At 60, I felt free to start rowing – 05/24/2023 – Zeca Camargo
Let’s say I’m in the Mediterranean. The exact location is not important. Or rather, it is. But not for now. Let’s leave that for when I write about this place.
What matters now is that sea. I’m not alone in it, there are people accompanying me. But suddenly, between one work break and another, I realize that I’m alone. Just me and the sea. A sea that, according to the Israeli linguist Guy Deutscher, was not even blue for the ancient Greeks, who did not have a word for that color. In the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” he was alternately black and red.
The one I’m looking at now, however, is blue, like the eyes of Santiago, the Cuban fisherman that Ernest Hemingway immortalized in his book “The Old Man and the Sea”. Everything about him, says the writer, was old, except his eyes.
Not just the same color as the sea, but also, happy and unbeatable, two adjectives that, unlike “blue”, I could use to describe my own eyes, there, looking at that Mediterranean.
In the distance, a modern hillside town that has medieval charm, an era that is inevitably associated with this beautiful island. But that vision was a detail, as the name of where I am is a detail.
What interests me in that moment when I’m alone, sitting on a stand-up paddle board, is the sea. The same sea I’ve seen in so many colors: brown in Goa, India; turquoise in Galinhos, Rio Grande do Norte; green on the coast of Tonga; black in Galapagos, Ecuador. I also saw the sea in infinite shades of blue: dense in Baía de Todos os Santos; dramatic in South Africa; transparent in Tasmania; India ink in Viña del Mar, Chile; mixed with white in the waves of Hawaii; greenish like that of Taormina, Sicily; hopeful like the one the Tagus flows into Lisbon.
But this one, in this case, was just blue. I even tried to look for adjectives, but ended up failing — a verb that a friend of mine called Bito, from Angola, where the sea flirts with the grená, taught me to use for things in life that you think are not worth even trying.
I was sitting on the board, my legs dipped only from the knees down in the not-so-cold water. My traveling companions worked far away, but I myself lived, alone,
something special with that sea.
Faced with that immensity, I was reminded of Hemingway’s book, except for its strong story about the determination of a man in advanced age who, weeks without managing to catch anything, embarks on a new attempt as if it were the first. It was more because of the title of the work.
I played in my head with the idea of an old man who only sees that infinity in front of him. With my recently celebrated 60th birthday, on another journey that you may have followed in this space, I was the old man. And the sea…
Mind you, I use “old” without value judgment—this text doesn’t lend itself to that. It’s just the opposite of young, as far as numbers are concerned: 60 is not 20. Regardless of how old my spirit is, my body has already lived six decades. As networks love to point out, that’s about it.
Because I was that old man sitting there, submerged feet already used to the temperature of the water, full of having gone through a beautiful life that had now brought me here, this very special corner of the world. And I felt free.
Free enough to start paddling. With the strong wind, I didn’t even have to exert myself. It was just surrendering to the current. No rush, no direction. Forward. Just with myself. The cries of my increasingly distant companions: “where are you going?”. As if I knew the answer…
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