The Journey series
This week’s Mustard Seed revisits the awe of my transatlantic voyage. There is great value in knowing just how insignificant each of us is, indeed, all of us are.
Upon return from my California college experience I found a job as a commercial SCUBA diver during the aptly-referred Wild West period of the profession. There weren’t any regulations and anyone with a C-card and enough bravado could try their hand. It was a very glamourous position — off hours. In truth, it’s just a more demanding, difficult, and dangerous version of equivalent dry land work.
The hard work kept me in top physical form and the pay was good. I got a lot of attention at the local pub with my tight fitting Fraser Burrard Diving T-shirt.
Much of our work was scheduled but emergency maintenance and salvage job occurred frequently. We took turns being on-call which meant carrying a pager, keeping our gear in our van, and not drinking. If something broke or something sank we needed to respond immediately.
Every long weekend, instead of being three days to enjoy, meant two twelve-hour shifts out of town performing maintenance in the toxic environment under a pulp mill. We’d load our equipment and travel on Friday, work Saturday and Sunday, and return exhausted on Monday.
During that time my younger sister planned a trip to Europe with a friend. Circumstances changed that friend’s mind but my sister decided to press on alone. I wasn’t comfortable with my fresh-out-of-high-school sister travelling alone in Europe.
In reasonably quick succession I had two equipment failures. They accentuated the danger of my work and caused me to reflect. How long would I like being a commercial diver? Perhaps there was good reason most of my fellow divers were young and single. I enjoyed the high salary and the esteem but not so much the job itself. I decided to quit before I got too comfortable to ever leave. I arranged to accompany my sister to Europe. We set out for New York by bus and from there to England by a Russian passenger freighter.
Four days at sea, nothing to see in any direct but ocean and sky, I felt small. That night I walked the decks and contemplated. I looked up at the myriad stars, each one so much larger than Earth; in turn, much larger than the ocean we’d been lost in for days.
Next week: More Wealth.
I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers, at the moon and the stars you set firm. What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, you have crowned him with glory and beauty.
Peter T Elliott