Getting in my boat. I've got a bucket for fish and I'm protected against poachers and other such evil characters. I'm set to go fishing. Heading toward the ocean now and thinking that's where I will find the best fish. I sit in the boat and wait. Hoping that something will come up. I used to have a superhero cape. It fell in the choppy waters in an earlier fishing trip, when I was fighting with that big fish, the one that wouldn’t give in without a battle.
And so I wait. Asking the deities in my little world to show me some kindness. So tired. Think I'll get ready to go to sleep. I have to wait quietly in this boat anyway. I don't want to scare off the fish. Can't relax too much, though. It's night but dangers still await, even though I am well protected from murderers. Sleep with one eye open and wrap myself in this blanket, covering up my protective jacket that will keep me safe from those who kill at night. The wind screams all night. A storm. I fear what could happen. Nevertheless, I fall into a deep sleep.
I wake up and sees that I am far from shore. I put out my fishing line again, ready to catch something. Maybe a little fish, maybe a big fish. The smell of the sea air keeps me calm and focused. I know that I have a big task ahead. So I wait, in the boat, thinking about Santiago and his epic struggle with the marlin. I had never met Santiago but the story was legendary. The marlin was a great fish that Santiago caught but he was unable to reel it in because it was so enormous. The struggle continued for two days. Santiago was an old man but he couldn't leave the sea because the sea was his world and his life. Even though he was trying to catch the marlin, Santiago loved it and called it his brother. He was determined not to kill the fish but to give it back its life because it was so strong and resilient.
I didn't catch any fish. I'm headed to shore. Whatever shore I can find. I am far from home and don't know how to get there. I am truly lost at sea.
I land on the shore of an island that I don’t know. I have no idea of where I am, as my compass fell out of my boat during the wind storm. I have been blown far off course. I go into a cave to wait for what I believe will be yet another storm. The sea is full of white caps and high waves. The cave is chilly, echoey, and empty. I paint the walls, just like they did in prehistoric times. To make my paintings look prehistoric, like the Pettakeri Cave Sulawesi, Indonesia; Coliboaia Cave, Romania; and Chauvet Cave, France. I could paint animals and my own hands. These seem to be the most authentic in appearance. A cave wall covered by images of mice and human hands. I know, they didn't paint mice. But some of those prehistoric animals are extinct. I'll go for mice, squirrels, and cats.
A few days later, the sea is no longer churning. I've checked the boat, and it is clean and seaworthy. In a few hours, I'm going fishing again. Let's hope that I catch something tonight.
Once I leave the cave, I find myself in a lagoon. The water is so clear and so blue that it appears to be turquoise. I look over the boat in the water and I can see the coral on the bottom of the lagoon. I think that I must be in some special, magical place. I know that coral reefs are endangered. But this coral reef is strong and healthy. The coral is a vivid shade of pink and it is surrounded by fish: queen angelfish, saddleback butterfly fish, copperband butterflyfish, longnosed hawkfish, and clown triggerfish. They are beautiful but they are not fish to eat. I go to the shore and find pineapples, coconuts, mangoes, star fruits, papaya, and avocadoes. I eat my fill of these scrumptious fruits and then hop in the boat and push off.
I am back in the sea, in a boat that seems to be too small. The waves rock me to sleep, however. Sleep that I desperately need and want. I wake up and see a sea monster and I am startled. He tells me not to fear, that I will always be safe and protected. I reach under my blanket and my protective vest isn't there. The sea monster says that he is my protective vest. He is the protection that I have always sought and the warmth that I have always needed. He leads me to a calm place so that I can catch fish.
I know that the sea gives and the sea can also take. I've experienced enough storms and wrecked ships to know how demanding the sea can be. Yet the sea gnome will always remain a sea gnome. The allure of the sea is too great. The water stretching on and on forever until it touches the sky is my world. It is where I feel most alive. I will always be a fishergnome. What else could I do? I leave the lagoon a little sadly. It was a place of joyful respite, but I must move on.
Life as a fishergnome is often quiet. The sea is calm, although the sky is cloudy. The sunrise this morning was vivid with reds, oranges, and a bit of gray. I know that means that a storm could come. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning. I watch, I listen, and I wait. My fishing line is in the water. It, too, waits. The wind picks up... I see a cormorant diving below and emerging with a fish. I hear the birds scream. I wonder and I wait but I feel an edginess. Danger could be lurking. The surface is too calm. Just then, I manage to pull ashore an island. I've arrived safely on land and am looking for food and a safe place to stay. I see vultures circling overhead. There were rattle snakes and other menacing creatures. Land doesn't feel as safe as the open waters for Flanders the Sea Gnome.
