Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Boat Of Longing

"A fine ship, all lit up, faint music coming across the water, the sounds of people laughing and singing, the craft steadily cutting through the still waters..."

Biking down the Rum River trail on a winter's night, you must forgive me if my mind wanders during the trek. The recent warm weather has caused the river to have a lot of open water, and where the trail skirts the shore the fog sits quietly and creates a fantasy-world. The trail is usually empty at night, especially in the winter. The feral cats are still active, black forms moving in the shadows, and in a stand of white pine an owl is heard, questioning my trespass.

"...He pulled harder on the oars. Up the billow, into the trough...onward...farther onward...nearer and nearer the beautiful castle west in the sea...the castle which lay in the twist of gold, the castle where dwelt his boy. But the billow rolled so chill..."

Dreams come and then vanish, like the fog on the river. Those dreams that stay, that haunt me with an unbearable sadness, are the ones where my boys are young again, five or six years old. Their unselfconscious beauty and joy is lost forever, and for this loss I cannot be consoled.

"And the night closed in. That [he] did not notice. He only saw the castle where lived his boy."

On a perfect summer's evening, the kids and I are fishing in a bay. There are deer browsing on the shore, unafraid of the boat and its occupants. The sun touches the tree-tops across the lake, and we raise anchor and head back to the cabin. I blink, and find myself back on the trail, heading home on the narrow black ribbon that snakes between the fields of snow.

"...On he rowed, and on, farther and farther into the skyline, out to the Great Ocean itself..."

-quotes are from "The Boat of Longing" (Længselens Baat) by Ole Edvart Rølvaag, 1921

By Professor Batty


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