Rowing to Artemisium

by cheri block

Judge Blah and I launch our sea kayaks into an estuary on the California coast and paddle out to a spit for lunch.

On this sandy peninsula far from the peopled shore, live motley crews of misfits, sea birds that have lost legs or wings from attack or carelessness or just plain bad timing. Pelicans and gulls—as with the isolated inhabitants of Molokai — never fail to evoke my curiosity about life’s cruelties.

I plunge my hand into the trail mix. A grey boy with one leg hops around in a practiced dance.

I scatter a few nuts and oats on the sand.

Soon, over the dune, come three more characters, a pelican with a damaged beak and two gulls with broken wings that stick out permanently, unable to fold back into their bodies. When the birds see the potential for a free lunch here on the spit, their enthusiasm breaks into  loud staccato whoops and squawks.

Don’t feed the birds, Cheri.  Eat your trail mix; you’ll certainly need all your energy to paddle back against the current.

I get up, looking a bit like a shiny black harbor seal in my wetsuit, and go to my boat.

His kayak and oars are yellow; mine, orange.

In the yellow kayak, a rope lies coiled in the bow. When the current is strong and the winds of Poseidon blow, I am unable to push against the force, try as I may.

He paddles over, strong and secure, tethering my boat to his. Off we travel toward the shore, he rowing against the waves and I pondering this dependent arrangement.

My friends on the spit trot over to watch this silly scene.

And now you know why I am reading John Hale’s new book, Lords of the Sea, which has me rowing eagerly in an Athenian trireme (tri-reem) in the Battle of Artemisium.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Rowing to Artemisium

  1. thecriticalline says:

    Were the Phoenix and Turtle there?

  2. Aethelred W says:

    Interesting word “row”, which can mean to propel a boat with oars; a neat line of objects; or a heated argument.

    Strange language, English.

  3. thecriticalline says:

    Supreme metaphor!
    With what acuity we see
    Of present pass and ancient lore!
    As Nature’s balance soltice dips
    Till vernal, evening, parting lips.

  4. andreaskluth says:

    Would you disclose where this spit of land is?

    How come all those maimed birds congregate there? Or is it entire flocks, of healthy and maimed birds?

    If they sequester themselves, that would be amazing bird pyschology.

    • Cheri says:

      Healthy birds fly in and out, but maimed birds are stuck on the spit, hoping to find food somehow. What’s available when you can’t fly??

      So Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Red Skelton, and other comedians are there. When humans arrive, so does their schtick…

      And no, I won’t disclose the location.

    • thecriticalline says:

      Remember poor old Hannibal?
      He was fit and he was able.
      Yet from the jaws of victory
      (Get that new book and you will see)
      Defeat he drew. Watch Carthage crumble!

      Remember “If” and poor old Rudyard?
      For him it was quite rough and hard.
      It wasn’t Plain Tales from the Hills
      A Just So life free from all ills.
      With grief and tragedy was ’twas marr’d.

      Remember poor old Socrates?
      (You have to say he was a tease)
      With all that thinking –
      See him sinking –
      That’s through drinking hemlock teas.

      Do you think by power of thought
      And studiously staying undistraught
      Despite the evidence around
      He to life would then rebound?
      Jesus! If so, they had him caught!

  5. Mr. Crotchety says:

    Better the ‘Lords of the Sea’ than ‘Life of Pi.’ At least for the Judge.

  6. thecriticalline says:

    Was ’twas:
    I think, therefore I am.
    To be or not to be?
    I am that I am.

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