boats in the harbor

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sometimes in a line, or side by side
we give the semblance of order, the hint of pride
in early summer when the weather is fine
and new paint is added, and rot cut away
lines are repaired and wood is well varnished
there are flashes of pride, and adventure before us
and the water needs only, to keep us afloat
as songs from the radio fill the air with romance
leisurely, after the work of sanding and cutting,
when relaxing on a deck chair in the long afternoon,
there might be a beer or two, or a tug at the bottle,
a wisp of smoke in the air for relaxation
as if there was nothing to do
rubbing shoulders all the while with reliance

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out here, don’t you know, we’re an adjunct of the city
we’re the homes of those who can get away
instead of green gardens and seasonal flowers
we’ve got the sea as our backyard, to bring joy to the day.
the power company provides our electric connection
the cell phone rings with cheery calls from friends
apparently well connected, all our needs supplied
dinners may be served in scenic surroundings
or eaten in privacy while we’re seated inside

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there’s some of us here, who’ll never go out to sea
they’ll find consolation in the sights and the smells,
the purr of the motors, the songs of the wind…
the groans of the swell, the roars of the waves
the wimpers of the wood, the salt in the air
and the security of being moored to the wharf
just a step from the land, tethered as always
out of harms way

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but those of us who’ll venture out…
setting sail with intention to return
but well aware that there’s no fair retreat
knowing in the depth of our souls
that life starts with the first centimeter
of release from the moorings
as we slip away from the fetters
and the garbage of idleness
putting our faith on the body of the water,
the solitude of the deep blue sea

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our trust in the stars above
even when they remain unperceived
behind clouds in the black of night.
they are there as they were
yesterday and a thousand years ago
the presence of the sea too, is constant and won’t be tamed
arm wrestling playfully, then she’ll shake, rattle and roll
till even the most practiced sailor will heave
and clench the rail with all his might
no flattery will subdue her, no love will overcome…
alone on the water, we’ll navigate our course
no promise, no assurance, no insurance will deliver us
as we rely on judgment and experience night and day

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metal will buckle and planks will decay
paint will bubble over unforgiving rust
a single mistake may never be forgiven
and a blink in the night, might never be forgotten.
there are fewer fish in the sea, and they remain unseen
and the moods that seemed casual at first
could be later acknowledged with a scream

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good times for sure, the highs intoxicate
but happiness, you know isn’t forever after
no maps or charts to guarantee the temper of mood
or the luck of a voyage between here and the horizon
the personality of the sea knows no surety
the crew relies on one another, the captain on god
and when the captain sails alone
his face etched with resolution…
is one of his eyes waiting for a nod?

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you land lovers above
have the choice, just as we do here
whether to stick with the crowd,
in an ever lasting hug
or live this life the best that you can
on your own, despite the fear

all photos from the Jaffa harbor

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66 responses to “boats in the harbor

    • Thank you very much, Bruce. I am presently reading your fine book, Lost in Seattle, and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a pleasure meeting you here too, in this virtual venue.

  1. Casualties At Sea – Bruce Louis Dodson

    Causes:

    Engine failure
    due to flooding
    cause unknown
    bad maintenance
    bad pump
    no autopsy at fifty fathoms.
    Deadheads
    another entry
    running into floating objects
    things that shouldn’t be there.
    Operator fell asleep
    is often listed
    the controls and course preset
    while still in safety of the harbor
    ocean, smooth and flat
    with splatterings of moonlight
    ship on auto-pilot
    late at night with engine humming softly
    helmsman dreams of Rio
    ran aground.
    Collision:
    Cause -misinformation
    Faulty maps
    Blind faith
    Vessel off course collides with one on time
    And in its proper place
    on time.

    Broadsided
    large wave
    earthquake underneath the sea
    life swept away
    there’s no defense
    not even steel . . . or wisdom.
    Lousy weather:
    three men saved their lives by holding on
    waves topped with freezing spray.

