Santiago contemplates a different perspective . . . It must be very strange in an airplane, he thought. I wonder what the sea looks like from that height? They should be able to see the fish well if they do not fly too high. I would like to fly very slowly at two hundred fathoms high and see the fish from above. In the turtle boats I was in the cross-trees of the mast-head and even at that height I saw much. The dolphin look greener from there and you can see their stripes and their purple spots and you can see all of the school as they swim. Why is it that all the fast-moving fish of the dark current have purple backs and usually purple stripes or spots? The dolphin looks green of course because he is really golden. But when he comes to feed, truly hungry, purple stripes show on his sides as on a marlin. Can it be anger, or the greater speed he makes that brings them out?
Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air. It jumped again and again in the acrobatics of its fear and he worked his way back to the stern and crouching and holding the big line with his right hand and arm, he pulled the dolphin in with his left hand, stepping on the gained line each time with his bare left foot. When the fish was at the stern, plunging and cutting from side to side in desperation, the old man leaned over the stern and lifted the burnished gold fish with its purple spots over the stern. Its jaws were working convulsively in quick bites against the hook and it pounded the bottom of the skiff with its long flat body, its tail and its head until he clubbed it across the shining golden head until it shivered and was still.
The old man unhooked the fish, rebaited the line with another sardine and tossed it over. Then he worked his way slowly back to the bow. He washed his left hand and wiped it on his trousers. Then he shifted the heavy line from his right hand to his left and washed his right hand in the sea while he watched the sun go into the ocean and the slant of the big cord.
Santiago has never been in an airplane. Yet, he wonders what the sea looks like from the sky. The old man imagines seeing schools of dolphin and other fish, their colors and shadows in the water. Green with purple stripes. He is used to the violent up-closeness of the universe. Catching fish, reeling them in, and clubbing them over their heads. Santiago will never have the luxury of distance or perspective.
It has been a lost year for me. Or a year of loss. However you want to label it. In 2022, my sister died. One of my best friends died. In addition, time has been as slippery as a dolphin. It has slipped through my fingers for long stretches. And I have been struggling with depression for almost six months now. Days have blurred and blended into each other.
So, here I set, one month away from Christmas day. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. The first without my sister Rose. The first without my daughter living under my roof. The first without receiving a text message from my friend, Helen, wishing me blessings and grace.
It has been almost two months since my last blog post. I have no idea how that much time has passed. The pandemic has altered the perception of time for a lot of people, I think. Those months in lockdown seem as distant now as the moons of Jupiter. But they also seem like yesterday. A little more than two years ago, we celebrated Zoom Thanksgiving, followed by Zoom Christmas and Zoom New Year's Eve and Zoom Easter. People predisposed to a hermit lifestyle pre-COVID have been transformed into full-blown Howard Hughes-hood today.
At points, these last six months have been a struggle for me--with lots of down days and sleepless nights. My lowest moments have been Mariana Trench deep. Yet, I'm still here, mostly because of my family and friends.
Stepping back and looking at my life from an airplane perspective, I know that I have people who fiercely love me. I have a niece who lives in San Francisco who sends me text messages that make me laugh and, sometimes, cry because she cares about me so much. In the past 24 hours, I had a really close friend reach out about spending time together during the holidays. I am part of a network of Christmas podcasters who are my Island of Misfit Toys family--they welcome me because I'm a Charlie in the Box.
So on this Thanksgiving weekend, I think of all the people who love me and have stuck with me this last half-year. If I disappointed or let you down in some way, I'm sorry. It wasn't intentional, believe me. Some days, just getting out of bed has been a victory for me.
As we enter this season of light, I hold on to what Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once wrote: "Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. That it is possible to feel free inside a prison. That, even in exile, friendship exists and can become an anchor. That one instant before dying, man is still immortal."
Saint Marty gives thanks for all the anchors in his life tonight.