Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Miraculous Research Tool

Research is one of the key aspects of any project. Yet finding information has always been something of a headache if that information is not available in current publications. Researching before my walk along the Ganges river in India, I spent days in the university library in Calgary searching through volumes for titbits of information, anecdotes, histories and stories about the sacred river.

How the world has changed. Typing in "Labrador" to Google Books brought more than 2000 citations and restricting to "full text" brought more than 200 volumes -- from libraries in England and America. Very quickly I discovered a wonderful account of a sailing voyage in 1812 in which an Inuit elder took two Moravian missionaries from along the coast of northern Labrador and east to Ungava Bay so that they could make contact with Inuit communities there.

Soon afterwards, I had a copyproofed version of the story from the Gutenberg Project -- another wonderful resource that provides full text copies of out of copyright texts.

What this does is raise the standard of materials available to any writer, or anyone else. In the past there just was not enough time to search and collate items not of the first rank of important from libraries thousands of miles apart, despite the fact that the slightly-off-topic topics could often produce some of the most fascinating minor stories - nuggets of gold for any storyteller.

The Google Books interface is disappointing and not well thought out at all. But it's still a beta version, so hopefully hands-on users will correct all the omissions.

In the mean time, Season's Greetings in a Brave New World.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Figurehead of Kuan Yin

Traditionally, every ship should have a figurehead. Even "little ships" are good candidates if their design can support the embellishment. The same figurehead that graced Nelson's ship at Trafalgar would certainly look out of place on an uber stylish racing yacht, as well as adding unwanted windage.

My boat "Kuan Yin" is a classic design that I believe can support the addition of a figurehead. What better figure than a statue of the Kuan Yin, the boddhisattva of compassion. So last week I came back from a quick trip to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand searching for a carver who would be able to create a suitable figure.

There are important differences between a "statue" and a figurehead for a vessel. It's vital that the figurehead looks like she belongs to the ship, and is not taken from the shelf in someone's living room.

For practical reasons, I have had to move the location from the traditional place, at the bow of the ship, under the bowsprit, to before the main mast. Hopefully this will work and not add too much windage nor get in the way of sails and lines.

In addition, the posture and gaze of most figures of Kuan Yin, very popular in many parts of area, tend to be focused immediately in front of the figure. Obviously on a vessel, it's important to the wellbeing of the ship and to the people who greet her in harbours, that she is looking up and outward, offering compassion to the whole world, humans, whales, fishes and icebergs!

Monday Inspiration - Helen keller

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable." Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

sweet dreams

The first lines of the Dhammapada, a collection of some of the sermons of the Buddha, read, "You are what you think, having become what you thought." Simple words and within them an extraordinary insight and teaching. The recent film and book "The Secret" which propounds that we attract everything that happens to us is but a modern interpretation of the Buddha's ancient teaching.

And while this may be difficult for those people who are hyper rational; to my mind, there is no doubt that the converse of the Buddha's teaching is certainly true - if you cannot imagine (think) what you want to become, it can never be attained.

With this in mind - and the words of the Dhammapada that I have come to believe and accept - I lie down to sleep each night seeing myself at the tiller of Kuan Yin on the Labrador Sea or imagine that I am laying down in my berth on the boat, riding at anchor in the shelter of a rocky island. Several times already, I am on the boat in my dreams.

Whether or not I am actually creating the reality of this voyage by first imagining it, I do not know. But I am certain that seeing it first within myself if vital to making it the external reality. This may be "nothing more" than reaffirming my focus and commitment to the project every night. This voyage to Labrador carries enormous risks to someone like me with limited sailing experience and no experience in high latitudes. It is a "reach" but one I am determined to accomplish. This must be true of all great adventures.