He is a tall man, sturdy in figure but soft in demeanor. Kindness seeps from his pores. His calloused hands show the signs of his labor. His unsettled eyes change by the day. Long wisps of hair circle the leathery bald patch on the top of his head. Two rows of perfectly straight teeth remind me of the white stones of the jetty protruding from the harbor in town. He is a tempest, his mood ever changing with the tides. He is Calypso embodied in an aging being. He is a shipwright, and I am his daughter.
It is a Friday. I stand with all the other kindergarteners, waiting for our respective parents to collect us. Excitement raging through my five-year-old body, Friday is my father’s day to pick me up. A disheveled, grinning man bounds through the door; my tiny heart leaps. This man, covered in paint with epoxy caked on his knees, picks me up in a giant bear hug. He throws me over his shoulder as we gallop out of the door. I giggle at how my small fist is dwarfed by the larger one clasped around it. I loved helping my father with his work. Inside his workshop, the sent of sawdust overwhelms my senses. Perched upon my special place at his workbench, I watch the plane glide across the surface of the wood. His hands tenderly shape the bow of the ship into its proper, gentle slope. The sharp lines of the boat flow together, melding with the various sections to form a beautiful silhouette. Even at my young age, I found it breathtaking. Before we left, he took me to the back. Stacks of lumber towered above me. This was our favorite part of the shop. We let our hands, large and small, slither down the grain of the planks. Each piece felt different: the soft pine, the smooth mahogany, and the hard cherry. Every piece carried its own special sent. The pine hit my nostrils with its sharp tangy smell, the mahogany with its dank must, and the cherry with its sweet almost fruity aroma. I loved the wood much like I loved people; each piece had its own special qualities to learn about.
After we finished his work, my father always took me out for a quick sail. Boarding the little dinghy, he motored us to our boat, Carastie. Once the rigging was complete, we set off into the dying sun. With my lifejacket strapped tight to my body, I clung to the gunwale and dangled my short legs off the bow of the vessel. The wind blew in strong gusts. As we crashed through the waves, I licked my lips free of the salty mist that sprayed my face. I felt something grow inside me and my smile cracked into a deep laughter. This laughter was the kind that only comes from the pure joys of my heart. This was when my beloved ocean built a home for itself inside my bones. Since that day, my love for the sea has grown and flourished into the foremost part of my being. My soul dries out when I am away too long. It pulls me back with a soundless call. Wading into the water I feel complete. Drifting, floating along, I absorb happiness from the liquid enveloping my body. The wind against my cheeks sends my mind ripping through the waves on a small skiff. To me, the water is pure ecstasy. I draw from it the simple, raw, and primitive joys of life. For me, there is no other home.
In a way I compare my life to a ship. Drifting along I sail through the days, sometimes with a destination, sometimes lost in the open sea, and sometimes just for a pleasant ride. I cannot predict the weather. A storm may come along and rock my little ship, stir my life, and when it passes, again I will be on my way. The wind, like time whips past my aging sail, fraying the fabric as it blows by. I begin to feel the days wear away at my body. Like a well used boat with chips and dents, I notice the flaws that plague my being. The sharp clean hull will one day wear away and I will be content to float along, bobbing peacefully though my final days. Ambition no longer coursing through my veins, I will no longer wish to fight the waves of the world. As every ship sails its final voyage, someday I too will dock my vessel to harbor for the last time.