Close your eyes and climb aboard your little sailboat. Hoist the sail and drop off the mooring and slip across the deepening waters, mainsheet and tiller in hand. Feel the worn cedar planks and sand grains against your bare soles and hear the thrum of sail as it tautens in the breeze and lifts the boat across the water, wavelets clucking against the carving hull. Smell the cool salty broth of sea air and the fishy funk of the sea. Keep heading outward. Settle back against the cockpit coaming and nod to the terns chittering and peering at you as they flick past.
The sun settles toward the far shore. You squint at it, its rays warming your face. Tilt your head skyward and watch the angled shape of the sail and the gaff and the masthead arc and pivot against the heavens. Keep heading out and watch the sun alight on the horizon, then melt away, leaving the scattered puffs of cloud ablaze with electric pink that cools fast to purple and then charcoal. A planet blinks on, and red and green and white navigation lights of vessels appear. The water reflects the last of the sky’s inky blue. Shore lights mingle with the lights on the water. Soon you slip over a darkening sea, the white sail above you offering a pale glow against the growing star population. Reach for the chamois shirt you stow beneath the foredeck. Shrug into it and thank it for its warmth.
Skim onward into wider waters. You know you’ll never turn around now. A hush embraces you. The shore lights diminish, the lights of vessels disperse. Quiet now. You sense the outer shell of you dissolving to leave you open to the wind and the stars and the dark presence of the sea. You have passed through a zone in which you have given your entire being to the world. You open up your soul like a great pair of wings to let the quiet enter you and cleanse you. You become the boat and the sea and the night.
The moon raises its brow above the horizon, unfurling a glittering ribbon across the water. You adjust your course to point moonward, your bow scissoring the shimmer.
The moon whispers words you first think originate from wind or wave, sibilant syllables sweet but nonsensical. You know the words are meant for you. You strain to parse these lunar phrases, these moon murmurs, and soon you find that the nonsense sounds transform into a message as if you have tuned through the static of a shortwave radio to land on a clear signal.
“Steady on, steady on,” you hear the moon intone. Will you allow this beacon of beyond to guide you onward, outward, moonward?
You know you will. You know you’ll never turn around now.
Craig Moodie lives with his wife, Ellen, in Massachusetts. His work includes A Sailor’s Valentine and Other Stories and, under the name John Macfarlane, the middle-grade novel, Stormstruck!, a Kirkus Best Book.