29 May 2012

Ballet afloat

Tal and I are watching Lake Erie from the open fantail of the Grande Mariner as we make our way to Cleveland.  There's a honeybee out here with us.  It lights on the back of a chair, flies up level with the upper deck or to one side of the ship or the other only to retreat, returning to the unbuffeted safely of the chair.  Again and again.  In much the same patterned route.

We left Buffalo's boat basin before supper yesterday, some 13 hours ago, and I am assuming that our pollen-laden visitor has been with us since, trapped in this boat-wide block of still air.  I wonder if it will be surprised when it emerges in Cleveland.  Will it know it's in new territory?  Where will it deposit the bright yellow pollen?

The two of us are not exactly bewildered as to our location from day to day -- there's a schedule posted on the bulletin board outside the lounge after all.  But, where we find ourselves is something of a marvel when reality casts a beam on us, a wonderfully frequent occurrence since we moved into 57B last Monday.  Sailing Lake Erie at dawn on a Tuesday in late May?  Really?  I guess we are not entirely unlike the bee who continues checking out the edges here at the back of the boat.

Unlike the bee, however, we have settled into a calm and leisurely routine.  Our cabin is small and terribly efficient, if we're careful.  While getting up, showered, dressed in the morning requires very few steps, having put everything away is essential, as is only one person going through the process at a time.  That keeps frustration and jostling to a minimum.  The routine we have developed includes my rising first and arriving in the lounge for early bird coffee just about the time the gurgling stops and the light on the urn flicks to red.  On the upper deck at dawn that hot coffee searing my throat I am guaranteed a period of solitude.  Once I get that bit of time, on board togetherness doesn't cost me over much psychic energy.

Making all this possible is the Grande Mariner's crew and staff.  Meals produced in a snug galley by two chefs and served by four stewardesses are as good as I have ever eaten.  The entire crew sees and attends to our needs almost before any of us realize we have a need at all.  And, watching the captain maneuver the vessel in tight places inspires awe even in the seasoned sailors among us.  In the background of all our leisure is washing and cleaning, scraping and painting, fueling and waste removal, the arrival of coaches for shore excursions and of performers and lecturers coming aboard to entertain or to instruct.

One way to describe what I am observing is a delicate balance among us as our little ship moves river to canal to lake.  The balance is not precarious.  It is not overly promoted.  But, it is careful, a deliberate set of steps, a dance that -- along with two 750 horsepower Caterpillar engines -- allows and defines our progress toward Chicago.

As I watch the honey bee take another breather before resuming its patrol of this air space, I have to wonder what getting to Chicago is going to be like.  Pondering that is likely a more worthwhile focus for me than wondering about a bewildered bee's arrival in Cleveland.  Harder work, too, I daresay.  Am I going to be the same person I was in Warren the first time a walked up the gang way?  After participating in this graceful dance along these historic waterways, I feel certain I'll recognize Chicago, but will I recognize myself?    

No comments: