June 17, 2006

Snapshot from the Floating World

Ezekiel saw a wheel way in the middle of the air.
Little wheel run by faith, big wheel run by the grace of God

-- Traditional

At the far end of the two rows of houseboats, up where they stop and the lake widens, the sun looks like a widening pool of molten gold poured out across the water. And as the sun sinks lower in the sky above Queen Anne hill on the far shore, that gold flows down the canal between the houseboats until the pool of shade from the shore trees behind me absorbs it.

A mallard wheels over me and slooshes down into the the water here in the shadows. It is so quiet I can hear those small ripples slap the sides of the sailboat moored at the back of the house. Across the eight yards of open water that form the "street," they raised the roof-beam on the neighbor's house in the winter and have been painting it for over five months. It's not a trivial thing to paint a large two-story houseboat. It requires long ladders, an indifference to falling, rafts, poles and patience with a

climate where the question is never, "Is it raining yet?" but rather, "Is it not raining yet?" Still, the painters show up in the brief interludes between moisture, and daub away after caulking and filling. It's a soft yellow with a softer white trim and its reflection is lovely on the water.

Pots of young black bamboo, sheaves of flowers, and a host of venerable bonsai line the docks that lead out to the lake. Overhead a jet climbs up and banks north by northwest racing the evening towards a landing somewhere high up on the far Pacific rim. Safe in their impossible tube of sealed aluminum, the passengers will soon be getting their choice of beverage, hot or cold, and the movie will begin and most will drift away in a sound sleep held high and warm where the air is thin, cold and deadly. Another everyday miracle made possible only as the present manifestation of the grace of a God most do not even trouble themselves with. Unless something, some small thing, goes suddenly terribly wrong and He is remembered well in those terrifying minutes.

But all that is far off and will not happen. Or, rather will happen so seldom, that most people will fly without a second thought, since to have a second thought is to doubt the wisdom of the entire enterprise and, hey, you gotta go, right? Right.

The jet holding who knows how many unknown lives fades from view. Farewell. Fare thee well. Go with God.

Along the bank, seven cherry trees grow next to the street, owned by nobody and beginning to put forth fruit that will be free for the taking. A breeze sneaks down between the houseboats along the water, but so small and gentle it doesn't even rile the wind-chimes. The sun slips below the thin clouds and shines out strongly again and my bare arms, cool moments before, warm to its touch.

Behind me I can hear the faint lap of water against the moss-bearded mooring chains. Then the houseboat sways slowly on the long rows of ripples reduced to a small shimmers. Only then, when these thinnest of ghosts of the long Pacific swell from beyond Puget Sound tightens the chains, is my attachment to this shore gently felt.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 17, 2006 8:29 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

That was nice. In my younger days, before marriage, kids, responsibility, I lived in one of the apartments at Bergs Marina on the east shore of Queen Anne Hill under the Aurora Bridge. I and a few freinds had aquired the poverty inducing hobby of antique wood boat ownership and we all kept our boats and lived at the marina. We called ourselves the Unemployed Yacht Club, our motto taken off an old plaque on the helm of my boat reading "work is the curse of the drinking yachtsman". We lived that motto enthusiasticly and generally worked just enough to keep the rent payed, the fuel tank full and the bar stocked. We had burgees made and proudly hung them at our favorite dockside watering holes around the lake. Everyone knew us and we felt like Kings.
It is probably for the best that I didn't make a longterm lifestyle out of this time but your post helps me remember that the best times in life are the simple times, whether varnishing a mahoghany rub rail in the afternoon sun or hanging out with a freind on a houseboat.
Thanks for your writing. It inspires me to think twice about what is important in life.

Posted by: anybodyinpoulsbo at June 18, 2006 12:23 PM