Not a day passes that I don’t drive the levee road to and from the nearest town or over a bridge to distant cities. As I move along the banks of one of the Delta rivers, I strain for the sight of a ship making its majestic, pondering journey. They seem to glide but their great engines churn and the men and women in their bellies tend to the mechanical mess which keeps them moving toward the sea.
My car bears the dusty streaks of an island-dweller, with our silty soil and the birds which will carelessly mark even the most scrupulously maintained vehicles. I drive my Toyota like a truck, throwing boxes and bags of whatever I might need to tote into the back with abandon born of carelessness or surrender. I keep bottles of water in the pockets affixed to the back of the seats. At any given time, a bag of Goodwill donations spills its contents when I stash groceries. The clerks who sometimes help me to the car pretend not to notice.
But behind the wheel of the RAV4, I can make the drive through the Delta as easily as I might in a sleek new convertible or an oversize pick-up. So drive I do, around the ten-miles of the loop and across the highway to Isleton. I take the back road to the Georgiana Slough to visit my favorite farm stand and back again. Along the old River Road, I watch for ships. They fascinate me. What do they carry? Where will they berth? From where do their enduring crews hale; and do they ever long for a home on the banks of the rivers through which they navigate? Do they see my car and wonder what my life might be like?
I will never be a lot of things for which I used to yearn. I will never be wealthy. I will never have a three-story house with a broad wide porch. I will never trod the same soil as my Syrian great-grandfather. I will never sit on the banks of the river Lee in Ireland. But I still dream.
Often I pull my car to the side of the levee road to photograph the big ships as they cut through the deep channels of the San Joaquin or the Sacramento. I study the pictures later. A time or two, I have chanced to see the same vessel in the Bay as I gaze down from the Marin Headlands. Once I scanned the far horizon off Montara with my camera’s telephoto lens extended and saw the ghostly contours of a distant ship. Immobilized, mesmerized, I watch the ships glide away, through the blue, into the grey, away from me. I stand on the shore. I cannot say for what I wait. I only know that it has not yet come.
It’s the fifteenth day of the ninety-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Just a few photos of hundreds taken over the last 3-1/2 years. Scroll over for captions. Please enjoy.