Recently whilst scrolling through some of the random overload that is Facebook, I was halted in my indifference by a photograph. It wasn’t the post or the content that made me stop and open the image, but the man in the picture. The mirrored image of a man I know, have known and have descended from.
A man in oilskins standing on a harbour wall with fishing boats tied up behind him. A man staring straight ahead with his dark eyes vacant, weather beaten skin and deep furrows in his brow carved by the wind, the sun and the rain, in varying degrees of discomfort. I know this man. He’s a man of the Sea.
That man in the picture is a breed. In this modern age he’s becoming exceedingly rare though. And to be frank, an acquired taste. There are many men who indulge in and enjoy nautical pleasures. Generally it takes a bit of money for any kind of yacht and even more for some of the sleek luxurious motor cruisers. These Dubarry clad sailors either dabble or sometimes fully embrace the lifestyle, but rarely does that define them as a true man of the Sea.
For there he is in the corner of a grubby bar in some gritty coastal town. He’s a sailor, a diver, a lifeboatman, a fisherman or a rig worker. He’s either on his own or exchanging brief dialogue with those he knows or trusts. He hasn’t got time for pleasantries with strangers or polite conversation. Talk should have a purpose and this is a man used to his own silence. If he has a hardness etched into those furrowed brows, it’s because his lover is unforgiving and cruel. One day she is calm, has a warmth, welcoming and loving and the next she has the potential to rip him from the safety of his deck and into her frenzied bosom, squeezing the life from him. This man loves the Sea. He may love her more than any mortal woman he shares his bed or his life with. A sailor with a girl in every port, a hardened heart and a worthy reputation for some. Maybe it’s the separation from the normal social existence of a race who live on land, but this man is here by choice and he is more comfortable and alive when on or at least near the sea.
The Man of the Sea may have many vices. Loose women, hard liquor or smoking high tar cigarettes or rolled up tobacco. He doesn’t care too much for striving to reach a grand old age in reasonable health. If he becomes the highest accolade of an Old Man of the Sea, that will be grand, but hell would be some Old Peoples home with normal people who could never understand the real freedom in the extremes he has felt and tasted. His obsession is for sunrise over horizons and sunset over headlands, the changing skies, the cry of the seabirds overhead and the depths, with her belly of treasures and secrets.
Don’t try and love him because that distant look and searching in his eyes in not “lost”. Centuries of women have fallen for his hardened charms and readiness for separation and detachment. This man knows where the home fires burn and he’s happy to indulge in the earthly pleasures of a women’s flesh or the stiffest of dinks. But he’s knowingly helpless to the draw of the addiction he loves and hates in equal measures. She is what courses through his veins.
This Man of the Sea.