After a chilly morning of heavy mist and rain, fog and raindrops had coalesced on the windows to approximate dotted Swiss – which made me remember how much, at five-years-old, I had yearned for shiny, patent leather shoes to complement my dotted Swiss dress. (It is probably time to forgive my mother who kept me in tie-up Buster Browns “so I’d have good feet,” but 70 years later I find myself still picking at the scab.)
Prior to lunch, someone took a squeegee and wiped the windows clean, and the previously shrouded landscape came into view. Norway came to mind, and Norway made me think of herring and onions and black bread. It’s the kind of day that isn’t particularly cold, but nonetheless, the damp weather makes me wish for a fire, the smell of wood smoke, and a dog curled up at my feet.
The Inside Passage is a big landscape and calls for big machinery. Yesterday we held our collective breath as we delivered a Brontosaurus (in size and shape) to a logging camp. Watching the giant machine lumber down the ramp with maybe six inches leeway on a side left me breathless. The dinosaur-like machine is multi-purpose. A neck protrudes from the body, and to the head, you can attach tools specific to the task. In this case, a giant pile-driver tool was attached. And when the machine left the ship’s ramp and met the log interface between the ramp and solid rock, I stopped breathing entirely as the pile driver tipped dramatically to the left. I fully expected the machine to tip into the water and crush the driver.
The task at- hand was to build a dock. But first the pile driver had to bore a hole for the dynamite. Once the dynamite was set, our ship and the loggers’ boat made for open water. And then the blast. And the splash. Once the mission was accomplished, the pile driver trundled back aboard. Again, expertly threading the needle.
Working in a lumber camp is not for the faint of heart. Giant tractors with crab-like pinchers pick up individual logs – first one log and then another and then another (does anyone remember playing pick-up sticks?) until they have a whole mouthful which they take to the edge of the cliff. Multiple trips of clutch after clutch and the logs begin to tower. When the turret is complete, the logs are tipped down a skid of sorts. Splash and the whole lot are in the water to be sorted – sort of like cattle, according to size into corrals.
I watch the small tug boats and admire the captain’s skill. Sometimes the tugs move individual logs; other times they move bundled logs – bundles so much larger and heavier than the tug boats that the back ends of the boats are below water.
In my parenting/working years, I often fantasized about joining a nunnery. Not as a novitiate – more as a visitor on retreat. I would have preferred a silent retreat… maybe with nuns quietly singing in the background. When not singing, I would only hear the meditative walking… the scuffing of their soft -soled shoes and the clicking of their rosaries. Incense would waft through the air.
But in my maturity, I have come to realize that I don’t have it in me to “be in the moment.” I’m a doing kind of person. Walking past the galley, I want to ask if I can peel the potatoes or the beets. Or maybe I could rise or dry some dishes? For several days now we have not left the ship. I am antsy. Although I do not have Internet connectivity, I do have my computer, my notebook and my books. I also have the amazing landscape, the ship, and my fellow passengers.
It is not enough.