after three years of wandering the waters of the whulji, which white ‘settlers’ usually call puget sound, i came ashore in bellingham, washington, with much less baggage, it seemed, than i had had when i started. about 4500 nautical miles had passed under brendan’s keep and trailed behind in his wake. when we had left, he was packed with gear, which became jetsam along the way. when we beached at post point, brendan had shed his shiny newness and i had shed shirt and shoes and most of my stuff. but there was baggage to be unpacked, some of which i am blaming on james joyce. most of my reading on journey had been james joyce. i actually landed with only one book, an oup leather-bound authorized version of the bible, but i had read ulysses three times, and wandered through finegan’s wake as repetitiously and repeatedly as i had wandered among the straits and islands of northwest washington and southwest canada.
the tides are a river, and i had shared joyce’s ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay’, but bellingham would be my ‘Howth Castle and environs’ to which by ‘a commodius vicus of recirculation back’ i came, there to unpack my baggage.
looking back at that younger, fitter self who set his bare foot on the sandy beach of fairhaven, it seems that bible represented the culture of my past which i had died on the ocean waves but which like finegan would wake again, perhaps.
the first conscious unpacking of my newer,younger, fitter but unexpectedly commodius baggage would happen in a surprisingly public environ. having decided to stay in bellingham i set out to find nice people my own age. i knew some nice people, but they were all twenty years younger than i, so i visited a methodist church.
indeed at garden street united methodist chuch there were nice people my own age, many of whom remain esteemed friends ten years later. there was a reading group beginning, for advent or something, and it started with the obligatory intros. leader asked me what i had been doing. three years of paddling in the wilderness. what had i learned? oh my. i thought at first it was a difficult question. there had been so much. but not, the answer came quickly, probably from the same reptile brain that had expected to die in a big tidal change off wilson point one sunny august noon: it’s all one.
it’s all one.
such a simple, attractive, concept that has haunted folks from plotinus through frege to einstein. and now it would haunt me. what is this one that had followed me in brendan’s wake?