As if sleep had taken him, white sheet
Pulled over his aged body, thin and pale,
Thurman found dead in his Bass Harbor
Home. Some said he was a retired Maine
Tugboat captain, grandfather, church goer.
From his bookcase, I discerned educated:
First editions, texts on seamanship and
Celestial navigation, well-read at least,
Curious if not learnéd man.
On bookshelves next to dim floor lamp,
Collection of bound books caught my
Attention. Series of ship’s logs I thought,
Yet, upon opening, they were diaries, forty
Years, life reflections penned in a sturdy
Sea-going hand, not “what I had for dinner”
Or “saw on TV,” but personal reflections,
Cares and concerns, expressions of heart,
Revelations of an evolving soul.
“What happens to these old books? Note-
Books and stuff,” I added, to minimize their
Intrinsic value to listening ears. “Family
Says it all has to go.” So they went with me,
Including his seamanship books, as they
Contained marginal notes, separate pages
Of observations, lunar tables, and other
Nautical ephemera. They all had found
New and appreciative home.
Such were passages written, “The sea has
Taught me all that I know, determination,
Perseverance, respect of wind and waves,
Liquid sphere keeping earth in balance,
Provider, destroyer. Each dawn is a gift,
Wonders beyond distant horizons, to see
The ocean is not enough, to understand
Divinity of creation, who and what placed
Us here, to raise families, to breathe.”
Where do I find God, how do I fathom that
Which is beyond me? In smallest of things,
Enormity can be found, my church is no
Towering cathedral, wheelhouse is my place
Of worship, communion with God, blood
And body, we have all given, sacrifice and
Hard labours, “Chapman” is my bible,
“Rules of the Road” my commandments,
Ship’s crew in service to the master.
God is present in ethereal clouds, white-
Cresting waves, Maine islands, changing
Seasons, salty seawater or grains of beach
Sand, all answers are found therein. One
Must open his heart, rely on faith, and
Allow God’s love to fill soul, mortal vessel.
These things cannot occur whilst harboring
Bitterness, hatred, or violence. Let life’s
Wheel go, allow God to navigate.
Page after page, verses flowing from
Volume to volume, thoughts and ideas,
Sea captain’s observations, refined, some
Unvarnished, opinions and prayers, his
Six guides to understanding life and God.
Yes, I returned these diaries to Thurman’s
Family. At their request, I was present
When they spread his ashes on his home
Waters off misty Long Island, Maine.
What inspired a poem like this? No, it was not earth-
shattering revelations, but a passage from “Works
and Days” by Hesiod:
“When they died, it was as though they were over-
Come with sleep, and they had all good things;
for the fruitful earth…bore them fruit abundantly
and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace
upon their lands with many good things, rich in
flocks and love the blessed gods.” Perhaps life for
this poetic Thurman was the same.