Incoming Tide, Scarboro, Maine, 1883, by Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Last November, I was forced to take a leave from writing and other normal activities after I accidentally twisted my left foot. It came like a sudden squall. The shooting pain in my big toe was soon followed by inflammation around the ankle and numbness on the sole of the foot. I wanted to cry out and curse my fate. But then I remembered what Captain MacWhirr, the chief protagonist in Joseph Conrad‘s 1902 novella Typhoon, said to a young seaman:
“They may say what they like, but the heaviest seas run with the wind. Facing it—always facing it—that’s the way to get through. You are a young sailor. Face it. That’s enough for any man. Keep a cool head.”
I may not be young anymore, but I think everyone should have the spirit of a young sailor bravely facing the viccissitudes of life. This is something that’s easier said than done. A person in pain tends to focus on his or her condition—often to the point of not being able to see that many others are suffering, too. In fact, there is nothing unique about suffering. It is shared by all in a myriad of ways and degrees.
My left foot is still swollen. I can walk about inside the house but with some difficulty. I believe, though, that this thing will blow over as all squalls and hurricanes do. In the meantime, I have decided to resume my writing. Life is beautiful and mysterious like the sea. Face it, I tell myself, face it.