Saturday, January 19, 2013

Favorable winds

The windsurfer's sail is upright for a minute or two.

A frigid sunny morning with northwest gale-force winds, my husband and I head to the beach, anticipating high surf and angry waves.

Our Dodge Ram bounces over the rough terrain as we drive as close to the Sakonnet as we dare, the wind pelting sand and spray at the vehicle.

I attempt to open the door against the wind, and it flings the heavy door back at me. I open the window instead.

Watching a lone windsurfer struggle to raise the sail in choppy seas, I shudder; and memories of an ill-fated sojourner flood my mind.

Twenty summers or so ago, my daughter was walking on Shore Road when she saw what appeared to be a black trash bag, flotsam being hurled back and forth in the tide.

Walking down the steep bank to the seashore to investigate, she saw a man in a wet suit floating in the foam.

Terrified, she called for help, alerting neighbors who pulled the battered body onto the beach.

Minutes later, the first responders arrived, paramedics running from their van with equipment in hand. Shortly after, they slowly walked back to the truck and drove away.

Then came the press, interviewing witnesses and videotaping the lifeless body lying on the deserted beach.

After they left, a solitary officer remained, standing vigil over the nameless windsurfer who was not taken from his resting place until dusk.

Back in the present, I feel the Dodge rock back and forth with each gust, and I cannot take my eyes off the windsurfer.

Over and over, he strains to raise the sail, only to be thrust headlong into the waves.

Finally he gives up, dragging the board and sail in the pounding surf along the water’s edge. Even that requires tremendous strength as wind and water conspire to toss him and his gear onto the rocky beach.

We drive to the summer house, once he is safely ashore.

Rounding the bend on Shore Road, we stop and I roll down the window. The whitecaps careen into the bay violently breaking against the rocks, sending forth a fountain of droplets.

And once again, I am reminded of the unknown windsurfer who sailed these waters long ago.

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable,” wrote Roman philosopher Seneca (4 BC-AD 65), a contemporary of Jesus Christ.

I have faith in a loving God, and I believe the windsurfer is in a better place. The Sakonnet was just his port of entry.  

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