Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat? Guildenstern: No, no, no... Death is... not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat. Rosencrantz: I've frequently not been on boats. Guildenstern: No, no, no-what you've been is not on boats.
Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat? Guildenstern: No, no, no... Death is...not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat. Rosencrantz: I've frequently not been on boats. Guildenstern: No, no, no--what you've been is not on boats.
Another boat, a straight-four, four sweep oarsmen without a coxswain, raced through our flotilla. I looked at them as they jetted past, and I quickly looked again. This boat appeared to be manned by four skeletons. Their cheek bones stood out like knots, their ribs were clearly defined as if they were painted on. Every leg and arm muscle showed as taut as steel cabling. Four pairs of deep-set eyes peered at us, conveying 'the look.' The four men who were rowing that shell were a special breed of oarsmen known as 'lightweights'...
Brad Alan Lewis
I caught a tremendous fish and held him beside the boat half out of water, with my hook fast in a corner of his mouth. He didn't fight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I stared and stared and victory filled up the little rented boat from the pool of bilge where oil had spread a rainbow around the rusted engine to the bailer rusted orange, the sun-cracked thwarts the oarlocks on their strings, the gunnels-until everything was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! And I let the fish go.
Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow, Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea, What matters beating wind and tossing billow If only we are in the boat with Thee? Hold us quiet through the age-long minute While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill : Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it; Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?
I replied that I did not quite know what my ailment had been, but that I had certainly suffered a good deal especially in mind. Further, on this subject, I did not consider it advisable to dwell, for the details of what I had undergone belonged to a portion of my existence in which I never expected my godmother to take a share. Into what a new region would such a confidence have led that hale, serene nature! The difference between her and me might be figured by that between the stately ship cruising safe on smooth seas, with its full complement of crew, a captain gay and brave, and venturous and provident; and the life-boat, which most days of the year lies dry and solitary in an old, dark boat-house, only putting to sea when the billows run high in rough weather, when cloud encounters water, when danger and death divide between them the rule of the great deep. No, the "Louisa Bretton" never was out of harbour on such a night, and in such a scene: her crew could not conceive it; so the half-drowned life-boat man keeps his own counsel, and spins no yarns.
To secure the safety of the navigation of the Mississippi River I would slay millions. On that point I am not only insane, but mad... I think I see one or two quick blows that will astonish the natives of the South and will convince them that, though to stand behind a big cottonwood and shoot at a passing boat is good sport and safe, it may still reach and kill their friends and families hundreds of miles off. For every bullet shot at a steamboat, I would shoot a thousand 30-pounder Parrots into even helpless towns on Red, Ouachita, Yazoo, or wherever a boat can float or soldier march.
William Tecumseh Sherman
If a man, having lashed two hulls together, is crossing a river, and an empty boat happens along and bumps into him, no matter how hot-tempered the man may be, he will not get angry. But if there should be someone in the other boat, then he will shout out to haul this way or veer that. If his first shout is unheeded, he will shout again, and if that is not heard, he will shout a third time, this time with a torrent of curses following. In the first instance, he wasn't angry; now in the second he is. Earlier he faced emptiness, now he faces occupancy. If a man could succeed in making himself empty, and in that way wander through the world, then who could do him harm?
That was true, Iris would sometimes think, about marriage: it was only a boat, too. A wooden boat, difficult to build, even more difficult to maintain, whose beauty derived at least in part from its unlikelihood. Long ago the pragmatic justifications for both marriage and wooden-boat building had been lost or superseded. Why invest countless hours, years, and dollars in planing and carving, gluing and fastening, caulking and fairing, when a fiberglass boat can be had at a fraction of the cost? Why struggle to maintain love and commitment over decades when there were far easier ways to live, ones that required no effort or attention to prevent corrosion and rot? Why continue to pour your heart into these obsolete arts? Because their beauty, the way they connect you to your history and to the living world, justifies your efforts. A long marriage, like a classic wooden boat, could be a thing of grace, but only if great effort was devoted to its maintenance. At first your notions of your life with another were no more substantial than a pattern laid down in plywood. Then year by year you constructed the frame around the form, and began layering memories, griefs, and small triumphs like strips of veneer planking bent around the hull of everyday routine. You sanded down the rough edges, patched the misunderstandings, faired the petty betrayals. Sometimes you sprung a leak. You fell apart in rough weather or were smashed on devouring rocks. But then, as now, in the teeth of a storm, when it seemed like all was lost, the timber swelled, the leak sealed up, and you found that your craft was, after all, sea-kindly.
Counting on each other became automatic. When I found a sweater in Texas I wanted, I learned to buy two, which was easier than seeing the look of disappointment on Caroline's face when I returned home with only one. When she went out from the boathouse on a windy day, she gave me her schedule in advance, which assuaged her worst-case scenario of flipping the boat, being hit on the head by an oar, and leaving Lucille stranded at home. I still have my set of keys to her house, to locks and doors that no longer exist, and I keep them in my glove compartment, where they have been moved from one car to another in the past couple of years. Someday I will throw them in the Charles, where I lost the seat to her boat and so much else.
The last glow of sundown dims away. Stars appear in the east. Night encloses us. The ocean seems to enlarge. When you're adrift at night, imagination and perception merge. They have to. You can't see as well, as far, as deep. You tie knots by muscle memory, and you operate your reel mostly by feel. Your boat drifts, your thoughts drift. You sense the sweep of tide and water, and the boat gets rocked in turbulence just past each undersea ridgeline and boulder field. You, too, are looking up, searching constellations, dreaming. You fell again how flexible and expansive your mind can be when it's working right. And you slip your leash to explore the vast vault of sky and great interior spaces.
When he came back, I hid my face within my hands. He said: "Fear nothing. Who has seen our kiss? -Who saw us? The night and the moon." "And the stars and the first flush of dawn. The moon has seen its visage in the lake, and told it to the water 'neath the willows. The water told it to the rower's oar. "And the oar has told it to the boat, and the boat has passed the secret to the fisher. Alas! alas! if that were only all! But the fisher told the secret to a woman. "The fisher told the secret to a woman: my father and my mother and my sisters, and all of Hellas now shall know the tale.
As the station wagon pulled back onto the highway, the sun was slowly sinking below the horizon like a leaky boat. Well, except for that fact that boats are not generally round, orange and on fire. Hmm. Come to think of it, in no way whatsoever did the sun, in this instance, resemble a leaky boat. My apologies. That was a dreadful attempt at simile. Please allow me to try again. As the station wagon pulled back onto the highway, the sun was slowly sinking below the horizon like a self-luminous, gaseous sphere comprised mainly of of hydrogen and helium.
And finally the two of them plunged into the dark sea, a sea like a pack of wolves, and they dove around the boat trying to find young Reiter's body, with no success, until they had to come up for air, and before they dove again, they asked the men on the boat whether the brat had surfaced. And then, under the weight of the negative response, they disappeared once more among the dark waves like forest beasts and one of the men who hadn't been in before joined them, and it was he who some fifteen feet down spotted the body of young Reiter floating like uprooted seaweed, upward, a brilliant white in the underwater space, and it was he who grabbed the body under the arms and brought him up, and also he who made the young Reiter vomit all the water he had swallowed.