The Promised Land
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"In that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again."
So felt Meursault on the eve of his execution, and so we felt in the bed of the swerving truck. If this was to be our final moment, at least we would spend it laughing…
I can't remember setting off from Tortola. It was as if I had suddenly awoken from some bizarre dream to find myself safe and home in my bed. As I lay there wedged against the lee cloth, I lingered for a while feeling the gentle sway of the vessel beneath me before hauling myself out of my hole into the open air. The clear and empty line of the horizon in all directions affirmed my feelings. I was home.
Although I was unaware at the time, in that moment the waves of homesickness that plagued my journey had finally abated. There were no dormant expectations in the back of my mind of who I might become. There was no obscure existential dilemma to be considered. I had developed the skills, both physical and internal, to be perfectly content. I knew not only my position on the earth, but my place in the world. For the first time in my life, I was free.
In the course of life, people often take trips that lead them to a new perception of the world, or a new dimension of their personality. Maybe they travel for a few weeks or a few months. On some level, this tends to have a profound effect on their understanding of the world around them. However profound and clear those visions may be, they are often doomed become faded fragments of an incomplete process.
We are social creatures above all and it's important to understand that we are measured beyond any selfish perceptions, through the eyes and hearts of those around us. We return to our routine having mistaken the trailhead for the mountaintop, and soon enough the glimpse of Truth is lost to a schedule of mundane and unfulfilling activities. Others expectations of who they have understood us to be, overtake our new-found sense of self, and the Truth that resounded so clearly fades to a muffled cry. Thus we return to our routine and forget the greater quest.
I was on an extended expedition, hell-bent on finding the true nature of my reality and forging a new path for myself. After half a year at sea, none of my peers or family at home could detract from all that I had accomplished or who I had become. My family on board were of the same mind and ambition. Together, we tore up thousands of sea miles on what we quietly understood, to be the final leg of our odyssey.
There was great peace among us, even in moments of peril. The adversities we encountered were matter of fact instances that were dealt with swiftly and decisively. There would be no stopping us from reaching our final destination.
In retrospect, I suppose we were already there. That fickle mysterious place of peace that we all search for in life, was among us. Our minds had become unified in our common goal and at one with our reality. The vessel around us, ever in motion, seemed to transcend time and space. In the rift between stars and sea, it seemed we could sail on forever and into eternity.
A pit stop in the Azores, a repair in Portugal, the rock of Gibraltar, lava flows on Mount Aetna, all were mere road signs on the path to our Captain's place of birth.
“Can you see the light?” Jiorgos asked.
The Ionian islands speckled the horizon as the mountains of Peloponnese towered in the background and faded into the sky. I nodded in solemn agreement, though in reality, it would take me several years to truly understand what I saw.
The dramatic landscape slowly grew closer until it enveloped us altogether, offering the first glimpses of the ancient mysteries it held and hid. All that we had passed through to arrive in this place became a distant memory as this new chapter began.
Jiorgos' father took our bow line as we came alongside the bulkhead in Lefkas Marina. I'm not sure who was more proud in that moment, the father or the son. They beamed at each other and shared a long embrace whence each of them forgot the struggles of the world. Both men felt for a moment, that all was right and safe in the universe.
The evening that followed was filled with laughter and cheer. The kind where all other guests of the restaurant, wished to be dining at our table. We feasted and drank and were merry until our bellies could handle no more. Then we returned to the vessel and slept the kind of dreamless slumber known only to those who have run life's gauntlet and emerged unscathed, but forever scarred with the knowledge that the world is beautiful, great and wide, and a single lifetime is not enough to drink in the entirety of the experience.
The following morning, we slipped our mooring lines and made way for the Corinth canal to begin our final descent upon Athens. There, I would take my leave and wander the country alone for a time.
The reflections of my walkabout led to the realization that it was time to wander home. I had been traveling for more than a year. Somehow, breaking free from the waves of homesickness that had eroded me for so long, left me feeling that it was time to go and see my family.
I remember Jiorgos’ reply as I explained this to him. After a long, thoughtful pause and a sigh, he said,
With my sea bag on the quay, and a Taxi waiting, I hugged Jiorgos and Kerstin for a long time. It was no easy farewell, nor was it particularly sad. All of us could feel in our hearts that we would meet again. All of us were strong. We knew our power. We were ready and steadfast for whatever it was that would come next.
All of us, had been to the Promised Land.