The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

The Marina

Posted by Ron George on August 21, 2010

The marina bakes under molten South Texas sky amplified by the calm, beguiling Laguna Madre.

No yachts nestle here as proud, costly trophies of the good life. Only a small sailboat, its mast dismantled, lists dockside, leaky and forlorn. Two bay shrimp boats lie docked prow-to-stern as though conferring in obsolete privacy – no licenses since 2007, no nets aboard. Rust gathers in corners and seams, the relentless, inevitable residue of time in the Coastal Bend.

One only imagines what life is like here when, perhaps, the bait stand bustles and fisher-folk launch boats at dawn. This day, though, nothing moves, not even the wind, and the few laughing gulls are silent.

As a poet once said of angels in the architecture, stories call indistinctly from artifacts left upon these docks and decks, especially the knots.

Bound pile

Bound pile, photo by Ron George

These knots last. Their loops hold, pulled tight. Knowledge breathes through every turn: “This boat is secure, by God, until I say so.” Until next time, when knowledge releases with ease what it bound so well, and the boat surges from its moorings to make its wake in the bay.

I’m just guessing, though. Actual stories beg to be known of who last tied these boats to dock, who last walked the dock from these now steadfast, estuarine carcasses? Who gave up, or who had hope snatched away by inevitable economic change and financial setback? Whose knot is this that once secured a life and, perhaps, a family or even a family of families, a clan? Whose boat once chugged out at daybreak but now lies tied once and for all – and so securely by knowing hands that, even at the last moment, wanted nothing more than that Morning Star be secure?

A houseboat of sorts sits racked high and dry, and though no knot secures it, there is a knot; and, oh, what a knot, coiled and recoiled loop upon majestic loop, far beyond function – but what form! Massive. Impressive – and now, of no use whatever save to delight a land rover who wouldn’t know a hitch from a bowtie.

It’s as though these knots once restrained a surging need to be upon the water, to be unbound from the safety of dockside and wharf. They had to be strong against impatience grown through the night to be gone, to be about harvesting and, not incidentally, simply to be unfettered and worthy of risk. These knots restrained boats invigorated with potential and, perhaps, even optimism and hope. These boats breathed the lives of fisher-folk whose sense of independence was conditioned by there being a place of safety and refuge, a place to tie up until dawn.

Grand coil

Grand coil, photo by Ron George

The marina now shelters tethered boats as though to protect them in decline. These knots keep decrepit hulls from drifting away and becoming lost. These knots yet imply powerful hands that made them, but they are also symbols of the last human touch – the last living hope – that these boats will ever set out again. These boats may once have come and gone amid the ordinary dynamism of land’s end, but no more. The laborers are few, and I wonder whether there is much to show for it other than these deteriorating boats in still water tied to rickety docks.

What one sees in all of this says more about the observer than the observed. It looks to me like wreckage larded with lively memories and tales of inevitable loss, an arc not unfamiliar to anyone who has aged a bit and acknowledges where life is leading. A woman told me, though, as I arrived at the marina with my camera, that there were many beautiful things to see – and she was right about that. Sadness does not diminish beauty, if that’s what you’re looking for. Loss changes one’s perception but, I hope, not one’s appreciation for what is, what has been and what will be.

The marina is a sad, beautiful place – at least to me, at least in that moment of time.

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3 Responses to “The Marina”

  1. Phyllis said

    Beautiful images and prose, Ron. I could feel the South Texas heat, and the knots made me think of my sailing days with my dad.

    I miss you,
    Phyllis

  2. drfred said

    The blank page is your canvas; ink is your medium. What beautiful portraits you create!

  3. Patsy said

    Your photographs are both poignant and elegant with a harsh beauty and your comments and musings are eloquently poetic. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. I only wish it were easier for you, but maybe that’s an idle, futile wish. Just keep walking and know that my prayers accompany you.

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