I get back into my boat and return to sea but danger lurks for me there, too. I have fallen into the water. I try swimming, but I just flail. I can feel myself sinking. My end is in sight. My story could be over. I hope that I exist in someone's memory. The memory of a sea gnome who just wanted to explore the world. A tiny spot in a little garden was never enough for her. She needed to experience everything that life could offer and where else but the sea? Just as the water closed over my head, I found myself lifted up. I could scarcely believe it. Am I alive or am I dead? And then I saw that the sea monster was carrying me...
I have now lost my fishing line, my superhero cape, and my boat. I am truly lost at sea. Without a boat, I have no sense of direction. I don't know starboard from port. The sun shines in my eyes. I close them. I have to trust in the sea monster. I have no where else to turn. If it weren't for the sea monster, all hope would have fled.
I fight against the sea, raging around me. If it weren't for the sea monster holding me up, I would have been caught in the vortex and would have gone under. My beloved sea has become my nemesis. I fight hard, summoning whatever strength is left within me. But it slowly drains out of me. I remembered the red sky that I saw early this morning, and I understand why the red sky is a sailor's warning. I rest on top of the sea monster's strong body. He is my rock and my strength. I have to trust that he will not abandon me.
The waters are getting choppy again. The sky turns an angry shade of gray. A storm sky. That's how it is usually described. Waves roll over the sea monster and me, riding on top of him. cling to him, terrified of what could happen. Would I fall off of his slippery body? Could I hang on? My faith in his ability to keep me safe has dwindled away, almost to nothing. I was painfully aware that I was a solitary sea gnome, adrift in an churning, violent sea. I gulped for air and...
I had gone inward, to a place where no sea gnome should go. It was a place of fear and sorrow. Where was my hope? From where would it come? I thought that I sensed gentle music in the distance. I strain to listen, although the storm grows and the rain falls harder than ever. The sea monster has become very slippery. I struggle not to fall into the foamy waters. I hear the music again. It sounds like an alto flute. The song that it plays, written in the pentatonic scale, has becoming more audible. I feel an overwhelming sense of sorrow from this quiet melody in a melancholy minor key. Despite the hypnotic effect of the music, I have to maintain my focus. I have to stay on top of the sea monster, my friend and my protector in an ocean that has suddenly become hostile.
Soothed by the music, I asked myself why I had traveled to sea, where life is beautiful but hazardous. Had I made the wrong decision? I had once lived in a beautiful garden, full of color and sunlight. Why had I abandoned my garden? And, like a flash, it came to me. I could never be satisfied always being in one place, seeing the same things every day, doing the same things every day. My story needed to expand, and my world needed to grow. My wanderlust had become so great that I had to let it take me on a journey, to see the edges of the earth. If I ever made back to my garden and my former world, I had stories to tell and songs to share. I knew, as I fought to stay on the sea monster's back, that adventure and exploration were more valuable than safety and routine. I look up and see sunlight...
The sky is clear again. I rode out the storm and I am still safely and comfortably on top of the sea monster, my protector. I know that I have not yet reached safety. I sense that safety is far from me. Even though I am no longer in danger of drowning. I still sense danger. I remember my garden and my family of gnomes. I am feeling nostalgic for my old home. Never did I intend to leave home forever. But it looks as though that may be what happens. My brother and sister gnomes, my husband gnome, and my baby gnome. Such a sweet little gnome. It will always be a baby gnome. It is just cute and little. Well, at least for me, the baby gnome will never be anything but cute and little. I am so far from home that I doubt that I will ever return. I reach into my little waterproof bag of goodies and get out a writing utensil, a piece of paper, and an empty bottle. I begin to write.
"To my dearest gnomish family. I miss your gnomey ways and your gnomey smiles. I miss the way that you caught the raindrops and the way that your eyes gleam in the sunshine. I miss our gnomely songs and dances. I hope that we will be reunited one day but, if I never come home, please know that I love you with all of my gnomish heart. I would send you the songs of the sea if I could put them in a bottle, but they are too big to fit in a little bottle. I would send you the smell of the salt air but it won't be contained by a bottle. All I can send you is my love. I love you to the moon and beyond. I love you past the stars and the galaxies that I watch on a clear night here on the rolling, dancing sea. I love all of my gnomes for ever and ever." I put the note in the bottle, seal it, and throw it out to sea.
I still have hope in my heart; I believe that I will find my way back home after all, to my family. To my husband who is so happy in the garden and to the baby who isn't really a baby, except in his mother's eyes. The storm has passed and I never fell off of the sea monster. Why was I not able to trust? Why did I fear? I must stay strong and know that courage means doing the very things that I fear the most. We are nearing an island. I see a group of people. Not gnomes. Not large enough to be storytelling giants. Not the famous seafaring bears. But humans. I think. They are doing a circle dance. A leader guides them. A wave of fear suddenly attacks me. Who are these people? There seems to be something very sinister about them. I must avoid them.
(to be continued)