On Silver Moon: If Train Travel is a Novel, Cruising is a Poem
I’m standing on my veranda on Silversea’s Silver Moon. I have a glass of rose in my hand. My husband, Larry, sits nearby, nursing a beer. It’s our first cruise together, ever. We are snacking on a plate of fruit and cheese. The wine is dry and cold. The breeze grows chilly. Terns and gulls drift by. The last tenders are arriving from shore. It’s that in-between time of day, what poets call the chiaroscuro, the mingling of darkness and light.
I like being out here as the sun is setting and we’ve returned from whatever expedition or adventure we’ve been on. Soon the captain in his melodic voice announces our departure. He tells us where we are going and how many miles. What seas to expect, what stars might fill the skies. Then the anchor is hoisted and the engines roar. The pewter sea roils below me. At first we move slowly like a waking beast. Then we gather speed.
I have grown to love the moment when we set sail. The water churning, the vessel lunging and then the gentle cradling as we journey on into dark waters where I’ve never been. I settle into a chair, reluctant to go inside. The veranda is important to me. I need the open space, the fresh air. I’m afraid of feeling trapped.
I do better in motion. I always have. Stasis means stuck. I’d rather drive eight hours than sit in traffic for one. I’d rather fly around the world than be stuck on the tarmac. All my best ideas, my flights of fantasy, my most daunting dreams, my problems solved, come when I’m walking, swimming, traveling even if it’s a subway ride. When I’m sitting peacefully at home, at my desk, often nothing happens. It’s when my body gets going that my mind seems able to follow suit. There is a Latin phrase for this: Solvitur ambulando. Solving problems while walking. For me it’s just about moving.
All my life I’ve had flying dreams but in them I’m actually swimming, doing a solid breast stroke through the air. I couldn’t imagine feeling more free than soaring on my own above mountains, over lakes and valleys. If I must travel on earth, I’d prefer trains.
Train travel for me is the fictive mode. Stories flash before my eyes as we zip by. A woman, hunched over, tying up peas. A towheaded child sobbing in front of a house. A man laughing into his phone. Snippets of lives, a single frame. Every story must start somewhere.
But now as I stand on my veranda on Silver Moon, I’ve expanded my horizons.
Until Silver Moon I’d never really been on a ship before – certainly not a large luxury one like this Silversea classic ship. Years ago I did take a small cruise through the Galapagos on assignment with my daughter when she was young. There were only a hundred people on board. When I wasn’t swimming with sea lions or getting in the flight path of the waved albatross, I was wandering around the ship in the middle of the night, looking for my daughter who was partying with the crew. I did have a close encounter at 4 a.m. with a red-footed boobie, napping on the deck, but searching for my daughter is pretty much all I remember of our cruise.
If train travel is a novel, then cruising is a poem. On this cruise I can’t help but think of the Odyssey – Ulysses sailing around the Mediterranean, meeting sirens and Cyclops and encountering all kinds of impediments to his return home. And on Silver Moon I was on my own Odyssey – waking up in a new port of call every morning, throwing back the curtains to view a different coast line, a fishing village I’d never seen, a bustling metropolis where I’d never been.
I’m learning to go with the flow. On this ship I sip my wine and watch the land recede until darkness falls and there’s nothing more to see. Dinner beckons and the evening beyond. Only then will I go inside and let the Silver Moon rock me.