It’s curious that the term “at sea” means being lost, without firm ground to help us make sense of life, yet being at sea is also a way to be found. As I write this from the balcony on the 11th story of the Carnival ship, the sea lifts and falls at regular intervals to my left while my bed sits steady on my left. I’m at sea, and the view is all water, all around, all blue, all motion.
Cruise ships are a particularly bizarre way to be at sea because the agenda here seems more focused on being a luxury resort where all things happen in predictable ways. Huge buffets are set out at midnight (none of which I’ve made it to), waiters come and take drink orders for those of us soaking in the hot tubs in “Serenity Now!” (the adult-only deck in the back, where I have spent ample time), and announcements try to herd us toward sales on watches, liquor, and jewelry. While I appreciate the grace notes of having my bed turned down each night, and especially the wonderful animals the steward makes out of a few towels a few spots of blue tape, I’m mostly here to be with family and with the sea, both of which can rise up, rush by, make waves, calm down and shake the boat.
I’ve gotten to spin dreidels on my palm at dinner with my mother, pass appetizers we love or hate back and forth among my sisters, try to make my right hand do a cool slapping thing with my nephew, marvel at the sunset with my niece, and joke around with my brother-in-law about who picks up the tab for dinner (everything is included already in the cruise fee).
I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time watching the ocean. For a Kansas girl (and former/always Jersey girl), this is both familiar and mysterious. The vastness of the sea is infinite to my eyes. There is light, sparkle, depth, movement, height, breadth and whitecaps of waves melting into blue all directions. The clouds come, the clouds go. The sun seems to move a little quicker than on land, and the sunsets are ecstatic, panoramic events. In a day, I’ll be in an airplane, nosing down toward Kansas where the temperature is well under half of where I am right now, sitting ocean-view and listening to the pulse of the sea.