Charting Columbus

| October 13, 2010

The dock is our compass, our legs, the arrows facing west. Staring up into the inky blackness, we draw a path from star to star resembling the hull of a ship, as little waves lap the salty posts like a cat licking a bowl of cream. The harbor is quiet, but for the soft purr of an old Whaler guided in from a day’s fishing by the beam of the red and white, peppermint striped light house, fueled still to this day by kerosene. At a different point, we are in Hopetown, Abaco, which was settled by the British loyalists who sought refuge after the American Revolution.

Barefoot, with our backs flat against the hard wood, we think of Columbus five centuries before, as we connect the celestial diamonds. That one over there is Palos, the other one Guanahani, or San Salvador. We follow the points in his journey, sailing due west and back again to Europe– the Canary Islands, Santo Domingo, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Azure Islands, and Lisbon – all twinkling as the scents of bitter breadfruit and sweet guava mingle with the rustling of coconut palms around us. It is a long voyage, fraught with uncertainty, exhaustion, and disease– near mutiny on board. Fighting summer tempests, sailors fear falling off the edge of the world into the mouths of deep sea serpents. The North Star studs the tip of the Santa Maria’s fore-mast, as the spars of the Pinta and Nina join in a hopeful procession of wooden crosses. After ten weeks the big dipper scoops Madeira onto the sandy beaches bordered by purple prickly pear bushes – the weary explorers soon to alight in the dawn of a rich, new land. Christopher Columbus keeps a secret log charting his travels, and we write the open Bahamian sky.

Referencing Our News Display: Columbus Lands in the Bahamas, Tuesday, 10/12 in the Everett Café