I recently took a break from reading for research purposes to read a couple of novels. In the past couple of days I read the novel V. by the strange and illusive writer Thomas Pynchon, an author who I am never sure whether I love or hate. At the very least there is always something compelling about Pynchon's work.
Anyway, near the end of V. you can read this interesting passage:
"Slung on a stage over a gunwale of an old felucca, the Peri. A storm had just passed, rushing away toward the land in a great slope of clouds; already turning yellowish from the desert. The sea there is the colour of Damascus plums; and how quiet. Sun was going down; not a beautiful sunset, more a gradual darkening of the air and that storm's mountainside. The Peri had been damaged, we hove to alongside and hailed her master. No reply. Only the sailor - I never saw his face - one of your fellahin who abandon the land like a restless husband and then grumble for the rest of their term afloat. It's the strongest marriage in the world. This one wore a kind of loincloth and a rag round his head for the sun which was almost gone. After we'd shouted in every dialect we had among us, he replied in Tuareg: 'The master is gone, the crew is gone, I am here and I am painting the ship.' It was true: he was painting the ship. She'd been damaged, not a load line in sight, and a bad list. 'Come abord,' we told him, 'night is nearly on us and you cannot swim to land.' He never answered, merely continued dipping the brush in his earthen jar and slapping it smoothly on the Peri's creaking sides. What color? It looked gray but the air was dark. This felucca would never again see the sun. Finally I told the helmsman to swing our ship around and continue on course. I watched the fellah until it was too dark: becoming smaller, inching closer to the sea with every swell but never slackening his pace. A peasant with all his uptorn roots showing, alone on the sea at nightfall, painting the side of a sinking ship."
An an interesting paragraph in an interesting book. I can't help thinking of Harper. A man with his uptorn roots now showing, hanging on the side of a sinking ship painting away but creeping ever closer to the waterline. A man who, like that sailor, long ago abandoned a normal life but was never made any happier by his chosen path, and never stopped grumbling about the sea on which he set himself, and nearing personal and party disaster but labouring as though his ship is as seaworthy as ever.