There was a time when she could see the shore from her boat. She spent long lazy days bobbing off the coast. Sometimes she practiced maneuvering her craft; sometimes she lay on the floor boards and watched a cinema of clouds play in the sky. She hardly noticed when her boat caught a drift and pulled her away from the shore.
As the shore receded from view, she used the skills she had practiced to keep her boat steady. At first, she kept an eye on the distant shore, but soon she learned other ways to navigate. The sun and the moon helped her stay on course, although what path in these waters she followed she couldn't say. Each morning, other vessels appeared on the horizon and it seemed good to her to set her compass in their direction.
She found she was happiest in the society of other vessels. In the vast stretch of water, she would tie her boat up with others and they would drift together for a time. Self-proclaimed captains, they would tell each other stories that encouraged, dismayed, intrigued, delighted and terrified. In time, it seemed prudent to travel in flotillas.
She didn't pay as much attention to the heavens now. There was too much work to do: maintaining the boats, fishing, bringing new arrivals up to speed on how to navigate the changing seasons. Then, just as she had slipped away from the shore so many years ago, she found herself unmoored and alone in her boat.
The sea was a wall behind her, obstructing her view of where she had been. She couldn't see above the chop of water ahead of her. Above her, the sky was dark. Starlight reflected a weak illumination on the black water that surrounded her. She no longer felt in control of her boat. The skills she'd honed over the years were gone and there was nothing for it but to keep her balance as best she could. She focused on trying to stay in the boat.
After her little boat broke apart in the ocean, before she began a new journey, words formed from the deep and roared in a whisper in her ear. Well done.
Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She is the author of The Sheep Walker's Daughter.
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