A Story for Our Time; Stars.

I look at my feet dangling in the dark water; all my toes are still there.

We didn’t mean to go to sea, and it is very strange weather, it is hot for April, but I do remember hot Aprils before, and I remember it snowing in April. I am sitting in the dark, trailing my feet in the water as the boat drifts with some sort of current, I wonder if we are going somewhere, if the current will take us anywhere useful, or if it will just lead us further away from where we want to be. I am no longer sure where that is. Before all this happened I thought I knew where I was going, at least I had an inkling, things were going well, I was building some sort of existence, it wasn’t what I had ever thought would happen in my life, but it was starting to feel interesting.

None of what has happened to me over the last few years was what I thought would happen, I have definitely had cause over the last few years to say “I seriously did not see that coming!” Life is strange, sometimes really awful things happen to us, and life changes in ways we were not at all expecting, and later on down the road we can look back and see that even though it was really painful, it was a good thing in the long run. I wonder whether I will be able to say that about this experience.

I have started to feel that I like being lost at sea. How can that be possible? It has started to feel a bit like a holiday. A very strange holiday. When I was younger I could never have sat with my feet dangling in the water as my boat drifted aimlessly across a vast ocean, I would have been scared that something would come up and bite them off. Similarly I could not leave a hand or even a finger hanging over the side of my bed in case a monster grabbed me and pulled me under. I thought I would never grow out of this fear of imaginary monsters (and actually I don’t think I have grown out of the monster under the bed thing yet) but one day around age forty three I realised that I had lived for quite a long time without ever actually being grabbed by anything other than a human being. That it was humans that one needed to be scared of, not fairy tale mythical creatures. I was scared of the wrong species. It is humans that are dangerous. Yes I know there are tons of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens and you know maybe they have, but it has never happened to me. So maybe it is not part of my story.

The other thing that happened around the age of forty three was realising that I was never going to get another wink of sleep if I didn’t learn to ignore the fear that was gnawing away at my bones that someone/some sort of mythical beast was going to break into my bus and eat/kill me. It was late at night, my kids were asleep in bed beside me and I was parked in my bus in a spot that was rather popular with late night cars full of stoners. They were revving their engines while they smoked and laughed and played loud music and try as I might I could not relax. I thought about the irony of the situation, here was I stone cold sober, feeling distinctly un-relaxed while the stoners around me relaxed. Something had to give. I decided that if someone/something did break in it certainly wouldn’t be a stoner,  and I would be next to useless if I hadn’t slept for a week, I realised that I would have just as much chance of fighting said stoner/mythical creature if they woke me from my sleep than if they found me awake and paranoid. I went to sleep. That was the last time strange noises outside kept me awake. I felt like a superhero, I had busted the demons of a lifetime. (Except the under the bed monster, he is rather persistent and immune to this type of thinking. Actually that monster was absent in the bus as there wasn’t an under the bed, there was a wall).

shooting star

I look at my feet dangling in the dark water; all my toes are still there. The sky above me is full of stars. The stars know where we are, and if I had been curious enough about astronomy when I was younger, so would I. When I really miss somebody I look up to the stars above and know in my heart that we are under the same stars, and under the same sky.

The sky is so full of stars, I grew up in a city and I can remember the first time I went somewhere where it was actually properly dark at night, with no light pollution. I was shocked by what I saw. I can still see that vision in my mind’s eye. The light coming from the heavens was phenomenal, the sheer number of stars was incomprehensible, and I was treated that night with a show of shooting stars. That night I saw the most unbelievably big shooting star, if a normal shooting star is like a footpath through the sky, this shooting star was a motorway. It moved across the sky for what seemed like minutes, and maybe it was.

If I could change one thing about the world overnight it would be an end to the light pollution of the night sky (yes ok, World Peace would have to come before that). I believe that the night sky is something we are supposed to see, something that we need to see on a regular basis, a bit like trees. We need to see the beauty of the world, I cannot see the point in being alive if I cannot see the natural beauty of planet earth. I want to see trees, the ocean, the stars, birds, bees and sunsets.

I don’t care anymore if the boat never brings me back to shore, I am happy to drift. I want to drift. This time is like a beautiful gift that I never dreamed of, that I never thought I could have. I wished with all my heart that I could be left alone to do as I pleased, even if it was only for a few days, but the world is not like that. That is a privilege that belongs to the rich, and maybe only to the rich who have no conscience.  I am not talking about doing nothing either, I despise doing nothing. I read so often that one must take time to do nothing at all every now and then, or even as a daily practice. It is supposed to be profoundly good for you to do nothing at all. I wonder what this nothing consists of, does watching a beautiful sky count as doing nothing, or do you have to have your eyes closed? In which case I’m going to sleep, or patiently listening to the inner monologue. I mean you can’t really do nothing. You can’t help breathing, does that count, if I am resting I am still breathing, and possibly digesting. I suppose I have run into that difficulty I have when I take literally something that wasn’t meant that way.

Really I prefer it when people say what they mean, particularly those people who think they have the authority to tell me how to live my life.

When I am left alone to do as I please I sing songs, play music, compose, write stories, and if I am on the land I garden. These things make me really happy. In those ways I am super productive, but I do not generate an income doing these things. Modern life seems to all be about generating an income. No longer are we allowed to do things because we enjoy them, as soon as you do something well there is a pressure to make money from it. Success is measured by how much money you have, and in that way I am utterly unsuccessful. If success was measured in how much one enjoyed singing, or how many songs one had written and shared, or even how much one enjoyed a beautiful sunset then I would be up there in the fortune five hundred.

Lost at sea, monetary success has lost its meaning. Money serves no purpose here, you can’t even write a song on it or wipe your bum with it now that it is made of plastic. I suppose one could stitch it together to make a sail if one had enough of it.

What is success here? Finding enjoyment in simple things, finding food, getting through the day, sleeping through the night. The joy in a cloud, the peace in being rocked to sleep by the waves, the happiness in seeing a bird in the distance. I pray for a simple life.






Cover image  by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
Shooting star  by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

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