Ripple Patterns


  After innumerable vehicular gridlocked approaches to Chicago’s skyline over the last nearly sixty years, a recent one from the east afloat through mist and fog was ethereal and otherworldly.  It was like walking into a theater with the most magnificent of backdrops and a smoke generator laying cover for the first act.

  It was incredible.  We were sailing downwind in a light breeze, so it was silent at first.  All one could do was stare.  Time passed, we continued toward the marina at Monroe and Lake Shore Drive.  The air cleared a bit and the sounds of water lapping at hulls and unladen halyards woke us up.  Sun burned and we soon saw more clearly the iconic rectilinearity, strangely yet bereft of the usual downtown din.

  The experience reminded me of something I read about the ascent of man, how “From the stone age to ancient Greece to the Maya to modern Japan, the most technologically advanced and economically successful human beings have often been seafarers and fisheaters”*

  “…people reached the Andaman islands, Melanesia and Australia, all of which required sea crossing, within a few thousand years – whereas it took them tens of thousands of years even to begin to oust our Neanderthal rivals from Europe and inland Asia.

   I wonder about the conscious (or not so) experience of those voyages eons before even Columbus.  Were they reckless forays into the truly unknown or an adventurous hewing to a vestigial instinct?  I’ve read about Polynesian navigators able to find their way through open sea solely by reading ripple patterns on its surface. 

  Something’s gotta be going on there.  Something not to be found on a cruise ship.  Something the zeitgeist lost somewhere between the acquisition of language and literacy.  I need a compass.  Scratch that – I need a GPS.

*WSJ”We Are the Apes Who Took to the Sea”, Matt Ridley, WSJ 3-12/13/11





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