Friday, November 5, 2010


From "Wanderer" by Sterling Hayden. The writing, once you're in it, is engrossing. Here the author describes a teenage fantasy--while living on a forested New England island with his mother one winter--of going to sea; which he eventually did, sailing ships around the world several times in the 1930's.

"I closed the book and gazed at the moon all mellow and amber as it came rising out of the sea, and it seemed I couldn't wait until my life at sea began. I bundled up and said to my mother: "I'm going on watch."

I stepped into the night. The island became a tall ship on a moonlit sea with her granite stem tossing the groundswell aside and the wind in her pinebough sails. I studied the path of the moon, then moved to my place of command on the little dock shaped like a quarter-deck. There was a crust of snow on the handrails and ice on the planks and the wind blew hard from the north northwest."

"Oh how it blew! And oh how she sailed that night! I locked my hands behind my back as I paced by the hour with never a word to the helmsman. The lights one by one slid from sight behind the hill of the world till we were all alone in the path of the moon--locked in the bone-gray arms of an ever-increasing breeze. From time to time I'd stand in the lee of a tall spruce mast and nibble my fruit or crackers; and aloft I'd see the drift of the clouds with the branches in silhouette and the star-studded sky looking down. And it came to me that this was surely the most beautiful sight in the world---the pines, the clouds, the stars, and the sky, on a windy night in the full of the moon and alone on the coast of Maine. You could hear the bells in the course of the hours, and the men took their turn at the wheel. The moon went from amber to ivory--and the pine sails raged in the wake of the wind, and I thought of holding the deck till dawn--"

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