Once again here it is 2:15 am and I’m sitting in the captain’s chair tapping out words on my phone to stay awake on night watch. I have a love/ hate relationship with my night watches. From now until daybreak the boat is mine alone. Solitude is a precious and healthy state in our modern lives, but we often avoid it like exercising because it is not always fun. Both take work. It is far easier to turn on the television or check out Facebook than it is to entertain yourself within your own mind.
Tonight the moon is one day sort of full and the decks and sea around me are are aglow with her cold stark light. My course just shy of south puts the moon’s glittering path across the water just over my shoulder. We are motoring and traveling faster than the mere wisp of breeze out here, mostly making our own wind through the sails that gives us some lift.
I see this world differently when I am alone. I take in the beauty and feel it the way you feel a close clap of thunder. Instead of being in a hurry, I have an abundance of time, often more than I think I want. But filling that time with close observation of the world around me often yields a profound joy I’ve only ever experienced when alone.
Other times on night watch I turn my mind inward and build imaginary worlds. My first memories of doing this are from when I was very small and we used to go on family tent camping trips in our station wagon and to pass the hours of driving I would make up stories starring little Christine who was always adventurous and heroic. My grown up versions aren’t really all that different as I create characters or places and flesh them out by trying on different scenarios like outfits to see what fits.
Last night I got to know this new woman. I met her in my mind and as the boat traveled more miles south, she slowly revealed her story to me. During my long night watch, I learned/imagined the story of the defining incident that changed everything for her. Tonight I want to go back and ask her about what came before. What had her life been like growing up? What was there that prepared her to be the survivor she became? How did she fill those long days, months, years of solitude when when she was utterly abandoned? What gave her hope? What promises did she make and to whom? If you will only please get me out of here, I promise I will…
Or was it the lack of hope or promises that made her who she became?
I started tapping these words on my screen after leaving my warm bunk and four good hours of sleep. I didn’t exactly leap up saying “Oh, yay, another night watch!”
But now I am wide awake and alert and ready to spend time alone inside my mind checking out what fits my new friend. I am reminded of something I used to play with as a kid. I think they were called Colorforms. It was like a plastic version of paper dolls with clothes and accessories. The plastic people stuck to the blank plastic backing and you could stick different outfits on them. That’s a version of what I do on night watch.
My fingers are cold. Time to warm them in my pockets and burrow into my mind. It’s already almost 4:00. I hope I have enough night left.