Thinking at Sea

This particular post was written while I was on vacation in South America.  Due to internet issues, I have not been able to post this blurb until now.  

A 14-night cruise leaves lots of time for exploring, eating, drinking, reading, … and thinking.  Especially when you have back-to-back sea days.

And that, my dear friends, is a good thing because every once in a while it is therapeutic to sit back and just think.  Or to take inspiration from the books you are reading.  Or, even more importantly, to take inspiration from the new sites and cultures you are experiencing.

Let me explain:  I am, as you can undoubtedly discern, currently on a 14-night cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile that sails around the tip of South America – Tierra del Fuego – and stops at the legendary Cape Horn.  The trip thus far has encompassed stops in Buenos Aires, and then in Montevideo and Punta del Este, Uruguay.  We have stopped in Puerto Madryn, Argentina (where I have met my new best animal friend:  the guanaco) and we have sailed past Cape Horn.  As I write this, we are sailing for our next port of call – Ushuaia, Argentina, or the city at the end of the world.

Cape Horn - the end of the world and now, and for always, a place of magic for me.

Cape Horn – the end of the world and now, and for always, a place of magic for me.

And this has been a trip to surpass all previous travels.  I have posted daily comments on my Travels page for more details, but one small nugget here – when we were in Montevideo, Uruguay, we actually headed out to visit la Colonia del Sacramento, an ancient town that dates back to the early Portuguese settlers (1600s) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  In la Colonia, where you can see traces of the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the Uruguayan, there was a lighthouse – one built by the Uruguayans in the 1800s – and I made a command decision that day:  I climbed that lighthouse.  For one who is scared of heights, there is no minimizing the scale of this decision!

And I still feel a sense of elation when I think about climbing the lighthouse in la Colonia.  The $14 Argentinian pesos I paid to do that is probably the best money I have spent on this trip.

I climbed that lighthouse, yes, I did.  I climbed that lighthouse, believe me, I did.

I climbed that lighthouse, yes, I did. I climbed that lighthouse, believe me, I did.

The other nugget I feel compelled to include here involves my interaction with the peoples of Argentina and Uruguay – incredible, incredible, incredible (!) people to say the least.  But you have me, terrified of my own shadow most of the time, who can barely talk to strangers in English, let alone a foreign language I haven’t practiced in …well, we don’t need to say how many years it has been.  Too many.  So when we first landed in Buenos Aires, I was terrified of trying to communicate with the locals.  Even something as simple as ordering a meal in a restaurant was causing some deep panic, which was only muted and manageable because I take anti-anxiety medication.

You can probably tell I need it.

But anyway, I feel a sense of pride that I have engaged with the people here in South America, even if only minimally, and only to handle some kind of transaction.  It has shown me that reaching out to people you don’t know doesn’t always mean you’ll get slapped in the face.  And yes, even if you don’t speak the language, you can still try … and that is worth something, to them and to you.

And I have immersed myself in the magic.  I think for me that is what life is all about – about finding the magic.  I have wondered a lot on this trip if I can find the magic back home.  Is it possible to see wonderful things around you every day?  And I believe that it is.  I can look for it in the spectacular sunrises I have seen on my way to work some mornings – some so beautiful I have stopped to take pictures of them.  I can look for it in the nature of the Park I work in.  I can see it in the animals I see wild and in our own small zoo we have in the Park.

I just have to take the time to remember it.  And I know this sounds all gooey and mushy and something you would find in a Hallmark greeting card.  But there is a reason why that goo and mush resonates with us sometimes … because it is true.

On every trip, I have found a ‘magic place’ – a moment or a setting that I try to recall in my darkest moments back home.  In Greece, it was Santorini, and the sparkling sprawl of the white city on the cliffs to my left, as I looked out across the Mediterranean while the sun was setting in front of me.  In Egypt, it was Seti I’s tomb – the elation I felt that a dream had come true for me.  I was going inside his tomb.  And I have wanted to visit ol’ Seti’s final resting place since I picked up my first book on ancient Egypt.  In the Galapagos, it was the blue-footed booby.  And the excitement at finding a new interest I hadn’t encouraged before – an interest in birds.

