Three's a charm


What could be more empty than a writer's mind with nothing to write about! (A rhetorical question, to be sure, properly requiring an emphatic exclamation and in no way implying an interrogation.) At once barren, bored, and brooding, the writer's mind's melancholy longing for a return to creative life, impassioned by wrestling with words and ideas, can be unbearable.

What is more precious than that unexplained gift (evidently from the god who watches over and urges on all writers) of a new subject to scrutinize; a new topic to think about; a new metaphor to muse on; a new chance to create; a new something worth writing? What can be more joyful than plunging with abandon into the creation, development, arrangement, and assessment of theretofore unthought of thoughts?

Awaiting the command to write, but with nothing to write about (it seemed everything had already been written about, adequately or otherwise), my thoughts eventually drifted to other pleasant and pleasurable pastimes. There was, after all, sailing to think about. And there were, after all, women to think about. Then it came to me how similar, in so many respects, are these three seemingly very different and disparate finer things in life: sailing, women, and writing.

Consider the initial conditions prior to that unexpected and enchanting first encounter. Who could be lonelier and more ill at ease than a writer without an idea to write about, a man without a woman to love and live with, or a sailor without a sailing ship to explore the seas and their exotic edges? What could be a more pleasant and welcome surprise than a handsome sailing ship beating its way around the bluff, then reaching into your home port; a beautiful woman moving toward you with distinctive smile and definite intent; or an interesting new idea to consider and celebrate with words and punctuation?

Do not all three of these pleasant surprises evoke increasing expectation and waxing anticipation? Frankly speaking, the mounting urge to merge -- mind, body and soul -- with the promising new possibility is identical in all three situations. Whatever the personal rank ordering of the three coming attractions, surely they all incite admiration and a desire for further examination.

And so the love affair begins, whether referring to the approaching sailing ship with proud spars and eager sails; the approaching woman with lovely legs and intense eyes; or the approaching intellectual challenge, still far off but becoming increasingly clear. Who could be happier than the writer who has just discovered what he is supposed to write about; the man who has just discovered the woman who has just discovered him, or the for-too-long landlocked sailor again setting sail for beckoning ports of call around the world?

Consider next the affair itself, in all of its splendor, whether the affair is intellectual, emotional, and/or physical. The similarities are striking.

One might reasonably start by admitting to admiring the classic lines of the lovely lady, the sleek sailboat, and the enlightening essay. Indeed, is not a sailboat in fact a woman? Is she not in fact referred to as a "she"? Or, rather, is a woman an especially luxurious sailing vessel aboard which one can enjoy frequent pleasurable cruises and comfortable long distance voyages -- if adequate provisions are provided and necessary maintenance is observed? Do not both women and sailboats deserve and receive love and respect? Surely they do, and as much as any writer's dedication to his grand obsession.

Then there is that initial intoxicating fantasy resulting from thinking about all the strange new places to explore, with sailing, women, and writing. There are those long passages separating the start and finish of a voyage, where the going, and not the arriving, is the important thing. Still, there is the excitement of coming to the climax and conclusion of a delightful passage, whether with sailboat, woman, or the development of an idea.

There are those isolated, uninhabited islands, intellectual and physical, protruding above the surface and inviting exploratory investigation. There are those sublime sequestered coves, physical and intellectual, sometimes but not always entangled with undergrowth, to go "poking and nosing around" in. There are those hundreds of hidden treasures and pleasures to discover and uncover, whether associated with the woman, the sailing ship, or the written word.

Moreover, there are the inevitable and inevitably similar questions: Is this object of increasing affection, whether sailboat, woman, or manuscript, "fast and able"? Is she/it built primarily for speed or comfort -- or is she built for both? "How does she handle?" is, or at least should be, and ultimately will be, of crucial importance in determining the length of the love affair. Then, of course, there is that essential matter of an easy rolling motion, whether alluding to the woman, the sailboat, or the writing. "What does she sound like while under way and in motion?" is certainly of concern to the serious sailor, lover, and writer. And, of course, sheer joy and peak experiences come from playing with each, whether writing, sailing, or a woman.

The very motion of a man's hand, when preparing his object of love (whether that be a sailboat, a woman, or his writing), is literally identical. Observe the sailor lovingly and carefully sanding and massaging the brightwork in preparation for varnishing his (I'll say it once: or her) very own beautiful ship. Witness the man lovingly and gently rubbing and massaging the ears, cheeks, neck, shoulders, arms, breasts, belly, and thighs of his (I'll say it once: or her) very own beautiful woman. Note the writer lovingly and carefully going over and over and then back over his (I'll say it once: or her) writing, polishing its surface and heightening interest and excitement in its luminous core.

The situations are also very similar during those extended and most precious periods of time shared by a man and his beloved sailboat, woman, or treatise, when they both are aware of each other and both choose to be oblivious to all else. Thus, the sailor and his ship putting to sea and remaining offshore to live off the sea and regain sanity; the man arranging to be alone for a long time with only his woman, to live off love and experience heightened spirituality; and the writer and his work, intimately and inextricably intertwined as any other lovers, sexual or seafaring, mutually determined to ignore a world evidently determined to go mad.

Surely the only thing more pleasurable and enriching than the respectful singular enjoyment and celebration of writing, sailing, or a thoughtful woman must be the respectful simultaneous enjoyment of them all. Such a ménage à quatre must be, to a man, the ultimate experience. And surely, any man who has had such an experience has lived a blessed life and has much for which to be thankful.

Finally, it is said, and it is true, that the two happiest times in a sailor's life are when he buys the boat of his dreams and when he sells it. But is this not similar (at least on many occasions) to the twin happinesses a man experiences when the woman of his dreams first comes into view, and the relief he feels after they happily split tacks to continue their voyages separately? And if a writer is happy when he is given the initial spark for his next work, so he is ecstatic when he has dealt with all the obstinate word problems, punctuation, permissions-to-quote and other "intellectual property rights" rubbish, as well as any unreasonable editors or publishers, for the very last time? In all cases, the love affair will be fondly remembered, but the love affair is finished. Are not the writer, the man, and the sailor all spent of passion and do they not all require a recuperatory rest?

On the other hand, the sailor and his sailboat can be together for the remainder of life, practically assuming a single identity. And the man and his woman can stay together for the remainder of life, practically assuming a single identity. And the writer and his work can be together to the end, if the writer is not allowed to complete his work.

© 2001 by Rob George

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