Back in September, I visited Chiloé. On the ride back on the ferry, crossing to the mainland, I thought about bow long it had been since I had been on a ship or boat. It seemed like a while. I tried to think back to when it had been a more common occurrence. And then I realized that other than my trip to Peaks Island, Maine in 2014, and to Port Townsend, Washington in 2015, it had been a long time since I had been on a boat or a ship. That, in fact, strangely enough, I had gotten to the age of 39 and had only been on a total of 5 or 6 boat trips in my life. All of those were ferry rides, other than one time in a canoe, and one time on a small pleasure boat ride around Puget Sound for an hour. Boats were familiar to me. The action seemed familiar, the process seemed familiar, but I had spend, in my life, less than 24 hours total on the water.
And I started thinking about that. I wondered how odd my experience was. And I started to research where that might not be true. Were there people where water travel was a normal part of life? I started scanning across Google Maps, mostly in the United States, but also around the world, and found out that for most people in the United States, boats and ships are not a common part of life. And even where they are common, they are not unavoidable.
Water used to be an important part of life. The opportunities that water travel afforded, and the obstacles that water barriers represented, greatly shaped human communities for thousands and thousands of years. In the days of ferrying and rough water, people living across a few hundred feet of water might develop a different community and culture. Or, conversely, someone 100 miles away by water might be easier to reach than someone 10 miles away over a mountain pass. For most of us, this connection, even though it is still important, is not an imperative part of every day life. So out of my own curiosity, I started researching these places, and imagining the ways that water connected and separated communities. I have tried to share a little of what I learned and thought about with you, this month. I hope it is not too tedious!
For me, it is not a trivial issue. I also wrote another writeup, trying to respond to an excellent writeup: The Past They Fantasize about was based upon a lie. People edit their memories, unconsciously. Things that would have been central to life in the past is overlooked by us. By asking seemingly trivial questions: "What would it be like if you needed to take a ferry every morning", "What would it be like to live on an island with only one store", I am trying to get myself to think more honestly about the way I live my life today. And that was my focus this month, and I hope you enjoyed it.