Finally, I’ve got around to writing a long-overdue blog, promised sometime back in May. Having been on sea anchor for the last four days, not much has happened except for me getting progressively sweatier and more fed up and ready to row, so I thought now would be a good time to make good on that promise.
Why did I name my boat Darien? It’s been on my mind throughout the journey, and although my thoughts are probably a little convoluted I’d like to share them.
I came across the name Darien when I was a child, on first reading what soon became one of my favourite books: ‘Swallows and Amazons’. If you don’t know it, I urge you to get hold of a copy and read it today. For those who haven’t read it yet, the first chapter is mainly set on a promontory that the children have named Darien. It reaches out across a big lake, and from there they can look on the island that they are hoping to go and camp on and the lake they want to sail and explore. This is still one of my very favourite books, partly due to nostalgia, but also because it is just brilliant. In ‘Swallows and Amazons’, for me, the peak in Darien always meant hope and and possibility of future excitement. It is the beginning of all the adventures, the place where plans are made and places are first glimpsed.
Once I was older I read the poem that the children have taken the name Darien from: Keats’ ‘On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer’, which ends:
“…Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”
(Apologies for errors – I’m writing from memory so the punctuation might be dodgy.)
This is a poem about new experiences, about seeing things for the first time and in a new way. Every time I say those final lines to myself I feel a shiver of excitement.
I’m seeing things out here that no one in the world has ever seen before and nor ever will – sunsets, fish, waves, clouds – they change and change again and continually re-form. It is a strange feeling to be looking at, say, a fantastic sunset, and know that no one else in the world can see it as I’m seeing it. By the time it reaches other people it will have changed into something different. This journey was also about learning to see parts of myself and my own life in a new and different way – so much time alone has offered me a lot of time to think.
Darien is of the Pacific, and for me is a place from which grow adventures and from where new things are seen. My little Darien has definitely not disappointed.