SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 22, 2018
Too Much to Say
I began to write this multiple ways. This beginning paragraph I write the dawn of the 22nd, having watched the orange moon set and the sun slowly become lighter, because I needed to take pause last night. I have so many tangents running in my mind, so many things I want to say about today, yesterday, and every day since I showed up late one night in Woods Hole that I can't keep them straight and my tired eyes are making matters more blurry. I've been thinking about how to write this last student blog post for some time now. If it doesn't include what you want to hear, I'm sorry. If you zone off because it's too long a string of lessons learned, if it reads incoherently, like I don't know how to write in a sensical way with logic and order, it's because my eyes were heavy and this defies logic and order. Some things must be expressed torrentially. I don't know how to say goodbye to this experience. Like Alyssa's blog post yesterday, this is in many ways more for us than it is for those back home. So bear with me.
Days here are not defined by day and night but by 24 hour periods. I often feel that I'm experiencing multiple days in one. As of writing this, I've slept a total of two hours on this 21st of December. I was woken for my shortened part of midwatch (because we're at anchor) at 0140 and spent the rest of the night working on my final presentation, to be delivered at 1000. It was peaceful and still on the quarterdeck.
From the bow I could hear the coqui frogs and crickets (a recurring sound in these blogs) singing loudly from the island closest to us. It was dark but very alive. The moon was almost full and it lit up the sky this morning, slowly making its way across, over masts and lines and hillsides, and before I knew it I was watching the sun rise over the thick green islands in front of us. I've learned that clouds can display innumerable of shades of pastel pink, blue, and orange and that they change every second, highlighting tendrils and the movement of air. So I watched the sunrise and stared into brilliant, mesmerizing blues and greens.
We presented our posters around the outer bulkheads of the doghouse, with the sun and fresh air, reaping the results of hard work and time spent conducting research this semester. I was so proud of everyone. I am surrounded by incredibly intelligent people on this boat. We have had the chance to get to know and be guided by a marvelous group of educators (every person on the ship that isn't a student) and I want to take the time to thank them. I and my classmates feel honored to have been part of this community sailing through the Caribbean with you. It feels like a neighborhood that gets together for a block party every sunset. You're an incredibly skilled, kind, funny, and good spirited group of people. I'm glad it was you.
We were eager to go ashore on St. John after lunch, for the first time all together. We spent the afternoon walking and swimming and watching butterflies fly. Many saw turtles and sharks while snorkeling in a crystal blue bay. At one point many of us had swum out to a small island, climbed the rocks alongside it and gazed out at the shimmering waters and lush, green hills as salt crusted on our skin. We walked down long stretches of road that glowed softly and warmly in the afternoon light. We spent one last afternoon ashore together before going home to share an evening of each other's art in a gallery on the deck. We enjoyed each other's company and took pride in our creative pursuits, enjoyed the sunset and had a cuddle puddle on the quarterdeck.
When I began this program, the cynical monster within me, one that resides in all of us, told me that I would likely not get close to anyone on this trip that we wouldn't "become best friends," which is a silly and harsh expectation to a measure a blossoming friendship by. As if other friendships aren't of note in their own unique way, no matter the length. Sometimes soulmates walk into our lives as friends, whether for a lifetime or a week. And of course, as life tends to, it surprised me. Within a week in Woods Hole, I laughed at my original judgement. I should've known. Though I am one to bare my heart and invest a lot of energy into my connections to others, sometimes I doubt the possibility of one before it begins, as if I could only love so many people in this life. But my heart is full and it's only grown larger since meeting these people I now call family.
This cynicism, this limitation of my mind, has also weighed my heart and psyche down in the face of climate change and the subjects of our studies this semester. We've discussed it again and again. I've asked dozens of people dozens of questions, all revolving around one central one: do you think we can do it, and how? It's a topic I've thought a lot about.
How can we possibly prepare for and mitigate the disasters we face? It seems too big, too overwhelming, too complicated a task dependent on the cooperation of billions of people to be possible. And yet, despite all this, I've learned one simple thing. This coalition of students, faculty, and crew, through different challenges, has taught me to have faith in the human spirit. This is easier to do when you're together sailing on the ocean, subject to marvels of strength and beauty every day. I've learned through these people to believe in the human spirit and, in the words of Maria Popova, not just resist cynicism, but fight it actively in every aspect of my life.
"Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but it is categorically inferior. [.] Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of large-hearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance."
I've slept the least I ever have these last few months of my life, but hardly do I notice. Life is full here, and I am energized by so much more than sleep. One drowsy afternoon during class, our beloved history professor Ben was delivering some parting words. Suddenly I was alert, hearing him tell us that in life we will live many lifetimes, this being one of them. Tears began to fall and the count of watering eyes only grew when Captain Sean (who left us in Antigua for Antarctica) also said goodbye. Hopefully he won't be mad at me for mentioning he cried too, but I want him to know how humbling and powerful it was. He said it will be difficult for us to go home. That it will be impossible to explain this, and we will need time to process.
So, family, friends, and loved ones, forgive us. Forgive us if we don't have many words at first, or you see us gazing off more than usual during the holidays. We might be both with you and out on the water, sweating a line, on lookout, watching the sunset, or laughing on the quarterdeck. We will likely not be able to summarize this lifetime to you when we see you next. We'll be at a loss when you ask, "So, how was it?" So please do not ask the impossible. Instead we will slowly unravel, sharing new pieces of our spirits with you over time.
As for you, you, you, my family, my friends, my new soulmates.,, I will miss you more than I can imagine. I will never find the words to fully express what you've meant to me, but hopefully the amount of tears you've seen me shed over you will be an indication. This will continue, don't worry. Time and space may separate us, but it won't be forever and we'll ebb and flow together. I can't wait to see where you go, who you become, and what things you will have learned about yourself by the time we meet again. Cheers to us. You're unique to me in all the world.