Thursday, November 15, 2012

There's No Place Like Ithaca


Today I sat on the bowpulpit, all the way forward on our boat. I was like a figurehead on Phoenix. This far forward, no motor exits, only motion. No occupation with digital displays of position, speed and wind direction. The only sound is what wind ruffles past my ears and the waves splashed by Phoenix’s way through the water.

The Turkish mountains slid by slowly, sunned to a dark yellow, almost ruddy color. It suddenly struck me that the landscape was receding, passing. I was now returning home. The voyage was not developing but entering its long end. We had reached the apogee of our voyage, the point most distant, and now we were on our return.

“Wish for the road to be long,” wrote the poet Constantine Cavafy.

Our road had reached its furthest point. Not at Fethiye, our last harbor, but farther east. We had reached our apogee without me recognizing it as such and yet remembering it vividly. It was when we had taken the overnight bus to Cappadocia. And once there, were taken by jeep at dawn to a launching field for a hot air balloon ride. At the point where the balloon lifted us into the heavens, I remember looking over the edge of the basket at the dry dirt. As the balloon lifted just inches from the soil I said, “It’s inshallah now.” We were in God’s hands.


It is beautiful and more inspired than I ever could have designed myself to have our furthest point from home on this sailing voyage manifest after traveling west by land and returning east through the air. More often than we can appreciate life provides us with beautiful geometries of perfect balance.

Now, sitting on the bow, was our first westward passage by boat.

There is a mixture of sadness and joy at this time. Sadness that this is as far as we will go. Joy that with each passing day, I will be closer to home and family and community and a life that is more marked by what I know than what I don’t.

It wouldn’t really matter how far we went. I wondered, as I watched the ruddy cliffs and undulating blues and whites in the water below, if I would feel any differently if we were circumnavigating. Even then, I concluded, I would have – in my over-intellectualizing way – figured out the meridian of polar opposition and had the very same thoughts.

“Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.”

So continues Cavafry.

I will try not to hurry the voyage. I am enjoying the new people I meet. I am enjoying the new customs I am learning. I am enjoying the new landscapes.

But it is hard to deny allthe other feelings accompanying this point in time. I miss Ithaca and all it represents. You, who live there, take it for granted. It’s human nature to do so. I’m sure that once back, I will too. But for right now, I urge you to appreciate your Ithacas. Your homes. Your routines. Your knowns. Your easy’s. Your boredom. Your laundry piles. Your ugly grocery stores. Your lists. The regular news cast. The fridge that doesn't close without an extra umph. The same old coffee. The same old choice of three favorite restaurants or something quickly shoved in the oven. The dog to be walked. The trash to be walked out. Staring out on your bare branches waiting for snow. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting for spring. The shoes that always clutter the entrance. The language you know. The signs you hate. The short cuts which are no longer short enough. The cars. The streets. The people. The politics. The pretension.

Thank you. Thank you for thinking of all that right now as good and comforting and providing structure and routine. Even the things we don’t like give us something to fight against.

Because you thought of those things, you reminded me of them. You reminded me of how much you deal with them every day. And how much you have grown weary of them. By thinking of them, you reminded me that what I have out here is different.

I will be with you in Ithaca soon enough.

For now, I am reminded to enjoy the Turkish mountains sliding by and the reflective colors in the water creating Rorschach patterns.

6 comments:

rtzuio said...

sorry für mein literarisches unwissenheit... aber mich interesiert: Wer sass an der Pine?

judymac said...

Enjoy the journey....love your home

abbot said...

WTF ?

you guys went on a ballon ride and offer no pics ?

abbot said...



.... and your map is nearly 2 weeks out of date

Steve Garlick said...

Safe home Phoenix, our most distant outpost of Western civilisation is retreating!

Barbara Costa said...

You put that exceedingly well. It's exciting to head out, and also wonderful to head home. We welcome you home, via the journey still to come. Safe travels!