By Jackie Leavitt Indonesia epitomizes the word “diverse.” Its 17,500 islands spread 3,000 miles: further than the width of Europe. It encapsulates 255 million people with six recognized religions, although 90 percent are Muslim. It’s also home to many unique and endangered plants animals, including Sumatra’s orangutans and tigers and […]
By Jackie Leavitt After living in Gisborne for more than two months, Arthur and I decided to hit the winding New Zealand roads! Traveling and camping by car is very popular in New Zealand, and is inspiringly called “freedom camping.” Our goal: Freedom camp our way through […]
By Jackie Leavitt
Even 500 miles away from any sign of land, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re not truly at sea. You look in front of you — at the bow of the sailboat cutting slowly through the blue, rippled salt water — and the slightly curved horizon remains unbroken in the distance. It’s a fluid line that stretches from left to right across your view, until it disappears, fuzzy at the edges. It gives the feeling that there’s something behind you, that if you turn around quickly enough, you’ll see rocks and trees and beaches and people flying kites in the ocean breeze. It’s like a game. You turn, but not fast enough, so you see only the stern of the boat, your white, foamy wake that fizzles into the distance, and another line of blue that stretches miles around you. You would also swear the depth of the water beneath you is only 40 or 50 feet – shallow enough for you to dive to the bottom, or at least see the bottom – rather than 400 or 500 or, really, thousands of feet. You sit on top of a giant chasm, and only physics keeps you from than sinking down, down… down into total darkness.
Blue is everywhere, in the ocean, in the sky. You are in a snow globe of blue, and instead of snow, there are puffy white and grey clouds that circle you. For the past few days, the scenery is unchanged except the storms in the skies. You could almost not be moving, like the boat is just spinning on wheels under the waves. The only way you know what direction you sail is that the white sun glimmers off the waves to one side of the boat. It’s late afternoon, and the sun will set in a couple of hours, slowly laying its shining gold cheek to rest in the clouds that linger on the line of your vision.
You face forward again, scanning the sea for ships, but there are none. There haven’t been for days. But then you do see something in the sky. Near the boat. It dips and curls in the invisible wind. Not a gull, but a tern. And turn it does, around and around you, questioning. What are you doing 500 miles from land? Do you ask this, or does the tern? It swings on its white wings behind your boat, checking out the colored, plastic squid that squirm on fishing lines behind your boat. Real? Fake? It asks, and circles around for a second look. It smells something fishy.
And then someone comes up on deck from inside the sailboat, and the tern catches a breeze toward the clouds and the endless blue horizon, and it disappears into the sparkling sun before you can say, Hey, there’s a tern, 500 miles at sea.
By Jackie Leavitt The train rocked gently, side to side, as it rolled north through the California suburbs. A gloom, a greyness, lingered over everything: the faded vinyl-covered houses, the hills parched from drought, the run-down corner stores yet to open, the flattened sky devoid […]
By Jackie Leavitt It can be difficult to build fresh communities and make friends in new locations. I found my new San Francisco friend group by meeting a man with a Scottish accent in an Irish bar. After being in the city for about a […]
By Jackie Leavitt
Sunsets have the power to stop you in your tracks. You could be in the middle of a run, breathing hard, sweat dripping down your back, when your feet stop on their own. You could be mid-conversation at a cafe enjoying an afternoon cappuccino, when your voice trails off as the beams of light illuminate your face. You could be an island in the stream of humanity, rooted to the sidewalk, while the rest of the 9-to-5-ers push past, oblivious, on their way home from their day in the office.
They demand silence and your full attention. Anything otherwise would be a shame to you and the sunset. Everything else stops mattering, except for you trying to comprehend how the sunlight can stream so sublimely over the clouds, highlighting the color spectrum that overwhelms your irises like multi-colored streamers above your head at a birthday party. The iridescence is a sacred fire in the heavens, and it feels holy as your face is bathed in the soft pink glow reflected in the sky. There’s a quality of awe, of inspiration, of peace, of magnificence.
And each sunset – and each moment within it – is unique because of the person viewing it, the scenery, the time of year, the weather. Do you have clouds to light the sky in pinks and purples, morphing into different shapes in the wind? Or do you have crystal clear vistas showing the chromatic order of indigo to gold? Did you get to see the mythical green flash as the sun set behind the skeptical ocean horizon?
And sunrises, the more subtle sister to the sunrise, can be even more stunning. Perhaps it’s because we see them less often – only if we wake up at a god-forsaken dark hour or if we stay up way past our usual REM patterns. They are a gift and a surprise, not to be taken for granted. Those few times you are actually up with a vista – it takes your breath away. Sometimes sunrises are soft, with a light blue sky painted with wispy, backlit clouds. Sometimes they are as vibrant and fiery as a sunset, with red streaking the sky like a premonition.
The strangest sunrise I’ve ever seen was an anchored-sailboat view of the ocean horizon, which seemed to be blanketed in the distance with a rust-brown haze. And yet, out emerged a perfect red orb from the waterline, creating the illusion that the fog was somehow behind the sun. It seemed as if the ball of fire climbed from the middle of a smoky sea like a phoenix rising from its ashes.
But there’s nothing like chasing a sunset with a window seat to the world. Sitting above the clouds in an airplane, you take over Zeus’ view, looking down on the snow-capped mountains or green-and-brown fields that stretch out as far as your airplane eye can see. Clouds checker-mark the landscape, or billow up like cotton candy, allowing only small peeks into the mysteries below. And the sunset stretches for miles and miles, and for minutes upon minutes, far longer than any human should have the honor to experience. It’s slow motion, where you have the luxury to gracefully move your glance around to soak in the deep blue, royal purple, rose pink, and orange-lemon colors that dominate the sky. It seems endless and still, although you and the sun and the earth are all moving at inconceivable speeds.
When the sun finally sinks behind your horizon, slowly the heat and the warm colors seep out of the sky, leaving behind a hazy, two-tone blue. It creates a strange feeling of an otherworldly view of a foreign planet. The curve of the ground matches the sweeping color of the heavens above, with only a light blue – almost white – cresting above the earth like a cold, desolate sphere’s last gasp of atmosphere. You are alien to it – alone.
By Jackie Leavitt Seaward. I’ve begun to think of her as an evil four-year-old who will gleefully throw everything on the ground, when given the opportunity. I think everything should be in its special spot in the galley. She thinks everything belongs on the floor. […]