Doldrums

Doldrums
Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on, J. M. W. Turner, 1840


"Adventure still awaits our arrival, entirely dependent upon our short-term survival."

We left port with reports of steady trade winds ahead, though those left us after two months at sea to find us beating across the Horse Latitudes of this pandemic. We lost the steady sensation of forward progress to enter a vast sea, seemingly endless, and so our originating purpose naturally diminished until we felt as though we held no aspirations save for the most primitive personal preservation. The crew grew increasingly restless as our collective helplessness came into ever sharper focus. With stores waning and patience at a premium, a certain feral nature overcame us. We lost our usual courtesies and decorums. We completed chores listlessly and suppers became sullen affairs with little evident cheer or hopefulness. We'd entered the Doldrums.

A second breadwinner in our extended family received his layoff notice this week.
Orders down, the owners had little recourse but to engage in an emergency lifeboat drill. The crew pitied the captain, forced to make such bitter choices, with each crewman working to convince himself that the lifeboat might deliver superior choices over wasting away aboard the becalmed mothership. Such separations spark a certain lingering bitterness, however civilly they might be initiated. Absent even a helplessly flapping sail, two oars and personal initiative seem poor substitutes for a weary and aging status quo.

A great storm seems imminent, the glass falling in spite of currently calm seas. I wonder what might become of me now that my certainties have expired. We will share our supplies until they, too, expire, and bravely agree to fish these unpromising seas until someone spots shoreline ahead, though shoreline seems distant and unlikely. The sun, now warm and steady, seems poised to become public enemy number one once we've sat beneath her for another long week or two. We agree among ourselves to see even this fate through.

The promise this voyage held as we left port seems as though it was always false hope, now that hope holds our only recourse. We're fully willing to embrace even false hopes now, for they might fuel our will to survive. We weep inside. Our captain made some poor decisions early in this passage, trading some safety for perhaps saving some time, but the gods seemed determined to punish his audacity. He could have charted a safer, longer course, but chose a potentially more lucrative one, instead. Half the cargo dead, and the balance unlikely to survive. Those still alive know no tomorrow well enough to speak her name. We feel no small share of shame for our contributions to this fate. It seems awfully late for us to finally understand that these are still early times. Adventure still awaits our arrival, entirely dependent upon our short-term survival.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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