On a silver Colorado day, white tree arms tease a dove grey sky and chill settles in my bones. I gaze out my window. Everything is blue, the color of cold. But, I am dreaming. In my mind I am far away: remembering a shoreline with scattered boats, whipped by wind, weathered by salt. On a stormy afternoon, they lie abandoned, and I wonder what stories they could tell, what exploits they host on open sea. Small, handcrafted fishing boats, they lift proud, splintered-wood flagpoles crowned with furiously flapping rags.
When I first stepped foot on that beach, seeing them transported me back through decades to those moments when countless people shoved vessels just like them out into the never-land of open sea. Desperate souls, after the fall of Saigon, they risked relentless water in small tender crafts rather than face the new regime. I felt their vulnerability pulsing in the surf, and the magnetic pull of freedom, as relentless as the thunder of waves, offering a chance to claim it. What kind of fire burned in their chest? To leave everything familiar, comfortable, safe, and known to deliberately press out into dark churning waters?
Traveling with me at the time were two friends: one the son of “boat people.” His parents were among those who fled and survived. Stepping into shops with him in Ho Chi Minh City, shopkeepers immediately zeroed in on him with rapid-fire Vietnamese. He shook his head and laughed, and explained in English that he was American. Confused, the people smiled politely but lacked English words to request details. And perhaps it was for the best. Between those left behind, and those who risked it all, a wide gap separates people who share physical similarities but experience vastly different day-to-day activities and opportunities: probably too much for a casual shopping conversation.
I want to touch that fire. I want to step into those boats and, come what may, strike out for freedom: to leave everything lesser behind for something even more important than my own life or death. It is said that you find something worth living for when you find something for which you are willing to die. I’m tired of lesser things, I want to blaze.
Perhaps I’ll just step through my window today, and that white snow will morph into foam, into waves crashing through a distant Vietnam memory… An ocean that will show me the way.