    These were the reasons ships went down
    In January . . . Coos Bay, Oregon, to Nome, Alaska.
    It was much the same on land.

  2. Good morning dear Shimon….Oh how I love this and oh how it speaks to me. Thank you so much. I hope I will always have the courage to leave the port and venture out into unknown waters. xxx

    • Good morning my dear Janet. Though not at all surprised, I’m very happy to know that we share the same attitude towards living life. It is always a great pleasure to share such thoughts with friends. xxx

  3. At least for me, the very existence is comparable to a sailboat… that glides over the waters of the oceans, encountering storms and favorable winds… islands to rest and stock up on food and water and then continue the journey… now I’m resting in your harbor, Shimon, just to take few deep breaths!
    Serenity :-)claudine

    • You have interpreted the poem perfectly, Claudine. That was my intention… to use this image as am analogy on the existence of human beings. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. A wonderful piece Shimon and how lovely to have the response you received from Mr Dobson! Always so nice making connections in this life!

    • Thanks very much, Chillbrook. Yes, I agree, it is very strengthening to meet up with people of like minds and like interests. And for me, this is the unique gift of the internet. I used to spend a lot of time with books and journals long before the arrival of the PC. But now, with the use of blogs and the web we have the possibility of immediate response and conversation.

  5. I’m one of those plagued by motion sickness. Even so, I know a ship is not built to sit safely in the harbor. Neither are we born into this world to do nothing. We are meant to explore, and exploring is never safe.

    • Most people suffer from motion sickness, Judy. It is just a question of how violent the motion, before we become sick of it. But there are ways to overcome. What I learned, was that the trick is to go with the flow. Aside from that, I agree with you . Safety is usually an illusion. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Wonderful poem and great shots, Shimon. My favorite is those wonderful nets – waiting to be cast into the depths! Yes, life requires a bit of adventure – casting off from shore and exploring what’s out there. Thank you for this reminder!

    • We live in a time when adventure has become a serious occupation. In earlier eras, work itself was the most important occupation. In order to put food in our mouths and build shelter, and keep it up, we had to exercise quite a bit. But now that we have so many ‘time saving’ gadgets, time brings atrophy. Either way, though… what’s important is living life, and not just watching it. Thanks very much for your comment, Cathy.

  7. Beautiful images and a true reflection on the nature of life. And thanks to Bruce Louis Dodson too.

  8. This brought to mind Mark Twain’s thoughts on living a fulfilling life:
    “So throw off the bowlines
    Sail away from the safe harbor
    Catch the trade winds in your sails
    Explore, Dream, Discover.”
    That’s my recipe for life!

    • I don’t remember this quote from Twain, but I love him as a writer. The last thing I read of his was his autobiography, and it didn’t sound quite so positive. Thanks for your comment, Bev.

      • The reason you don’t remember this quotation from Twain is that it’s not from Twain, even though many websites mistakenly claim that it is. If you check Quote Investigator at

        http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/29/you-did/

        you’ll see that those words haven’t been traced any further back than 1990, which is 80 years after the death of Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens).

        • My apologies. It was given to me that way several years ago when a friend was trying to encourage me to make a new life for myself.

          • Regardless of who said them, the words are still the words, and I hope they helped you if you decided to follow your friend’s encouragement and make a new life.

            • Those words did inspire me to put everything I owned into storage and become a gypsy of sorts as I traveled the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the next five years. Those memories are very special to me and I am thankful that I was able to have that freedom. Today my travels are closer to home, but roaming is in my blood.

        • Thanks very much for checking out this quote, Steve. It seems that as well as all the advantages of the internet, we have to watch out for misinformation as well. I also appreciate your comments to Gypsy Bev, and agree with you; the words stand on their own in any case. People may wish to put them in the mouths of the great, in order to lend them more authority. But if they provide something we needed to hear, no matter who said them, they are still worthwhile.

          • It seems my facts are often not exact. My apologies. Most of the time, I am simply giving my feelings or thoughts that others have given me. i just want to enjoy life without worrying about perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I do attempt to be accurate, but it isn’t my greatest concern.

