There is a wide sweeping curve that defines the edge of Monterey's harbor, and at the curve a long pier stretches eastward like a pointing finger. Many small sailing craft are moored on the leeward side of it. The pier and the two other wharves nearby are places where blood and oil, working men and tools grind and snarl. Cars roaring in four lanes of traffic raise a din of grinding noise, a ceaseless reminder of human-made mechanized life dominates everything. All visible humanity and its products are related to mass, weight, inertia and momentum. Engines and wheels thunder without pause, and we are constrained by their certain limits. We seem to move freely, but we are bound by the limitations of the machines and our own bodies.
One morning recently, one that now seems to have been long ago and dream edged, the low-slung sunlight drained color from all things so that there appeared to be thin layers of silver filigree. A fine mist hung low and soft everywhere. Its veil filtered life's color to a palette of ash, charcoal and bone.
I noticed the light's mystery as a lifting expectation within me. It all looked so pale, as if the very edge of time existed in the opacity of still sea and thick cloud. The edge of the world was obscured, erased and smudged away by the mist itself. Then I saw, going north by northeast, a small sloop, sailing away from my view, a lonely shape with rounded hips and a tall gray mast with a white sail furled on the boom. In a breath's time it was lost in the silver morning, gone into the dreamscape of a shrouded space that I could not see.
I drove on, taking hard glances at the view as long as it was visible. That part of the roadway does not afford a stop for lingering and contemplation. That is the constraint of the car, the road, the time of day when humans rush from home to work; the courier sloop bearing messages to and from the spirit world is missed. The solitary boat's curving shape, its curious disappearance into the enveloping silver gauze cast a surreal spell that put me onto other tacks myself.
Myth is full of creatures who transcend space and time; messages are carried to and received from the gods. Gifts are bequeathed by supernatural powers and brought back to us by the sleek messengers. We seek to know what is in store for us, and wish to know the wisdom of the gods and the ages so that we will not suffer and will not want anymore. We seek to know and become godlike ourselves, and every myth tells us that this is folly. The spirit ships and silver arrows that are sent past the edge of knowing carry our hopes and desires. Many stories tell of the fall of the vain and proud.
The boat appeared to be such a vessel, curving and graceful. It was not bound by earthly constraints. It appeared and then moved directly into the spirit world, perhaps sent there at the bidding of Poseidon or Zeus. I felt a strong urge to look for it, but the only way I could follow was with my imagination.
The urge was more a need that we all feel to be free of gravity and aging, to be lifted to a new dimension of limitless flight or timeless beauty or boundless creativity. We see the flight of angels at the outward hurtle of a waterfall or tumbling clouds in a storm or a perfect flowers rising from the black wet earth. Time and again we endeavor to be free of the burdens of gravity and the pain of ordinary existence and then fall back and realize our limitations. We peer into voids and hope so dearly for enlightenment and relief of ignorance and grief.
But the seeking, the upward curve of grace visible amidst the thundering rush of machinery and chaos, the brief glimpse of perfection - if we are looking - gives rise to hope and briefly lifts the constraints of our humanity.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way