The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

Englishman’s bay, Tobago.

 

So this will be a telling of change, a recounting of what it is to know you are moving and yet  there is a need to sit tight, put those hands under your thighs and stop fidgeting.

This will be a tale of trying to make the most of what time I have left. Look with eyes that know a good bye is imminent. I wish I had had my handy crystal ball, the one that would have predicted all this. Had I known I would only have two years I may have relaxed more, eased myself into Uganda with no fear of being trapped, I would have just breathed in and out and seen it all, fearless.

And now I am returning to the Sea.

I have always, really lived on an island, come to think of it. Ok, I was born at the bottom of the world, in South Africa, and that was no island, despite being the upside down tip of the top, the underbelly, the other end of it all.

But then England, Hong Kong, Japan, England again, New York, (France, exception), Montreal, Winnipeg (big exception), Montreal again, Trinidad, Uganda (exception) and now Bahrain. All islands excepting the exceptions; look closely and those were tricky places to be.

 

In France it was easy to forget, for a time that the sea was so far. I was in a town on the German border and its brittle cold Germanic beauty made me feel I was walking in a fairy tale. The buildings leaned and whispered into one another, the gothic Cathedral was filled with ghosts. I crossed the canal daily and felt charmed each time. I was not there long enough to feel parched for the sea.

In both Winnipeg and Uganda, despite the proximity to those huge lakes, I always had the sensation of being land locked. If I stretched my arms as far as they could go, the tips of my fingers could not sense the sea and I felt un-moored, detached, flattened.

It took a while in The Peg to figure out what it was. Winnipeg is not an easy city; the cold is like nothing anyone not from the Peg has ever experienced. The winter I was pregnant with Trooper we had over 60 days below -20c. It was a record. Then almost overnight the scorching sun came out to play and summer arrived. I went into the hospital to have a baby in cool weather, the radio still talking about the terrible Red River floods, warm in a sweater at 6 am we raced along silent prairie roads to the hospital. 4 days later I came out and it was 35c, the heat bewildering, heavy as if it had come out to welcome little Trooper to the world. So I thought for a long time it was the weather, the impenetrable cold wall that made me feel so misplaced, and in many ways it was. Or maybe it was also the loneliness of a place whose license plates read ‘friendly Manitoba” yet seemed to me to only be friendly to those born and bred there. Slowly I became aware that the land, so flat, stretching those endless miles and those prairie skies so enormous, were flattening me. I longed for the sea and felt as a parched star fish would if it were miles from its beloved sea bed.

Here in Uganda I had the great fortune of climbing up into my car one dark morning in December and driving all the way to the coast. Somehow knowing it is 4 days away has made it worse. I can nearly smell it; I know it is not close enough. Lake Victoria is green abuzz with lake flies, heavy with Bilharzias. It is no replacement for the salty licks of the ocean.

The sea is mine.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

  1. Miki

    So touched by this. I have felt unmoored here too, and the giant walls of snow as we enter winter, Month 6, feel like a tunnel as I go work-school-home. Things are muffled here, unlike T&T or Bangladesh, which are visceral, like “bodies turned inside out with everything showing” (Atwood). You say so well what I’ve been thinking. Please don’t ever stop writing, my friend.

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