SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
I used to think the ocean was a peaceful place…
Cádiz, Andalucía, Spain
Something I want you to know about living on a ship is that it never. stops. moving.
I used to think the ocean was a peaceful place. From above, the ocean looks serene right? It looks like a giant expanse of flat blue and black sandwiched in-between chunks of bumpy land. It looks predictable and it looks secure, but trust me, that image is just an illusion of oversimplified romantic ideals. The ocean itself is restless.
Aboard the Cramer, we feel every slight fluctuation the sea expresses. Some days, it can feel like we’re sailing over sheets of polished glass, the ripples we leave uninterrupted as far we see from our lookout on the quarterdeck. Other days, however, we become rag dolls tossed whichever way the waves happen to be moving. The ocean rolls and pitches our ship, sometimes propelling our bow out of the water, only to drop it back down a few feet from where we started.
By necessity, life on board reflects the same restlessness. Some days we sail for science, but other days we sail because we just can’t sit still. You’ll rarely find idle hands on board: knitting is only growing in popularity. Even standing ‘still’ is an active process, it’s a constant game of leaning forward on your toes then shifting your weight again at precisely to right moment to avoid from falling forward. Even the soup in our dinner bowls sloshes from side to side in a constant effort to stabilize itself.
At the beginning of our voyage I didn’t trust the ship or the ocean. And can you blame me? It takes a while to accept that the very floor beneath our feet isn’t a given, sometimes lurching away from your foot one minute then speeding forward the next. So what do you do when your surroundings move in a way you don’t expect it to?
In the weeks we’ve been aboard the Cramer, I think I’ve learned to look and listen in new ways. Being aboard instills a certain type of mindfulness not often needed on land. I find myself listening more, and seeing farther. Being on the water forces you to be present in every moment because nothing stays the same for long. It teaches you to take in each movement and every moment.
Now that I’ve lived on water, I think I know more of its complexities. It’s bigger, it’s stronger, it’s scarier, but it’s also more beautiful.
Before SEA Semester, if I closed my eyes and imagined the ocean I would have pictured a birds-eye view of sea, a picture taken from space, of flat water sloshing in-between land masses. What I see now, however, is the horizon, stretching on forever. I don’t know what the ocean will do, I don’t know what is going to happen, but I think I have a better idea of how to listen and I’m more accepting that I can’t control it.