Long Distance Worry

If one happens to call oneself a writer one should be able to, I guess, produce something on command, and there certainly is by now an urgency for publishing some sea-travelling related content to keep this blog alive. I better sit down, pay my dues and do my chores. Chores, which I have fallen into the nasty habit of asking my students to do at least a couple of times every single day. It would most certainly be a pity should our readership be led to believe that the adventurous story of Aluna’s travels has come to a screeching halt!


Over the vast grain fields that stretch out in front of my office window at the outskirts of the sturdy township of Langenthal, between our apartment building and the neatly manicured row of buildings of the school up on that gently rolling hill where I go to work every day, three raptors are circling elegantly under the milk-grey sky. Their high-pitched calls enter our cube-shaped living space with a message of ancient and timeless aerial domain. They might be buzzards, although their forked tails make me tend more towards the red kite, which I have heard has displaced the previously endemic raptors I remember from my youth. The three gliders are the latest discovery in my diligent observations of the manifold processes of nature awaking from the monotone deep freeze of northern hemisphere winter. I imagine that their interest must lie in the busy stirrings of life down on the surface between the growing foliage of the sprouting stems of winter grain. Rodents of the smaller sizes must be improving earthworks there to adjust their subterranean homes to the by now definitely above zero temperatures. But there is also a careful choreography of soaring turns noticeable between the three of them where distances are kept and territories guarded. The run for the coming bounty of spring is measured by a very reasonable and well-reasoned distribution.

While here on a latitude of just over 47˚ N spring has been established beyond any doubts, in the Southern hemisphere the cyclone season is closing in on its peak. Last week no less than four cyclones were simultaneously putting up their forceful dance in the eastern ends of the Pacific. One of them especially packed a punch and was hitting a bit too close to home for our creature comfort.

While Cyclone Pam wrecked havoc on the island chain of Vanuatu, stripping the leaves off trees, flattening vast villages, obliterating entire human existences and generally leaving no stone unturned with angry lashings of its fierce 300km/h winds, it became clear that once it was going to be done with all that devil’s work it had to turn its eye with a very clear definition in the direction of New Zealand, where our Aluna gently rocks fastened to a mooring ball after having survived one whole winter without too much of wear and tear. And what is one to do if nature threatens to throw a major disaster at ones treasured property that just happens to be rather far away, something like on the other side of the earth? Can one grow a pair of hyper-long arms that extend around the globe and snap the vulnerable vehicle away from the approaching menace just in time to avoid its deadly blast?

With today’s digital surveillance of our every environment we have obtained the privilege to sit like our very own private version of god up in the heavens and watch the situation unfold below us from a very safe distance. And of course there are these never-ending predictions. The weather people with their machines always seem to have things under control. For once, fortunately for us, they had done their job well enough to predict the correct development of monster storm Pam with astonishing precision. Cyclone Pam was heading for colder waters and with that straight into its doom. But the enormous amount of energy accumulated over time in its spiral movement had to be spent and it continued to pack a serious punch. Pretty soon in the game the forecast models all agreed, that Lady Pam’s navel would miss the northern tip of New Zealand and pass well off to the east. Still its roaring arms continued to develop winds of hurricane strength and some of those were going to tickle the East Coast, if not up north then most certainly toward the North Island’s belt line where the country’s westernmost extremity jots out into the South Pacific Ocean like a spike on a spindle dry desert rose.

We do have to thank the universe for the privilege of having made some good and sturdy friends during our visits to Aotearoa. They keep an eye on our floating travelling home while it slumbers quietly and while it patiently awaits the eventual return of its blissful occupants. So should the worst ever come to happen, well, maybe it won’t be avoided, but at least we would come to know about it without major delays and could initiate a string of suitable actions. And while we are busy thanking the universe, there is that burning question about what it might be that steers those ephemeral atmospheric phenomena? Who sits there and reckons benevolently: Well, let’s spare these guys for this time, let them get away with if for now and steer the thing just a bit to the left, will ya? For the time being I think we have wrecked havoc enough up there in the lower latitudes.

While our misfortunate brothers and sisters in Vanuatu are picking up the million pieces into which their humble homes have shattered, we are on the side of the fortunate whose accumulated wealth has been spared the imminent destruction of our ever-moody Mother Nature. Watch the following loop of a lonely weather satellite’s sequence of observations very carefully; I have been known to do it for long stretches of time without ever getting bored. You will see the determined dynamics of life in their chaotic beauty spreading across the vast spherical space below you. You will catch the intricate and highly elaborate patterns of heat exchange turbulence weaving hedges on your visual cortex enough to make you lose your sure footed certainty with dizzying determination.


See how dramatically once the storm crosses the path of the screaming jet streams that meander at high altitudes around the globe at the latitudes of the tropics, it gets its top blown off and literally turned to shreds. Thereafter it puffs at a much much lower frequency with what seem like a broken heart. Fact is, the system practically came to halt once it had slowed enough to transform into a typical tight low-pressure system of the roaring forties. It stood still for almost two days more just to the Southeast of New Zealand’s East Cape before finally heading out for its waggling journey across the Southern Ocean.

One of the soaring red kites, one of those three in front of my office window over the fields of sprouting winter grain has dived down toward the tilled field and his claws snapped something from the surface. The peace is broken and for a moment tumult takes charge. A hot pursuit ensues with highly skilled acrobatic maneuvering. The catch seems to be too small for sharing. But soon it also becomes too small for throwing any more energy and enthusiasm at it. The two peers of the lucky hunter let him get away and have its minute meal in relative peace atop a skeleton tree with almost bursting buds, where a verdant explosion of foliage is about to unfold. They calmly and serenely return to their artful circles of lustful vigilance up under the by now brilliant afternoon sky of spring. And that spring has just sprung from a premature Easter egg no longer hidden, no longer shackled by the crystals of winter’s frozen frost.

It is good to be alive and partake in the awakening. The songbirds are returning from their long journey south across the snowcapped mountains. Spring flowers spread vibrant colors across the many manicured lawns and meadows. The days grow longer, the shadows shorter and change is as usual not very far away from our paths. Some unforeseen circumstances with my work are pushing our return to New Zealand back further into the future, which lets it slide very close to or maybe already trespass the cutoff-point set by the onset of the austral winter, where a departure from the land of the flag with the Southern Cross with our small sailing vessel could easily transform into a major undertaking in need of a very great portion of luck. After almost a full year now living huddled at the bosom of civilization with such luxuries as a bathtub with unlimited hot water and bubble bath a la discretion, we might no longer be willing to lend our lives to such risky and rowdy behavior and will have to decide if it won’t be better to let another seasonal cycle pass before heading out. Could this be the wisdom of age gaining traction against youth’s despair, or has the spirit of adventure allowed itself to weaken? I’d cautiously say, let’s not be too judgmental here and lets let things run their natural course. Those things, by the way, should most certainly clarify sufficiently within the next couple weeks to come to feasible conclusions and make suitable decisions. Boredom might just spring from knowing too much of what the future will bring!


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