I’ve never been into sailing. It has never had any appeal to me. But there is a nautical term that has a great attraction. The word is “yaw.” Yaw refers to a deviation from the course, usually for the purpose of gathering a greater amount of wind. This term strikes me as being very similar to the Japanese practice of ziuhitsu, which means “follow the brush.”
Writing, which bears many similarities to the practice of sailing, and navigation, requires deviation when the matter at hand grows stale, or a shiver of light on the horizon invites exploration. There is no shame in changing direction, particularly when the winds of inspiration open our eyes and ears to new possibilities. Fresh associations. Curious sensations.
If we remain stubborn and refuse a change of direction, we find ourselves in the doldrums. We languor in a calm, groggy with torpor, leaden with inertia.
It is said that when the winds disappear, the sea has no swells, and if there are no clouds or moonlight, but only stars reflected on the calm, mirror-like water, there is a sensation of floating in space.
There are times when it’s good to have a little calm. Some time to reflect. To make some repairs. But if we remain in this state we die. We exhaust our provisions. We grow mad for movement. Crazy for change. Hungry for some new development, even if it means a storm, or tidal wave. People often feel strangely euphoric during a catastrophe.
We need perturbation. A worry. An itch. A memory. A sudden discomfiting idea. Some new perception that shakes our model of the universe. Anything that can give us some propulsion.
Each effect has a cause. The cause of color is light. The cause of light is darkness. The cause of darkness is the absence of light. Absence is the cause of presence. Presence is the cause of absence. Circularity is the cause of circulation. Circulation is the cause of impressionism and pewter. Karakul handsprings rehearsed in a rickshaw. The savor of silver in a Kickapoo flute.
What made Mark Twain shave his head in Florence, Italy? I do not know. That is between Mark Twain and Mart Twain’s hair.
If I think of a thread, and add to that a thought of water, I may arrive at an image of hair. Hair is water pouring out of the head in the form of thread.
We converse with the dead in our dreams. William Shakespeare says hello. He hates the movie Anonymous. He wishes that everyone would stop arguing about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays and just enjoy the plays.
Travel is good for the soul. Even if you don’t go anywhere. You can always go somewhere. Some people go all the way to Paris, or Kuala Lumpur, without going anywhere at all. Travel isn’t about distance or speed or movement. It’s a matter of seeing things differently. And deviation. Tacking. Swinging about. Shifting accents. Opposition of planes and volumes. Cross-rhythms and a slight anticipation of the beat, with the unexpected placing of accents and with the shapes of melodic phrases.
There is a yaw in music and a yaw in writing that mobilizes contrast and creates a space that is vast and infinite. It ruminates on dimes and earns perception by detonating paradigms. The chair pleads for a metaphor and the sails propose to the wind.