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Arbreux, Wednesday, October 20, 1999.

The sailor is home from the sea:
A final page from my round-the-world journal . . . acg


Someone asked me what was the most significant lesson learned of my journey. In my journal of October 2, 1999, I had written in Rotterdam the following:


It is 1930 hours and the giant containership Cho Yang Atlas is maneuvering its way into its berth at Rotterdam. I hear the now familiar groans of its cargo of more than 4000 containers straining at their moorings, the slapping of swells against the starboard hull, and the heartbeat of the mammoth diesel engines propelling the rudder.

In just a short while, unloading will begin at this vast dock, one of the largest in the world, where lights are blazing, illuminating giant overhead cranes on railways and a fleet of waiting trucks. This will be the first full stop since we left Singapore eighteen days ago, pausing only overnight in the Red Sea to refuel before transiting the Suez Canal. Also, this is the next-to-last stop of my journey before leaving the ship in Felixstowe, England just four days hence. And my voyage of more than 18000 nautical miles will have come to an end.

There is a sense in which each day is a voyage, in which we make a passage from being a different person from the one we were the day before. This is not a clairvoyant insight, for all know that we are daily becoming someone different. However, some voyages are longer and more dramatic; such is this one. I was prepared to relearn how to play bridge with other passengers, to watch videos, to exchange anecdotes and vignettes with fellow travelers, but none such occurred because I found myself the sole passenger.

So much of my time was spent reading good books, keeping a log, and writing long letters. I think I must have had a subconscious wish to be the only passenger because I wanted this voyage to be life changing. I know that I wanted to trade the routine humdrum and ordinary days for something extraordinary. The Psalmist had given me courage and hope: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) I wanted to know at the end of the journey that the time and resources invested had been worthwhile. I wanted to know that I had made a passage to being a better person than I was when I left. I now want that idea as my mindset: to think of each new day as a voyage to becoming a new and better me.

In her book, Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote that one cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few and if they are few, they are more beautiful. In the same way we can clutter our lives with too many activities, too many valuable things, and too many interesting people. We must be selective if we would make room for the best. On this voyage I have had the gift of solitude to ponder and select a few exquisite everlasting treasures: a renewed reverence for all Creation, a rediscovery of worship and wonder, and a soul-satisfying joy of communion with the Creator.

All this year I have been transcribing verses of Scripture to the little black address book that goes with me everywhere. Writing them out in longhand helps me fix in mind the special wisdom they speak and perhaps deters my brain for a little while from its certain dementia. I have also incorporated them into the log of this voyage for my passage has been one of the spirit as well as the body.

Yesterday I read through them and chose one to use on the scrolling marquee screen saver on my computer. I selected the largest type possible in red letters. This was the apostle Paul writing to the Romans (9:16):

"IT DOES NOT DEPEND ON MAN'S DESIRE OR EFFORT, BUT ON GOD'S MERCY."

I came home to Arbreux today following yesterday's long flight from London. I found the dogwoods are the color of oxblood, the birches are golden as wheat, and the oaks are shades of cinnamon and old leather. When I left, summer was at its halcyon and fields were tinged in shades of tan because of the drought. But rains in my absence have turned the fields to green again.

Time passes. In these hills the seasons pass in review like squadrons in a long parade, some dressed more regal than others but all marching in cadence to the Creator's certain drumbeat. At sea, the seasons pass, too, in shadowed tones, not so richly adorned as these mountains.

For a while at least, I'll live consciously in both worlds -- a mountain man and a sailor. I give thanks for my several worlds and the multicolored seasons of my life.



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