Day 255

image1 (37).jpg

Day 255

The silence is almost painful.  There can't be anything else like it.  Maybe there is, but I've never been fortunate enough to stumble upon such intense serenity.  The seas are calm, the night crystal clear.  The visibility is only impeded by the physical limitations of my eyes.  The seas aren't just calm, I'm standing on a silvery dark blue mirror reflecting the heavens above.  I haven't been fortunate enough to enjoy such profound stillness until now.  The wind is non-existent for the most part.  Occasionally, there's a gentle breeze barely able to brush a sound into existence, confirming my ears are still functional.  Otherwise, it's just the scene before me and the ringing in my ears.  It turns out I have mild tinnitus.  

The moon is waxing, nearly half full.  It's nestled above the head of Orion at the moment.  Looking at the constellation, I'm reminded of the three little stars directly below and almost perpendicular to the belt.  They are 1,500 light years away and are actually massive clouds within the Orion Nebula.  The three shining dots are a nursery for future stars.  The center of the three is a cloud of gas and dust 90 trillion miles across.  It houses infant stars with such intense energy that winds are created in excess of 5 million miles per hour.  The wind is so powerful that it stunts the growth of smaller stars, creating massive shock waves.  That's one "star" in the Orion constellation.  If I think too long about it, nothing makes sense.  We can thank the Hubble space telescope for those discoveries.

The moon is cradled by a small halo, half the diameter of the moon itself.  There's some moisture in the high altitude skies, but not much.  The half moon illuminates my surroundings with an intensity bright enough to see every ripple of the sea and every contour of the clouds.  I take 360 degree scans of the mirror I'm standing upon and see an occasional ripple the size of a speed bump roll in from the distance and continue past me into the dark, beyond the reach of my senses.  They rock my boat gently, creating occasional sound number two, the subtle displacement of water as my boat regains equilibrium.  Otherwise, there are no fish jumping, no surfacing whales, no bioluminescence, no disturbances, just the reflections from above. 

Looking east, there are 3 cumulus clouds in a formation like the top three winners-stand at the Olympics.  The center the tallest, the two outside stepping down in height.  The bases are all equal, hovering only 100 feet from the surface.  The altitude of cumulus clouds over the sea is still a novelty after all those years of land-based cumulus viewing.  They create distinct shadows, almost too dark too see what's lurking below.  I can't detect any cloud movement, cloud growth or dissipation, they are just resting there, beautiful, puffy, silver-white formations.  They too, are silent.  Even so, it feels like they are saying something.  

I stare at the 3 clouds until there's a dark flash.  I don't see anything until it's past me, maybe 10 feet to my left, slightly aft of my shoulder.  Then I hear it, just for a second, then it's gone.  It sounded like someone threw a wild pitch a bit too close to my head.  All I could make out is a dark colored left wing, not even a head or body, but some kind of night-qualified airborne predator definitely buzzed the tower.  If it was flying blind, it probably would've hit me directly in the chest before I saw or heard it.  Luckily that didn't happen, I'm guessing that would be unpleasant for both parties.  These sea birds can blend into the environment remarkably well.  Once I was 10 yards away from a dozen birds sitting on the water.  I didn't see them until they all took flight together, right in front of my face.  It was slightly startling. 

Other than low altitude cumulus clouds, there's nothing obstructing my view of the surroundings.  Looking in every direction, the shimmering mirror reaches to the horizon itself.  It's a distinct line, a mysterious demarcation reminding me of The Truman Show.  In reality, the line is where the earth curves away from the line-of-sight capabilities of my eyes, only 3 or 4 miles away.  Looking above, the moon obscures the brightness of stars, but not enough to block the clear path of our own Milky Way.  Between the occasional water displacement and gentle brush of air, I've never experienced anything quite so remarkably void of sound.  With no cultural lighting, no boats in the immediate vicinity, no land for hundreds of miles, and no aircraft above, I've never experienced anything quite so remarkably void of human influence.  It's really quite amazing.  

Paddle On