I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There she goes!"
Gone where? Gone from my sight ... that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There she goes! there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"*
I have been thinking about these words a lot lately. They speak to me of this unbelievably scary journey I am on. When I first joined this club of ours, I was lost, I was alone and I thought I would never find another who understood all of what I was going through. And then I found you. All of you. And together, we stood on the beach as we watched our own individual ships disappear from sight. I took and take to this day, great comfort in knowing that beside me were others who knew the pain of watching that ship diminish from view. Others who could remember the beauty it once held, the promise it offered, the hope it once danced with on the waves as it made it's journey, a journey that we were never allowed enjoy.
As time has passed we have all taken steps to start to turn our heads away from the horizon. To stop the incessant fixation with the ship that has disappeared from our view. To look to something other than the empty sea for comfort.
For me, I have been walking a path, parallel to the beach, keeping the horizon firmly in sight for the last 33 weeks. Only now it seems that I am on the pier. I can still see and feel and talk to everyone on the beach but I have one foot stepping out onto another ship. To some of my friends here it may seem that 33 weeks ago I put both feet on it and left the port, but I didn't. I held on to all of you and dropped anchor right next to you, firm in my belief that this was where I belonged. That this was where I was safe. Embarking on another journey, pushing off from shore seemed more than I could bear or dare to even dream about.
But now I feel the pull, the need to completely board, to lift my other foot off the pier and let myself go into the unknown vastness of this other journey. The tides are too strong for me to hold her back, to keep her tethered to the pier. She needs to go. It is her time to travel and I am wrong to deny her her destiny. But as I stand on her, I am drawn not to the bow where I can see where she is headed but to the stern where I can look back and draw comfort from those that I have known, who know me and know why I want to stay. At the same time I know most of us have watched as other ships have sailed and wished that we were going with them. We know it isn't an easy ride, the waves come and threaten to destroy us at any moment. And still we long to know what is on the other side. Who is waiting for us there.
I think of Julia and Ashliegh who I know are on the other side. I wonder will I see them. Will I make it to their destination. Can I survive this journey, can we survive this crossing.
I am on the ship now. Destination unknown. I feel the quiet movements inside me of another passenger who begs me to look forward, who pleads with me to believe this ship will survive the passage and will deliver us both into the waiting arms of another group of women who have gone before us.
I look back to the beach and implore with my whole being, please stay there so I know where to go if I fail and then I look out to the vast horizon, desperate to see the tiniest fleck of land, the smallest light that says we are here, keep going, and I feel myself disappearing from view and at the same time not yet visible to anyone waiting on the other side. I can hear you say "There she goes." but I can not yet hear the words I so long for, "Here she comes!"
**A Parable of Immortality, Henry Van Dyke