And on this trip, of course, it will be Cape Horn, and the legend of the albatross.  Talk about magic.  Sailors lost in shipwrecks on the Horn come back as albatrosses to guide other ships through the dangerous waters and help them avoid the same fate.  I was so inspired by it, I wrote a poem.  Yes.  I wrote a poem.  It’s probably crap.  But I am very proud of it.  I am proud of it because I tried to take something magical and make it tangible.  And if you keep scrolling down, you can read it.

I have always struggled with finding a ‘creative outlet.’  I have so many images in my head.  So many dreams that I want to express in some way.  Or so many stories and legends, like the Cape Horn albatrosses, that I want to capture.  And I have tried for so long to find that “some way.”  I have tried drawing … not really good at that.  I have tried writing … better at that, but doesn’t convey the visual the way I want.  And now I am trying crafting.  And I have loved crafting because it doesn’t have to be “good” like art, and it is more visual than writing.  But I have floundered a bit on the crafting front … trying my hand at this and that, here and there.  Now, when I get back from this trip, I want to hone it.  I want to look at ways to take these images and these dreams and make them craft projects.  Collages or canvases or glass.

But will I become a poet?  Yeah, probably not.  The Cape Horn poem was a whim anyway.  The creative outlet I had access to on the ship.

I have also been thinking about the future.  About what happens when I get back to California.  I have seen so many wonderful things on this trip – so much beauty in places so far from home – and I know that I will continue to make it a life’s goal to keep traveling.  To keep exploring the beauty that is around me.  And I know J will come with me.  We’ve already started talking about a trip to Germany in a couple of years.

But what else do I want from my life?  Travel can be part of it, but only part of it.  And hobbies are hobbies, and I love devoting time to them (gosh, I’ve missed my bike on this trip).  But I want to feel like I’m striding towards a goal – and I know that goal has always involved, and will always involve, making a difference in other people’s lives.  It’s why I’m not surprised that I have ultimately become a teacher.  It was my dream as a kid.  I used to play school all the time (and my poor sister was my hapless student), and while I have flipped and flopped all over the place about a career path, deep down I have always known that teaching would have to be a part of whatever I chose.

And that is why I love my job as much as I do.  Of all the jobs I have held in my extensive 33 years of existence, my current job has definitely been my favorite (even though it also has the lowest salary), and the one I have found the most fulfilling.  Even more so than my job working in outpatient rehab.  I am excited to keep pursuing ways to get more involved in teaching.  I have signed up to volunteer with 826LA, which offers tutoring programs, and I hope that turns into something to which I really can devote myself.  I want to know it – I want to feel it deep down in my bones – that I have touched a child’s life.  Helped them find something they care about.  Or, hope beyond hope, help them believe in themselves.

And I don’t want to be afraid anymore.  I have climbed the lighthouse in la Colonia.  I have ordered meals and purchased souvenirs in Spanish.  I have chatted with strangers on board the cruise ship, and even befriended some of the staff.  I don’t have any reason to be afraid anymore.


The Albatross

There is a light

On a rocky shore

That glows like sea foam



On the darkest sea

Light flashes across

Its only witness

The lone albatross;


Which takes to flight

When it sees the ship

To guide it home

And help it slip;


Safely through these

Treacherous waves

Waters that hold

Many graves;


For many a sailor

Has perished here

The end of the world

So far to veer;


Away from home

But have no fear

Those sailors lost

Are still right here;


They are the birds

That soar the skies

The albatrosses

That fly besides;


The ships that sail

These treacherous waves

They guide them and steer them

To safety’s grace;


So follow the path

Of the albatross

It is a hope that guides you

A soul long lost;


These sailors will bring

You safely home

Then return to the skies

Forever to roam;


Wild, free, and far

Above the timeless sea

Around Cape Horn

And into eternity.


About jnglcat21

An aspiring writer who has a deep love for animals, tall ships, books, and anything that is 3,000 or more years old
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