Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Amidst a speed run on the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic circle to the Antarctic, I stood at the fantail of the USS Forrestal and watched as the day’s noon mess waste was dumped into it by the sailors on duty. With the power that sent this monstrous ship at the speed of trains across its surface the scraps were sucked so deeply, so reluctantly that when finally reaching the surface almost out of sight in our wake some pieces literally exploded out of the water propelled by the pressure relief. This event must also occur to any object floating or being swimming within the influence of those giant propeller blades without prior experience and no warning of such a phenomenon. The water remains quite roiled long after the roar of the engines can only be heard by the whales.

I recalled this experience in finding a metaphor for something I always experience when offering my efforts in the service of the wishes of another through my business of graphics. I have spent since 1985 honing the comfort level of undergoing the process of “earning a living.” “making a living” “affording a living” … no matter how I type it or spell it or say it, there’s something wrong about the phrase. But that’s a whole other thing, maybe. I have dove-tailed my learning about the effect of possessions and the benefit of their lack with how much effort I wanted to exert in support of stuff I do retain as beneficial to living around the silo of civilization nibbling at good parts of the grid, as it were. The way I have come to deal with it is by minimalizing both the possessions and thereby the effort to maintain them and maximizing timelessness in being here now. For the past month and a half, I have kept the blog going by combing through old journals for posts because I had one of those making a living periods intense enough to absorb almost all my attention.

Like that oblivious indigenous ocean life I was calmly going about my day tending the garden, playing with the cats, digging the new pond, learning my graphics programs, reading books and blogs, talking to friends all at a pace that suited occasions and urges when along this powerhouse of purpose comes to sweep me up in its intent and, after a period of getting up to speed, the propeller blades no longer appear to spin because I am with them as the water rushes by behind us. We go the length of the Atlantic, around Cape Horn, around Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope and all the way back to Nova Scotia where my aid in purpose’s propulsion is no longer required and I swirl in the wake of six weeks living otherwhere, elsewhen, caught up in dedication to fullest possible involvement in my client’s concerns, crashing on the couch next to the computer, leaving only to move food through me enough to keep up the pace. Now, back in my preferred ideal idyll amidst tending my garden, playing with one less cat since I was gone, feeding the fish I am still stirred by the eddies of checking to see if I have left something undone, accounting to no one the time away from a task I no longer have,— all hangovers from that living earner binge. It also deepens my already almost bottomless appreciation for my time off anyone's clock where whatever happens is the result of the tune that might be running through my flute that day, or some other urge so serendipitous.

Long after making shore from at least two days on open water in a small enough craft, you’ll have “sea legs,” where your experience of keeping up with the constant waves at sea persists on dry land and induces one to rock when standing still. When riding in the back of a pickup truck with your back to the cab looking at the open road being left behind for twenty miles or more, coming to rest for a light creates a sensation of the truck rolling backward in compensation for the persistence of the prior experience. I still have “Java legs” in that I am still thinking about the graphics project just completed, or is it? Because it always seems that no matter what the client has wanted for whatever purpose, I have felt it could have been more. Part of this project was creating a three dimensional landscape from an anthropologists 1931 topography map and using that to help recognize the location in undocumented, just discovered photos of a poorly documented dig in the same year. A modern archaeology of anthropology through geology as revealed through the virtual topology of digital imaging, as it were. After vainly searching the web for applications or tips, I made up a way to use Photoshop histograms to measure the area of any shape that can be isolated on its own layer. Anyone interested in the process, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

There, maybe I have blogged out my wake’s worth of whirls and sea-legs and I can get back to purposeless for a while. I like the dynamic, it enhances both. From where I view it, I benefit equally from both in living a life the system can’t even imagine being fulfilling, much less figure out how to make me earn it.


troutsky said...

great metaphore of propellers and wake. Sorry about your cat.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Earning a living...
it's a state of mind really; unfortunately too many of us are stuck with employment that offers no dignity other than that of being able to feed our families. Speaking only for me, I have reconciled myself with the dirty industry in which I work, and being a contract worker, feel justified in a certain state of mind which, while taking pride in being reasonably good at what I do, allows me to believe that what I am doing, I am doing for myself; by myself and without having to sell my soul to any corporate ideal.

gregrandgar said...

Pisces, don't quite know how working in a "dirty industry" and freedom from "corporate ideal" are accomplished simultaneously. Besides the lucky commission described in this post, a good deal of my business is making the idea of camper vans look appealing. While I personally haven't driven a car in over thirty years, I abet the very pollution my walking helps prevent — for filthy lucre. It's that part about nibbling around the silo on the good parts, (those parts I have yet to learn to supply for myself or wean myself of).