Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Weigh Anchor

The last person to own our house was a sailor by avocation. He and his wife named the place “The Anchorage”, which proved to be prophetic since this was their home for the rest of their lives. We took down their sign at the driveway entrance; it wasn’t ours, and each time I drove out I could see the neon letters flashing on the reverse side --- No Exit --- No Exit---. We have kept other nautical references attached to the house though, like the brass front door knocker in the shape of an anchor.

It surprised me to find a little brass anchor on the door to a small bedroom, now an office/library/laundry. I don’t know why it’s there but I like it. Since I can’t abide closed doors anywhere, it has no practical use ---nobody needs to knock. Somehow though, it is evocative. The upper portion of the anchor is a cross with a loop at the top. It reminds me of the crosses dangling from the large rosaries worn by my nuns at St. Mary’s --- in another world, which now seems as much a fantasy as the Avatar movie characters of today or even the lost world of Atlantis.

There were anchors everywhere in our childhood; not only for Catholics but as values respected collectively by Americans. Traditional families were still the norm in society. People understood the meaning of the word modesty. Children were still schooled in courtesy and manners. The list is long. I have to stifle a pang of embarrassment in recalling this ancient history, yet I mourn the loss of dignity, the comfort of ideals, and the existence of sin. The title of the 1961 musical “Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off”, is a perfect expression of my sentiments about the world these days.

Our predecessor here was an expert in tying knots, a required proficiency in the world of sailors. His knots were beautifully executed, decorating the ends of a few pull cords where light switches had never been installed. The electrician wanted to upgrade to wall switches but I wanted the knots. I washed and bleached them ‘til it was clear they were meant to be permanent, even adding one to the kitchen window shade.

I have never sailed a boat, having neither means nor a courageous temperament. I’m a landlubber who loves to gaze out over the ocean and sail away in my imagination --- hence our annual trips to Maine. I had no idea before today that the phrase “weigh anchor” means to hoist the anchor in preparation to set sail; it seems counterintuitive. Webster’s New World Dictionary (my old school dictionary, 1961) claims, in addition to the nautical usage, that to weigh is to consider and choose carefully, to balance and ponder in the mind, to bear or press down upon, as with heaviness; yet also to hold in high regard, to esteem and to value --- to hoist?

When you think about it, neither the anchor nor the knot can have a useful existence without the lines to which they are attached. An anchor would rest in place untied and a knot would be naught without the cord from which it was created. Everything exists in relationship. The meanings of words often proceed to a vanishing point much like the meaning of life.

This past Sunday’s reading was taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes whose point was that all is vanity i.e. emptiness. Come to think of it the world is anchored in the emptiness of space. If we order the pilot to stop the world so we can get off, where could we go?

1 comment:

  1. Debbie MonteleoneAugust 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    Tradition and family values have gone the way of God in our schools and most people's every day life. What happened to Sunday dinners with the family or for that matter the family sitting down every evening. Talking over what went on during the day. The hopes and dreams for the future. Everyone is to busy. Other things have become more important. We need these values back. I firmly believe that bringing God back to our schools would head our country back toward being the greatest Nation in the world. As it stands now we are in sorry shape. I hate turning on the evening news. News should be a matter of interest to the watcher. I don't find murder, rape, war, arson, thieft or distruction of property interesting. I do think that the focusing on the negitive forces around us reinforces these action on the minds of our young people. Change is needed.