The sea plays a big part for Alison Alexandra in my manuscript There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth. This is at the beginning of a night that is going to last a long time.
There seems to be a touch of mist coming over the ocean as Alison Alexandra looks from the windows of her prow of a ship house on the top of her cliff. Well, she calls it her cliff and no one – yet – has said ‘nay’. But then, she thinks of it as her ocean, so what is someone going to do with that?
She turns the lights out in her prow of a ship room and settles into her comfortable winged chair. The sun is in its last minute of setting and Alison Alexandra concentrates on the positions of the ships settling in for the night. There are always ships that have no space for a berth until the next day. One or two always seem to have to wait until the day after that.
The vagaries of shipping and commerce, and the whims of an erratic sea, can only be predicted with moderate success. The tides and the winds and the atmospheric pressures high and low make merry over and under the endless horizons. They whirl and they twirl and they scud and skip with gay abandon. ‘Catch them and predict them?’ – well, Alison Alexandra knows better than that.
As it is, her sea eye – well-honed after these many years of coastal watching – is certain the touch of mist that kisses the top of the waves in a most flirtatious manner is deciding whether or not to settle in for the night and become mistress to sea and ships and those swabbies who – oh, so quickly – will be told that the watch must be doubled.
No matter that they are within sight of shore and already have their imaginations stirred by what will be offered at fine establishments such as The Tugboat Wharf And Seafood Lounge with its All You Can Eat Beef Buffet and waitresses who are never going to give them the attention they crave but will still be a damn good source to stroke the imagination and then they can hit the streets and hope to find some pliable bodies with whom to hit the sheets if only by the hour.
Last night I stood on a high hill, overlooking the broad Bedford Basin.
Bedford Basin is a wide body of water connected to Halifax harbour by The Narrows. Halifax harbour in turn leads to the ocean. As I watched the further hills of Bedford Basin, fog was rolling from inland and spreading across the water. As I looked toward The Narrows, fog was streaming from the harbour to fill the entrance of Bedford Basin. There was a lot of fog.
This morning, the meteorologists say that Halifax is in a “deep fog”, a term I have not heard officially used. They are correct. I can not see across the harbour, though I can see houses across the street.
I like fog. I like foghorns. I enjoy seeing a wall of fog roll in from the ocean. I enjoy watching the water, the land, the ships, the houses, all become obscured. I anticipate becoming obscured myself. Now you see me, now you don’t.
I also enjoy foghorns. They have been sounding from the harbour this morning. They can startle, yet they are evocative. They are historical. The Queen Mary 2 was in Halifax last week. There were celebrations for the 175th Anniversary of the Cunard Line. The grand ship sounded its grand horns a number of times as it left. I was, if I may say, blown away.
One time I was on the Atlantic coast and saw a thick wall of fog out to sea. From my distance, it seemed to be staying put. The description of it being a wall is almost literal. On my side, blue sky and sunshine. On the other, white obscurity. As I walked along the shore I kept looking at the fog. It did not change or lift.
Then, one time I looked, I could tell something was different. The image was thicker. There was some additional colour. In the course of a long minute I realized that a huge ship was coming out of the fog. Spectral and slow. A container ship piled high. Its bow glistening in the sun. A three- masted schooner would not have been more impressive. Or spooky.