And climb the stairs to the beach...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Dead Whale Or A Stove Boat

Yesterday I went golfing for the first time in just three weeks. I don't understand it. It really hasn't been that long since I was in the habit of golfing 3 times a week with little or no discomfort the next day. Eighteen holes is cause for an afternoon nap, for sure, but not for the way I felt when I woke up this morning.

My back felt like I'd spent the previous day in the park as one of those living statues, bent over and unmoving for hours at a time. My legs felt like I'd walked from Naples to Cape Cod. Even my fingers hurt like I'd just typed War and Peace or "Ladies of the Club" which is the longest novel I've ever read at 1,344 pages. Incidentally, if you've never read it, especially if you are familiar with Ohio, you should get a copy. It's definitely a chick book, but very good, nonetheless.

But back to my aches and pains.

This morning my pain and stiffness reminded me of a morning some 40 years ago, when I was only 21 living in a third floor apartment with no elevator. The night before that I had gone bowling, something I'd done fairly often as a child but seldom since junior high.

And in Massachusetts when we talk about bowling, we don't use those big balls with finger holes in them. No, we use small balls about the size of a very large grapefruit that weigh just two pounds or so.
It's called Candlepin Bowling where I come from and it is as old, if not older, than the Ten Pin Bowling the rest of the country is familiar with. The pins are shaped like, well, Candlepin Bowling pins. They are narrow at the bottom, bowed out slightly in the middle, and narrow again on the top.  Strikes and spares are much harder to get than with the big balls, the size of the ball makes it harder to make those spreads, but we don't clear the deadwood away, making it possible to hit the pins on the ground into the standing ones. It's kind of fun, if I remember.

Back then, I was a rather small little thing, believe it or not. I weighed less than 100 pounds and was no more than 5' 1/2" tall. (I am still the same height but certainly not the same weight. In fact the only thing that still fits me from back then are earrings.) So, my physical state and youth should have made bowling a few strings  a snap.

However, that next morning when I was heading off to work, I took the first step of the 3 flights down and I thought I would have to call in sick. I had to literally hang on to the railing in order to remain upright. The front of my thighs were so sore that when I stepped down onto each step I whimpered a little. I really thought I would not make it down to ground level without assistance. Evidently, although I was an active 21 year old with lots of energy and everything else that goes along with being a mere child, there were no day to day activities in my life back then that involved those same muscles in my upper legs. I felt like I was the age of my grandmother. I remember that incident like it was yesterday. If my life was a novel, it would serve as foreshadowing for today's dilemma.

I thought of that youthful 21 year old struggling down the stairs this morning when I made my way from the bedroom to the kitchen. Would I ever be able to walk normally again? My fingers recovered pretty quickly with one little Aleve, hence my typing this blog. And I was able to move around enough to boil an egg and make a cup of coffee.
As my muscles and joints became a little more flexible with every dissolving particle of that Aleve, I tackled the making of the king sized bed wedged between two walls in our trailer. It was not a pretty sight. Laying flat on my stomach in the middle of the mattress, feeling like a beached whale and sort of pushing the sheets and blankets up toward the pillows as far as I could reach, I thought this might be amusing if I wasn't crying.

In spite of running around with the grandbabies here and there I guess I have been a lot less active,  than I thought  for this past few weeks.

All this just proves that at my age if we don't keep moving we are doomed.

Ed likes to call the state of stiffness and/or pain after exercise being "all stoved up". His 30 years in Chattanooga was what I blamed that expression on. But when I looked it up in order to learn its origin I found it was a term that most likely originated  along the east coast of New England, where people spoke the language of fishermen and old salts.

The word "stove" in this instance is the past tense of stave, which is both a verb and a noun. Sources agree that 'stave' is the plural of staff, meaning a stick. Of course we've all heard of to "stave off" and that literally means to hold back something nasty using our staffs.  Most of us are familiar with the staves of a barrel,  the strips of wood that make up the barrel.
And we have all said at one time or other that something is all stoved in, meaning caved in or broken, like the side of a car might be after a collision. But, in nautical terms, a 'stove boat' is one that's  got a hole punched in the hull or damage of some kind elsewhere and rendered out of commission and good for nothing at all. Melville used these words in Moby Dick:

"Me thinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Me thinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Me thinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Me thinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me. 

And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and a stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot."

Originally I wanted to use this quote just to illustrate stove body and stove boat, but as I read it digested it I am really quite taken by it's masterful construction, but more so by it's meaning. I understand him to be saying that while we accept that our bodies may be stoved as part of life, a vessel, as it were, nothing can take our souls. Melville speaks to the fact that we are so much more than just our bodies and this morning I say THANK GOD for that!

Also from Moby Dick the expression "A dead whale or a stove boat" described  the tune the crew "pulled to" when they rowed out to get the whales.

Not far from Cape Cod where I am right now, in the town of New Bedford, that phrase is carved into the wall of the New Bedford Whaling Museum behind a statue of a 19th century whaling man. It was 'either the whale or the whaler' back in those days. They were committed to the fight to the end and if they didn't succeed, they'd be dead in the water.

How fitting that today I should find these quotes, on a day when I feel both like the dead whale and the stove boat. 

Have a great day and keep moving!

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