “My friends, are you hungry? Because I have so much food left over from the party, I would like to make up a plate for each of you, but not for money! No money!” Yes we were famished. And we were humbled at Coco’s generosity. He presented us with heaping plates of local cuisine, and we dove in gratefully.
How can I frame this in a way that it is something that it isn’t? In other words, how can I create some metaphorical (read: clever, MFA in Creative Writing-level rendition) expression of what happened? I can’t. It’s useless and futile to do so. What happened was a deepening of human connection between us and our friends on the walk, and between us and Coco (and by extension, the good in the world).
Maybe the metaphor is just that: there is good in the world, and you create it by going out and finding it. You create your own reality. We did not go out that day looking for friendship and welcoming and kindness, but that is what was heaped upon us. Maybe we have opened ourselves to that. That is why we are sailing. That's what the camino means to us.
*I would argue that muffin recipes and the weather are critical elements of our humanity.