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Monday, April 28, 2008

Journeys-long and short

Sunday evening-
I'm home from another journey. It was just a short one this time, from Tacoma north to Port Angeles and back. Still, it's good to come home, to a cozy leather chair, a dog asleep in the lamp glow, rain hitting the window, coffee, and a good book.

I'm reading a book about journeys of a much longer kind. The title is Barrow's Boys-the Original Extreme Adventurers, by Fergus Fleming. It's about British expeditions of discovery covering over three decades, beginning in 1816, conducted by naval officers personally chosen by John Barrow, second secretary of the British Admiralty. They were all long on bravery, vision, and resolve, but short on financial backing, clear orders, and practicality. Yet all of "Barrow's Boys" put themselves at great risk repeatedly, to live lives of deliberate adventure. The book covers early voyages in search of the elusive Northwest Passage, and to the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as overland treks deep into Africa seeking Timbuctoo, the source of the Niger, and more.

My journey was only to the northernmost edge of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, but wedged there between the the snow covered Olympic mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I thought about this book and journeys, long and short. In Port Angeles I relished the fresh marine air, islander that I am, as I looked out at the oceangoing ships anchored there, with Canada's Vancouver Island not too far distant beyond them. I thought of how Captain James Cook, in 1778, sailed along its western shore in Resolution II, along with the ship Discovery. Fourteen years later Captain George Vancouver. who had been a midshipman on Discovery, returned to circumnavigate this large island and name it after himself.

Most of us will never circumnavigate an island in the course of life's voyage. Sometimes though, we must circumnavigate our circumstances, before we can finally drop anchor in the place where we belong. Through calm seas and gales we explore, take risks, learn, persevere. Some try to stay safely in port, accepting the status quo. Others have the yearnings of Barrow's Boys, to see places they've never seen, to test themselves, to experience as much as they can for as long as they can. Maybe the port they dream of cannot be reached except by traveling the long way around, but they have faith that it exists.

Every great journey, every great voyage, begins with imagination. Your life is the product of your imagination. It creates and shapes your life, but also focuses on the goal, the heart's safe harbor you have always longed for. None of us can guess what seas we might have to sail to reach it, but through our intent, that place will appear on the horizon, someday. When we get there at last, we will arrive with a cargo of memories.

Quoting an anonymous writer-

"If imagination is the morning of the mind, and memories the evening, I wish for long, glorious sunsets."

Life itself is a an expedition of discovery, a long journey. It should be one of discovering the truths about who you are, what you really want out of life, and the meaning of memories, experiences, and love. By these maps and charts we can find our way back home. I wish to wake each morning inspired and full of imagination, and know that there are glorious sunsets waiting for me in the end.

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