We didn’t mean to go to sea, and I have no idea where we are. Somehow I need to find a way to trust that the sea will take us to the right place. There are so many stories of people lost at sea, tragedies, sunken ships, ghost ships, out there floating on the vast briny ocean.
The sea is calm today, flat as a millpond I believe the saying goes, I have tried standing and looking out to sea, to see what I can see, all around my boat. Perhaps a little obsessive, I know, but I started at the prow and I looked far, far away, as far as I could see, then I stepped one foot to the right and stared again out to sea. Again one step to the right; looking, looking. I repeated this all the way around the boat, until I reached the prow again.
Nothing. I saw nothing, a great big greeny blue nothingness. Even the sky is blank, grey, no visible cloud, just that strange blank whiteness, I couldn’t tell even where the sky met the sea. No birds, birds are a sign of being near land.
The water is so still, I can’t tell if the boat is moving at all. When I move really slowly I hardly make a ripple with the boat, I imagine the water is glass. A huge expanse of bright shining glass. The glass is dark green, the darkest green I have ever seen, and it is so beautiful.
I imagine walking out onto the deep dark green glass. An ocean of ice, I could skate! I was an excellent ice skater, I used to go every Saturday; I even had my own skates. I say excellent but it was probably a fantasy excellence, in my imagination I was like Jane Torvill, (or Christopher Dean, I had no particular gender in my imagination) leaping high in the air and twirling. In reality I could skate very fast around the rink, I would skate around and around for hours trying to beat all the boys. Some of the other teens could skate fast backwards, occasionally I would try this but I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head, like those other skaters.
I am standing now on the deep green glass, looking down and down through the surface, the glass is hard, it is solid under my feet. I bend down and the surface bows gently. I lie down on the glass, it feels cold and wet, just as if it were an ice rink. Bubble rise below me, something is down there, I press my face against the surface, the water bends around me, suddenly I can see a dark shape below me, it is huge, a smooth giant underwater gliding through the dark green. It makes no ripples, no sound, it comes closer, heading upwards fast through the water towards me.
I can’t breathe, I flail my arms and legs, trying to scream, and suddenly I am awake, lying on the deck. Oh, I was asleep, how did that happen?
I have been a prolific dreamer my whole life, no surprises there I suppose, imagination knows no bounds, awake or asleep it seems to have a life all of its own. I dream from the moment I fall asleep at night, to the moment I awake, and I know this because I can be woken at any part of the night and I can tell you what I was dreaming.
As a child, a teen and a young adult I had a great deal of nightmares, I learned how to wake myself in them. I look upwards at myself, at my head, as if I was inside myself and I shout my own name, or I shout ‘wake up’ until I wake up. I have heard that one should face the fear in a dream and that it will go away, but my night sleeping self rarely thinks to do that, she prefers to wake me up. Wake up and start again.
Sometimes I wake up and feel that I live a whole other life in my sleep, and I long for the dreamless sleep that other people boast. I used to long for a break from myself, to have a night without dreams, but currently I love to go to sleep, for the adventure. I relish snuggling up in my bed and waiting for the pictures to come. I close my eyes and look upwards into the blackness inside my mind, searching for a picture, sometimes I can choose an image as a starting point and drift away with it, but sometimes I begin to drift into the picture, notice it is happening and wake up feeling the frustration of the insomnia that likes to creep into my night world from time to time.
Occasionally I wake up in the night and marvel at the stories I have been told in my dreams, I have written songs and stories from my dreams. I expect a psychoanalyst would have a field day with me.
But there are no psychoanalysts out here on the ocean. There is nothing at all here. I am still lying on the deck, I sit up, there isn’t even any wind today. Perhaps I am in the doldrums? I don’t see how that could be possible, surely it would take weeks to get to the doldrums. Have I been at sea for weeks already? I can’t remember how long it has been, at first I didn’t believe it was possible, I was in shock I don’t even remember getting on the boat, maybe this is all a dream? I pinch myself, as I have done a few times before this week, it still hurts, I look at my arm, there is a small purple bruise from all the pinching. I try out shouting ‘wake up’ upward, but I know I’m not asleep as I can’t see myself up there.
There was weather to begin with and a lot of it. Now there is nothing.
When I was a child my mother used to sometimes say I was in the doldrums. I was never entirely sure what she meant, neither happy nor sad I suppose, a bit like boredom. I used to sit on the carpet in the hall imagining it was the sea, it was a deep red colour, it had big creamy lily pad shapes on it and I would leap from one to another, dodging sharks and my brother with his pointy stick. Or I would just sit, frozen in time; I could sit for hours, drifting in and out of my body.
Sailing ships used to get stuck in the doldrums for weeks at a time, oh my God, what if we are stuck here for weeks?
How long is this going to go on for? I stand up on the deck I can hear singing. I wonder if it is inside my head or outside? I don’t really have any way of knowing. All my life I have been able to hear music that wasn’t technically there, by that I mean I am unable to discern what or who is playing the music. For example, sometimes when I play my guitar I can hear sounds, other notes that I know I am not playing. Harmonic tunes, they always sound beautiful. But it goes further than that, sometimes I can hear other musical instruments that are definitely not there in the room playing.
The singing is getting louder, well really, where is it coming from? I run around the boat looking out to sea for the singers. Ancient tales come into my mind of sailors at sea seduced by the singing of sirens, mermaids combing their hair on rocks far out to sea. Enticing sailors onto the rocks and sinking their boats.
I consider tying myself to the mast, like Odysseus, I am not sure if that is entirely necessary. I wonder whether they would enchant me, and whether at this point that would be a bad idea. I look around for some rope; the singing is louder still.
In my teens I could project sounds from my head to the other side of the room. Perhaps this is like that? Sometimes it would scare me, but generally I knew that I was doing it.
I look down again into the deep dark water, perhaps I could go for a swim. I don’t know if I have ever swum in such deep water before. I imagine myself in the millpond sea now to see whether I would like it. I am a pea on a drum, smaller even than a pea, a pinhead on an ice rink, a grain of sand in a vast desert, a woman alone in the ocean. Would it really be all that different to being on the boat lost in the ocean? I take off my clothes and wriggle under the Taff rail, I dip my toe in the water. Suddenly the singing comes back into my awareness, it really is beautiful and very close now. I pull my foot away from the water. No not today. I’ll wait for a sunny day for a swim. The singing stops, and I am back in the silence of the doldrums. Safe from the sirens, mermaids and selkies for now.
Photo by Deborah Diem on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash