This week Kerry Smith-Logan debuts with one of her many stories of the sea.
By Kerry Smith-Logan
“Albatross” I say again. “Albatross, supposedly, are the incarnated souls of dead sailors”. The Captain of the boat only glances my way before continuing to instruct the greenhorn.
I knew I had overstepped my bounds, interrupting him like that. But it rankles when people change details because they fear seeming inferior simply because they are unsure. I tuck my chin and watch the water from the starboard wheelhouse chair. The early spring wind chafes the surface, scattering scalloped shapes across it. The waves are fluid and heavy; shifting prairie hills minus the sun.
As if to say, amen sister – a Laysan albatross hovers effortlessly outside the window beside me, its almost seven foot wing span serving it well in the air. My mind’s fingers ache to trace the smoky feathers done like makeup around its eyes on its otherwise creamy white curved head. Listening to our Captain ramble on about sea faring lore, I lament the loss of a perfectly good legend. The albatross would be a peaceful incarnation, gliding above the waters scooping up bits of this and that to eat, forever at peace with being one within itself. So unlike the squabbly and quite vicious sea gulls that the captain chose to name instead. But the average fishermen and sailor does resemble a gull more closely in temperament. Their pranks on each other have a mean edge to them. Admittedly not as mean as the seagulls themselves who think nothing of ripping a neighbor to pieces and eating him if he shows a bloody wound.
The albatross outside my window has moved off and soon disappears in the distance. I wonder how long it will take till the entire species does the same. Increasingly, they are dying; their bellies full of plastic bottle caps and disposable lighters. So maybe it is just as well that the legend is changing. Soon, fishermen will not be able to point to one when someone new to the waters asks “what does an albatross look like?” They’ll have to say “they were like big sea gulls.” The comparison will be a sham, a fake. I can’t help but wonder how many other legends and myths have been eroded in much the same way.
The Captain announces ten minutes till buoys on the bow. The greenhorn and I tumble down the stairs to don our gear in the closed in space below with the rest of the crew. Stepping outside into the blasting air, we joke that we have been released onto our playground. It is a dry, ironic joke. I watch the cook walk to the stern with a bag of garbage in his hand. As soon as I see him tense up his shoulder to swing it overboard, I bark at him over the wind. He gives me a sheepish look and opens the lazarette hatch before dropping the bag in. I don’t get people. Why would you want to throw that stuff all around when sooner or later you are going to get tangled in it?
From the wheelhouse two decks above them, the Captain bursts out the door, sails down the stairs and lands on the second deck. “Do you smell that? Do you smell it? It’s crab farts! We’re on ‘em!” He vaults back inside to steer the boat to the first buoy set up. We can smell it too, barely; the stench of anaerobic bacteria in thick mud releasing bubbles of gas as waste products. I’ve tried to explain it to them but their eyes shift away. Much more fun to say it is crab farts. Sure enough, when the pot breaches the waters, it is stuffed full of snow crab. Hoots and victory dances erupt before they gleefully set into the serious business of getting the crab sorted and down into the holds, sea water burbling from the opening. And so another myth is born; miss-aligned for the sake of aesthetics and the need for a humor break.
I was asked once why I laugh and giggle when a storm tosses us around like a cork, the wind trying to topple us over, the ocean determined to keep us under. My response was off the cuff but rang true. Because it doesn’t matter, you can believe whatever you want, the planet couldn’t care less. It will storm the waters and heave the land as it is so moved to do. In the end, you have two choices; understand the forces that move it or be caught unaware with your pants down. When the wind howls stronger than your measly body can withstand, your fragile humanity is laid bare for all to see, all pompous thoughts, grandiose ideas, creation myths- gone in one puff. And I find that funny.
She is like water: Her channels run deep. She can be affected by good or bad. She can be renewed, reborn again and again, forever changing, ubiquitous, and hard to grasp. She is life sustaining-a rescuer, yet perilous if not respected. Kerry Logan is a single mom and displaced biologist who works a variety of part time jobs and still dreams about her seasons on the Bering Sea while reconnecting with the gardening/farming/ranching lifestyle that is her heredity. Writing is a new but deeply rewarding interest for her, as indicated by her desire to read tech manuals on the subject. Pretty interesting for somebody that almost flunked out of English repeatedly in school. Kerry writes most of her stories at Thinking Ten–A writers Playground.