  9. Beautiful words, expressions and beautiful photographs. This is great voyage for me dear Shimon. Thank you, have a nice weekend and new week, love, nia

    • Thank you very much Nia. Both of us enjoy examining the world around us, whether we are standing still or going somewhere. And we like the same subjects too. This is a really fine week; hope it is for you too. My best wishes to you.

  10. Simply beautiful.

  11. How wonderful, Shimon….

  12. Nice! Two for one. I envy your ability and Mr Ds. You used an expression I’ve only heard here in the US…”Tug on a bottle”. Then your writing on seas and sailing appear more than one who reads casually. I think perhaps some experience I might enjoy hearing. The sea is special to me.
    Best wishes Shimon,
    Stay healthy!

    • Oh Bob, sometimes when I look back at some of the things I did in my younger days, it seems like a different life. I suppose I’m living another incarnation… and I have those memories of days gone by. One of my favorites, is standing on the bow of a ship, and feeling just like a bird high above the sea. I stayed there and drank it in… thought I could stay for ever, it was so good, but then I got hungry and went to eat.

  13. Oh….how wonderful! I did enjoy this and the photos…..living near the coast, the sea is a powerful pull and I am always in awe of her power…..you wrote about it so beautifully, not pulling any punches! There is something so haunting about boats and the sea, where man is exposed to nature in all her unpredictability…I imagine sailing a boat, through an ocean, with the stars shining out is an unforgettable experience.xxx

    • I envy you, Dina, living near the coast. There was one summer… long ago, when I had a little cabin on the coast, and heard the fog horn all the time. If I hadn’t been in the right mood, it might have disturbed me. But as it happened, I loved it. There was a very different sort of drama there. But since I’ve been given my heart’s desire… and live in my favorite place, Jerusalem… I’ve had to forego the sea, though I love it too. As they used to say, back in the village, ‘you can’t dance at two weddings if you’ve only got one ass’. Thanks for the comment, my friend. xxx

  14. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sway of the ocean beneath my feet, but this had me remembering what it feels like when the stability of the dock is a speck in the distance, and your eyes strain to see what is further out on the horizon, just past the edges of the sun. I’ve been land-locked for a while now, but we can always hear the waves, if we close our eyes and remember. Once you’ve heard the ocean, you remember.

    Especially enjoyed the photo with the pile of nets. Very chaotic, and yet also quite serene. A lot of history in those holes. Tangled stories to tell.

    • Yes, the sound of the ocean speaks to the hear… and the subconscious too. I remember back in the 60s, when we were all experimenting, a friend brought me this tape (reel to reel) of hours of the sound of the sea. All it took was a few minutes, and I was sound asleep. I am sure it’s better than any pill for those of us who suffer from insomnia. I’m landlocked too, Nancy, living in Jerusalem. But I do love the sea, if just to visit.

  15. Again, a gift I anticipate on my Saturday mornings…and I let myself drift in welcoming waters.

  16. Great post and images Shimon.

  17. Very nice … but if I was in a small boat like these, smooth waters would be mandatory …. otherwise, the rockin’ would activate motion sickness.

    • Yes, it’s true, Frank. You really feel the motion in those little boats. I used to get car sick before I got my sea legs… and then discovered that the key to that problem is not to resist… to just go with the movement. Of course, even then… it can get to you in a storm.. Nice to see you. Wishing you pleasant summer days.

  18. Yaffo harbour in its various guises of leisure pursuits, fishing businesses and in all its glory is great to see. Apart from the weather, (your the seasonal warmth) the harbour is evocative of seafaring hamlets in many parts of my world. The languages spoken and the styles of boats may vary, but the connection and activities with the sea are familiar.

    • Yes, I like visiting there. And didn’t even mention the many fine eating places there, When last I visited, I was amazed by the amount and imagination of the graffiti seen on the streets. Thanks for the comment, menhir.

