Submerged

USS Vermont A not so funny thing happened on my way to this post.

This post was going to be a sharing of news I got last November that my books were to be in the library of the USS Vermont, a Virginia-class attack submarine due to be commissioned April 18 in Groton, Connecticut. I wanted to share that because, no matter what you think of submarines, that’s kind of cool to think of this unique placing of these books and the special people who might just, for lack of other entertainments, read them. That was my thinking a few months ago anyway; cool, what a neat opportunity. Since then I have fumbled with false starts of this post. What should the point of it be really?

I can only hope that the books donated by Vermont authors brings some pleasure and connection to the sailors sequestered leagues beneath the sea for months at a time; I wondered at the life of a submariner, surreal to me. I became increasingly humbled by the fact of the service and commitment of this boat’s crew, got derailed by thinking about the unusual and dangerous situation they would willingly enter. I couldn’t imagine what that experience must be like; I knew I would never want to find out for myself.

I spoke with a former principal who had served in the navy on a submarine before he became an educator. Decades later he says still not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about that time; that there is no feeling like the final closing of the hatch, knowing you’d be submerged for months on end. It was that comment about the closing of the hatch that struck me most from my conversation with this former naval officer. It seemed eerie, and, again, hard for me to imagine. That conversation was a few weeks ago.

The not so funny thing that happened on my way to this post is that I can now better imagine that closing of the hatch. We all can. As the executive orders from the governor were issued, as I said goodbye to friends and colleagues and we retreated to our respective homes, I could more easily imagine the grim metallic finality of a closed hatch, of leaving the light and air of the known world.

As we shelter at home we do have light and air and internet. But even so, we are going to places and depths we had never imagined ourselves. Just as when I was fumbling earlier to write about the USS Vermont, I again recall Robert Macfarlane’s Underlands in which he speaks of how darkness might be a medium of vision, and that descent may be a movement towards revelation rather than deprivation. We can only hope that in these dark times we dig deep and emerge not overwhelmed by what we’ve lost, but as better humans for what we’ve learned and gained for knowing darkness and loss from our own isolated “underland”. Into the underland, Macfarlane says, we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save. We are facing fears and uncertainties, including fears of human traits that we abhor. But we also can exhibit and can expect to encounter the human traits of kindness and generosity that humanity is capable of. We can aspire and inspire, even from our time in the dark.

I’m still fumbling with this post. So much has changed since I put it on my to-do list. I can only assume that the USS Vermont will launch, though surely not as planned. Perhaps the crew has been, or will be, quarantined prior to setting out and closing the hatch. I will wonder and worry about those people, just as I now wonder and worry about all of us and our neighbors the world over. My naval officer turned educator friend said what made his time below bearable was the crew; the fact that they had work to do and that they all relied on one another helped them to focus and endure. We are a crew, all together as we shelter in place.

The hatch has been shut. We await its opening, and can only imagine what will be brought up from the depths and what will be left below.

17 thoughts on “Submerged

  1. We take so much for granted without realizing we do. Our world is filled with “I, Me and My” people who don’t have a clue or care about what others endure, or why. You have brought this home, and I can only hope that when the hatch opens, the masses don’t slip back to their old mentality before they have a good look at the better person they may have become.
    On a side note, congratulations on having your books housed in such an honorable library aboard the USS Vermont.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations, indeed, on having your work housed on the SSN792. As an old submariner, myself, I can tell you that when that hatch is opened again after months at sea most of the crew will get sick. After breathing that homemade air and living in close proximity with only your shipmates you usually do get the sniffles when you once again breathe ‘fresh air’ and mingle with strangers.
    Maybe I could ask you to slip one of my poems down the weapons shipping hatch? Just kidding.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Yes, this went from one thing to another over the months of procrastinating my initial response and then incorporating developing, (d)evolving events. An interment as much as a submersion, and who knows what will sprout from all this.
    Thank you. Be well.

    Like

  4. Absolutely fantastic post. Connects with me on so many levels. First, I am from New Hampshire and have a deep affinity for Vermont, partly from correcting those ignorant of the differences between us, partly for the kindred spirit we share for nature and beauty.

    Second, I spent my professional life in the Navy, 27 years. Most of time on surface ships, but did submerge once in a submarine. Not for me. Still, there are parallels between what we are experiencing today and any life spent at sea. I get it in ways only a Sailor can, distanced from friends and family, awaiting a letter or a care package, eating what was put in front of him and learning not to complain. Complaining only sucks the joy out of a life with little to spare.

    After reading a review in the New York Review of Books, Underland became a must buy. It is on the to read list, but now it might have to be bumped up for your insight.

    We have a chance to learn once again what it means to be human, different but the same. Needing real connection, needing to be heard, needing love. What we have now is different than those ships of my days as a young officer, those days of prior pandemics… we have this crazy thing called the internet where those basic human needs can be met if we do our best. And we must do our best.

    Our worst got us here, and here is where I am departing from to find the better place we make.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to laugh at “correcting those ignorant of the differences between us”. We Vermonters are always doing the same, (NH is the upside down one) and yet there’s not any real animosity. Just a loyal love of place. And yes, now is the time for the kindred spirits of place, Earth, perhaps, to come together and make it a better more sustainable place for all her inhabitants.
      Glad to have connected!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations, I’m sure your words will entertain and bring solace in the deep. I also tend to draft posts and leave them to settle until it feels like to share but, with the social atmosphere changing so rapidly, I find – for me – the overall tone can feel out of date. And thanks for the reminder of how lucky we are not to be lockdown in a submarine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a gorgeous post. Don’t know that’s the right word but a ‘wow’ post, D. The ‘closing of the hatch’ hit me while reading. I’ve thought of it before as some of my family is/was in the Navy but still… It’s chilling. And I do get the timing threw you for a loopy meandering but I’m glad because it’s wonderful.

    A cool opportunity for you and your books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a very odd time. I no longer give a *** about the books (ok, it is still kind of cool) but really it is hard to… concentrate on anything, let alone fiction, and that book seems so dated already now. I guess we are in the same container, sharing space in the blogosphere. Good company and glad to have it as we anxiously await the lifting of the hatch.

      Liked by 1 person

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