So And No Otherwise

I couldn’t face the news this evening about the unending opposition of the Democrats. It breaks my heart to see them become the party of no, the party that is AGAINST. They need to pick a message that they can be FOR. We need them. Democracy, like capitalism, functions best when there is competition. I had to turn the news off. Too much to bear.

So instead, I was looking through some photos I’d taken over the years and I thought I’d put them with one of my favorite poems, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Sea And The Hills”. I like the poem because I grew up in the hills, and I loved their forested mystery … but I always dreamed about the sea.


The Sea and the Hills

Who hath desired the Sea? — the sight of salt water unbounded —
The heave and the halt and the hurl, and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?
kipling-05The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing —
Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing —
kipling-07His Sea in no showing the same, his Sea and the same ‘neath each showing:
His Sea as she slackens or thrills?
So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills!

Who hath desired the Sea? — the immense and contemptuous surges?
The shudder, the stumble, the swerve, as the star-stabbing bow-sprit emerges?
The orderly clouds of the Trades, the ridged, roaring sapphire thereunder —
Unheralded cliff-haunting flaws and the headsail’s low-volleying thunder —

His Sea in no wonder the same, his Sea and the same through each wonder:
His Sea as she rages or stills?
So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her menaces swift as her mercies?
The in-rolling walls of the fog and the silver-winged breeze that disperses?
The unstable mined berg going South and the calvings and groans that declare it —
White water half-guessed overside and the moon breaking timely to bare it —


His Sea as his fathers have dared — his Sea as his children shall dare it:
His Sea as she serves him or kills?
So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her excellent loneliness rather
Than forecourts of kings, and her outermost pits than the streets where men gather
kipling-11Inland, among dust, under trees — inland where the slayer may slay him —
Inland, out of reach of her arms, and the bosom whereon he must lay him
kipling-09His Sea from the first that betrayed — at the last that shall never betray him:
His Sea that his being fulfils?
So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.


Let me close with something I wrote a couple years ago after a sea voyage, which was that I found myself writing and reflecting on why I go to sea. It’s been a lifelong addiction, and unless they have rehab centers for recovering seamen, I’ll likely die an addict.

The main thing that keeps drawing me back to sea is that the ocean truly doesn’t care about anyone in the slightest. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, male or female, old or young. The rules are the same for everyone. If you put a foot wrong you’re all equally wet … and if you put two feet wrong you’re all equally dead. Step on a rope that you’ve carelessly left on deck, the rope rolls underfoot, your foot slips, and over the side you go, regardless of wealth, education, race, height, weight, or sexual preference … to me, that pitiless egality of the ocean is one of its most endearing qualities. On land if you have a smooth line of patter and a good-looking smile you can go a long way … but the ocean doesn’t care in the slightest if you are a handsome fast-talker. To the ocean, you’re just another fool looking to get soggy.

Next, the ocean takes the measure of a man or a woman. Either you can get the job at hand done, or you can’t. And if you can’t, there’s no one to do it for you. Generally, there are no half-successes at sea. Either the fish is in the fish box or it’s in the ocean. Either I can fix the anchor windlass or I can’t. Either I can navigate and drive a fishing boat around Cape Flattery at midnight or I go on the rocks. I do enjoy having that kind of hard-and-fast threshold to gauge my success or failure. It is the ultimate reality check, made even more important because often lives depend on it.

Next, I go to sea because of the danger. I like being in a place where death is always an option, where my very life itself depends on my concentration and my skill. It focuses the mind wonderfully. I enjoy the flat metallic taste of adrenalin. When I was doing a lot of surfing, we used to call it “feeding the rat”. The metaphor is that some of us are either cursed or blessed to have a rat as our lifelong companion, and the rat lives on adrenalin … and that from time to time, it’s necessary to feed the rat or he gets restless and starts biting. So before heading out into big swells, we might say “Well … guess I’d better go feed the rat …”

Finally, I like the ocean because it is so damn big. There’s nothing to make a man feel appropriately small like being on a ship in the wide ocean at the mercy of the waves and wind. It plumb knocks the pomposity out of a person to realize that whatever you or I may be or may own or may do on land, on the ocean we’re just creatures staying alive and dry by our wits, ability, and agility, and the ocean can’t be fooled in any regard.

