On many an occasion at this time of year, my wife and I walk over to the beach with our chairs and the dogs to sit and cap the summer evening, enjoying the light ocean breeze that affords a break from the oppression of the day’s heat.
With any luck, a school of porpoise will conveniently swim by, always frolicking, but sometimes feeding, if the currents permit. Intrepid sun-tanned souls on paddle boards join them and carry on a bonding of species, if only for a moment.
The dogs busy themselves with digging in the sand for ghost crabs with nothing but their rear ends left showing above ground as we laugh at their folly. But once in a while they prance about to surprise us with their catch, as if to say “see, we told you so!”
Neighbors camp out about us, chattering about the latest happenings and retelling worn out tales, but mostly killing time while anticipating the approaching sunset. It usually obliges with a symphony of colors and streaks to confound our senses.
But for now, I take notice of a very large commercial freighter traversing the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay as it begins its voyage across the great ocean lying before it and leaving the Port of Norfolk in its massive wake. I ruminate about several things as my mind can’t help but inhabit the passageways and spaces below decks of this vessel. How many of these sailors are sadly and reluctantly leaving their home? How many are joyfully returning home? Are some of them fleeing an untenable situation in their existence? How many are searching for that elusive adventure that will become a crossroads in their lives? What is the value of their immense cargo and what of its destination?
I am compelled to reminisce to when I was once one of these sailors in this very spot, a young naval Ensign back in the mid-sixties. I plied these same waters aboard a U.S. Navy warship as we sortied forth to ostensibly keep the peace. But there was little peace to be had as the Vietnam War and its ramifications was wreaking havoc and taking lives both abroad and here at home. The middle east was its usual powder keg and one of our deployments from these passive waters I now so serenely observe, was to prowl around the waves of the eastern Mediterranean Sea “protecting our interests” while the war between Israel and several Arab countries raged.
Anyway, what of these sailors who now venture forth? What is in store for them on this voyage and in their lives? Will it be calm and placid seas or a tempest of churning waters? I’ll never know the answers, but I do know this; I will be here tomorrow evening as another great ship commences its voyage and it will fall to me to once more ponder these very same questions.