  19. Oh, my. A wonderful piece and one that can be interpreted on so many levels. Loved it! A parable of life – safe or daring. A literal description of life on the docks – for the timid and land-bound or life on the sea for those who pull up that anchor and plunge ahead. A deft allusion to life in general. You are, as always, a master of the written word and a magician with the camera. I felt an urge to hop aboard any of several craft in those wonderful photos….hop on and sail away with hopes of a grand adventure. Thank you, Shimon, for this delightful post.

    • Yes Myra, it did start out as a parable on life. And interestingly, one of the things I was trying to express, had only minor representation when I finished the poem. I was thinking that we see all the boats together… assembled. But they are at their best, and fulfilling themselves when they are alone on the empty sea. Thanks for your comment.

  20. Wonderful descriptions. Very poetic.

    I love being near water aged have often thought that it would be good to live on something like a houseboat.

    • I am sure that would be a delightful way to live, Corina. It could provide a bit of both worlds… as well as a continuous temptation to go out to sea. Best wishes to you.

  21. Superb writing, Shimon. I feel drawn to the sea, as many of us do. But I am a useless swimmer. As a boy I sailed small boats – what a joy that was to feel the tug of the wind on the sail and yet also to feel the insecurity of one’s position. Floating on water in a flimsy wooden tub so easily flattened by an unexpected gust of wind. Excitement and fear so often co-exist. We are planning to move, and that will bring us closer to the coast and I am so looking forward to being beside the sea and sitting gazing out into infinity.

    • My heart is with you, Andy, on the big move. I did it a year ago, and it was really a major even in my life. Hoping that it will be much easier for you. But it does sound wonderful that you will be closer to the sea. Both inspiration and consolation can be found at the sea shore. I love to visit there.

  22. Looking at your beautiful pictures, Shimon, I suddenly felt (in the words of John Masefield) that “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
    Ah well – Tel Aviv/Jaffa is only a 45 minute bus-ride away 🙂

    • From my experience, Shimona, it is well worth the ride. Though I know that we Jerusalemites, always need a bit of a shove to leave our beloved city… Still, I do go to the seashore now and then. It offers such inspiration.

  23. Inspiring photos added the very well written words… 🙂

  24. It was sailing that brought me to a fullness of life I hardly could have imagined in my earlier years. I first stepped on a boat in August, 1987. In 1990, I quit my respectable job on land to sail from Hawaii to Alaska. Later in 1990, I began to varnish boats in order to pay the bills. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’d fallen in love with boats, sailing, and the independence both offer.

    Over time, the “garbage of idleness” disappeared from my life. LIkewise, boredom: there is no boredom on a boat underway. “What do you do all day?” my friends ask. “Easy,” I say. “You navigate. You clean. You maintain and repair. You cook. You fish. You grow terrified at the approaching storm, and more confident as each storm leaves.”

    For some people, a boat is a condominium, albeit at the water’s edge. For others, it’s a toy to display: not meant for play. Some who have the means join a yacht club, and live a country-club life. But everyone who looses the lines, whether for an afternoon on the bay or a trip to far destinations, understands in a visceral way what you describe so well above: it’s not the miles you travel that makes the difference. It’s turning loose the lines.

    I wrote a small essay for our National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” series, and it was selected for broadcast. It touches on all these themes, and you can both read it and hear the broadcast here.

    • Yes, I can well understand your falling in love with sailing, and I smiled as I read your description of a day on the sea. I’ve always considered boredom a very alarming symptom. Fortunately, I haven’t suffered such distress.

      Thank you very much for sharing your article on National Public Radio. I read it first, and then listened to your voice, and felt that I had truly met you. It was a great way to meet you, Linda. I am very grateful for the fine teachers I’ve had throughout my life. One thing I learned along the way, was that a good teacher doesn’t just teach you a specific subject. If you really wish to take advantage of what he or she has to offer, you can learn all about life from a teacher. And so many of the people around us have something important to teach.

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