And on this lovely evening, for each of you I wish the best of all things, friends and love and laughter, moonlight coruscating across an inky midnight sea, and whatever fills your heart, so and no otherwise …


19 thoughts on “So And No Otherwise

  1. Nothing to dicker with here. Blue water and full sails at night is the most peaceful if you know what you’re doing. Sadly we are in for four years of war waged by the Dems.,press and gov’t. bureaucrats.


  2. The sea is a passionate and demanding mistress; and, to those she finds worthy, a soothing and comforting lover. To those that live up to her demands, her caresses bring great calm and peace. And, if you take her for granted, she will turn on you in an instant.


  3. Willis, thank you for another great read,
    I grew up in Holland and loved the water and the sea and many times went to the beach during storms to watch. I lived for a year on Southern Vancouver Island and worked on a marina and quickly learned I knew nothing about the sea at all. Thankfully, with the help from my co workers and the Marina’s boat owners who took me sailing and fishing i did seemingly learned something.
    Well, a few years ago as an anniversary holiday we went to the North Vancouver Island community of Port Hardy for a few days of guided fishing, it was an experience we will never forget. Besides all the ocean wildlife we saw ( very fortunate it was almost scripted) and the great fishing we had the last day our guide took us out into “The Open Ocean” well away from land and as it happened we were at the tail end of a storm.
    The swells were immense and had waves on top of waves.
    I never felt as small during those few hours while we witnessed this. I now have a tiny understanding of what you so eloquently write about. I thank you very much for your great ability to share with us what you do and did during your life and your love for the open sea.


  4. I voluntarily abandoned my passion for the sea when I learned that my wife had no aptitude for the life. I couldn’t bear the the thought of losing her to a clumsy mistake. I don’t regret the choice, but I do miss the salt and sea. Fortunately there are other ways to feed the rat, plus the damn thing isn’t quite as demanding the older I get.


  5. Ah yes, feeding the rat. Brought that back with me from SoCal. Works for desert enduro riding as well, and extended into downhill skiing, then mountain biking on a downhiller.

    I see what I’m missing now. Thanks Willis! Sometimes one forgets in the middle of life on the flat land.


  6. Thank you for a nice post. In a landlocked country I got no experience with salty water (I saw a sea first when I was 20), but canoeing big rapids gave me a glimpse of the power of water.

    I did not vote for Trump, but he is my President. Unfortunately Democrats don’t dare even to formulate this sentence. More than a party of NO, they seem to be a party of NEIN. Very disturbing.


  7. It certainly gives you a healthy respect for the power of the sea when you’re on a 17,000 ton Navy ship being tossed about by typhoon-generated waves. At one point we took green water over the flying bridge, 90 feet above the waterline, that knocked out a bunch of the plexiglas windows. Scary. On other days, in calmer seas, the voyages were punctuated by dolphins pacing us and leaping in our bow wake, flying fish, whale sharks, gray whales, sperm whales, blue whales, humpbacks, Portuguese Men-of-War, and Ocean Sunfish (one of the strangest critters God ever created).

    The sea can be beautiful azure blue, sometimes sullen and angry gray, green, white with foam. It’s a constant and reassuring presence that provides us with food, water, and avenues for transportation. I think that many people (particularly those who don’t live near it) fail to appreciate the importance of the sea to our climate and the human habitability of the Earth. What an amazing world this is!

    I didn’t vote for Trump in the primaries, but did in the general election. The Dummycrats are still in denial, not recognizing that it was their total disconnection with the people in most of the country (i.e. everyone but the coastal “elites”) that cost them the election, and that their obstructionism toward the very things that people elected Trump to do will cost them even more votes in the future. Trump’s biggest challenge will be to effect reforms in the bureaucratic institutions that make up the actual working heart of the Government, an effort in which he’ll be opposed by the entrenched bureaucrats appointed by other presidents.


    • I keep saying, the federal public employee unions were not always there, because they were illegal. Curiously, they were made legal by President Kennedy via Executive Order, and if I had the incredibly bad luck to be the US President, my first EO would be to reverse Kennedy’s order … see my post on public sector unions.

