23 October 1991

For Tia

The Uncharted Journey

It's not your nature to get on a boat without having a definite destination in mind. You wouldn't be comfortable on the water without some sort of map, or compass, or competent navigator at the helm. You're not the adventuresome type, one who departs on a whim just to see what is out there. You're uncomfortable with the unknown and prefer to stay in shallow water, certainly within sight of land. Yet here you are with me, in our little boat with three mischievous passengers that are completely dependent on us for survival. They revel in ignorant bliss. And you thought I had a map, or a compass. You must have believed that I could navigate before stepping aboard. Alas, you have gradually discovered that I have no map and no obvious compass. Instead of a confident captain, I'm a bumbling explorer who, peering through the fog that shrouds us on this vast water, squints for some glimpse of land, of harbor, of home. You wait anxiously, becoming more skeptical as you rely on my pitiful vision. And you strain to hold your tongue, knowing that whatever criticisms you may rightly vent will not likely transform me into the navigator that I once seemed to be.

Other boats, bigger boats, faster boats splash past our dingy in the fog. They motor ahead, disappearing in a line ahead of us. We both paddle until we sweat, but are we circling? Are we any nearer the shore? Where is the bottom, the sun? Will this fog ever lift to reveal a port? Should we continue to paddle or hail a passing boat for a tow? You search me for answers but realize that I have none. Oh, for a captain, or a map.

You think we are lost or at least off course. I admit I don't know our whereabouts, but I'm sure we're not lost. I offer you words of encouragement, optimism my only antidote for doubt. The fog will lift. When, I do not know. But I do know that the sun is strong, and night is limited, and every ocean has a shore. And I try feebly to comfort you, perhaps to divert you, by insisting that the journey can be enjoyed though the harbor is not in sight. What else can we do?

I am awed and grateful that, though you look longingly at the solid boats zipping past us, you will not abandon me. Your faith may be shaken but your devotion to me and our passengers is unfailing and unexplainable. To see your face is more important to me than sighting any shore. You are the sun in the fog. Know that I row because of you, though I know not where, or even why. And know that I would not row without you. And supposing we are truly lost, never to be found, or about to be tossed upon a reef or rocky shore, I still say that there is beauty and joy, even in the fog. Let us make merry with each other and our passengers as we row, for we cannot say what fate holds for us. Rowing will keep us strong and together so when the shore finally appears, we can step out and wander across the land.


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