      Thanks for the thoughts about a big ship dwarfed by a far bigger ocean …


      Liked by 1 person

  8. “I couldn’t face the news this evening about the unending opposition of the Democrats.”
    I suspect that the party will eventually align with the more moderate of their public. To reference Out journalist Chadwick Moore after a balanced article on Milo Yiannopoulos (the error of the article is that it wasn’t in mad dog attack mode):
    “Personal friends of mine — men in their 60s who had been my longtime mentors — were coming at me. They wrote on Facebook that the story was ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous.’ A dozen or so people unfriended me,” he continued. “All I had done was write a balanced story on an outspoken Trump supporter for a liberal, gay magazine, and now I was being attacked. I felt alienated and frightened.” “for the first time in my adult life, I was outside of the liberal bubble and looking in. What I saw was ugly, lock step, incurious and mean-spirited.”
    He was so appalled at the lack of reason that he decided to abandon the Dem’s in favor of becoming a Republican. The radical portion appear to be a MSM hypnotized zombie group that is caught in a destructive feedback loop. The key is that the more rational will gradually spin off and all that will be left will be those in the asylum echo chamber. Now this may take a cycle or two of political losses but the political left and their donors will slowly (slowly because of the mentally deteriorated leads and bribe donor money involved) realize their best interests and go back to telling the voting majority whatever they want to hear and then doing the opposite.
    Concerning potential Trump lawsuits reaching the supreme court, shouldn’t Ginsburg recuse herself from decisions because of the anti-Trump remarks she has made?
    Don’t care for the ocean much, as all that water is difficult to mentally or visually take in. Grew up in NW Arkansas with it’s many rocky, clear water and splashy noisy streams which I much miss in central Oklahoma.


  9. I agree, Willis, that competition makes things better, and government needs more than a one party system. On the other hand, the parties do not need to be “Republican or Democratic,” as neither have seemed much different from the other until Soros’ tantrums, and they became the Demoncratic party. I’d love to see a real conservative party or a real “liberty” party. We need better choices than we are getting for candidates, but the bottom line is we need people to again care about where their government is going and what it is doing, and we need less people believing that TV ads have any value at all when it comes to choosing between candidates. They need to realize that the only thing to do is to either go see the candidates, if possible, or watch live streams of their meetings and rallies. I personally prefer to read their speeches rather than listen to them, as I prefer to ponder what was said, not react to what is being said, but it is difficult, sometimes, to find transcribed speeches, especially of lower tier candidates.

    Beyond that, I love your writing, man. I sometimes think you could make having diarrhea sound interesting. 😉


  10. I was on an Australian destroyer travelling from Sydney to Hawaii (1976) and the sea was like a mirror – not a wave or ripple in sight. This was my first revelation as to how BIG the oceans are and how small we are.

    Similarly, at night, the sky was huge and the stars so bright and numerous that one must wonder at our insignificance.

    Other trips on the same ocean were very different, lots of high waves showing how fickle the seas can be.

    Thanks, Willis, for evoking these fond memories.


  11. BFL says in a comment above: ‘for the first time in my adult life, I was outside of the liberal bubble and looking in. What I saw was ugly, lock step, incurious and mean-spirited’.
    Yes, I think this is the way many people have their eyes opened. Think outside the liberal box for one minute, publicize it in some way, maybe just in conversation, and the sect mauls you. After that the contentions of the sect become less and less believable.

    In relation to sailing, running is the same in some ways – it is one of the freest things one can do. It requires next to no equipment, and it is just you and the elements. Surfing is similar, and a little dangerous to boot.
    My favourite sailing story is that of Moitessier rounding Cape Horn as told in A Voyage For Madmen. The poetry of it is breathtaking.


  12. Yep. This business of not accepting the result of an election — which began with the close election of George W. Bush — is a road that leads directly to civil war.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve never been so upset about the political state of our country. It feels like we’re on the verge of, if not armed insurrection, civil unrest that will make the 60’s look like nothing. I knew the left was revolting (bad pun) but even people I thought were reasonable are making me nervous. We saw it with climate science and now we’re seeing it throughout the elites and the so called intelligentsia with politics. They will brook no disagreement with their beliefs.


  14. Willis;

    At some point in my academic career (k-12) it was required of me to choose a poem to memorize and recite in class. I chose “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky…” by John Masefield, poet laureate of England. Curiously he never went down to the seas but wrote the most evocative piece on the emotions and passions raised in a sailor’s blood when he (she) goes down even to the pond to go head to head with the elements.

    Tom G


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