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Moitessier, Bernard – The Long Way - The Fairy Tern

Identifier

016960

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Moitessier, Bernard – The Long Way

The weather is good, the wake gently spins out astern. Sitting cross-legged in the cockpit, I watch the sea, listening to the song of the bow. And I see a little seagull perched on my knee.

I don't dare move, I don't dare breathe, for fear she will fly away and never come back. She is white all over, almost transparent, with a slender beak and very large black eyes. I did not see her draw near, I did not sense the faster beating of her wings as she landed. My body is naked under the sun, yet I do not feel her on the bare skin of my knee. Her weight cannot be felt.

Slowly, I reach out my hand. She looks at me, preening her feathers. I reach closer. She stops smoothing her feathers and watches me, unafraid. Her eyes seem to speak.

I reach my hand a little bit closer. . .and gently start stroking her back, very gently. She speaks to me then, and I understand that this is no miracle.

And she tells me the story of the Beautiful Sailboat filled with men. Hundreds of millions of men. When they set out, it was on a long voyage of exploration.

The men wanted to find out where they came from, and where they were going. But they completely forgot why they were on the boat. And little by little they get fat, they become demanding passengers. They are not interested in the life of the boat and the sea any more; what interests them are their little comforts. They have accepted mediocrity, and each time they say 'Well, that's life,' they are resigning themselves to ugliness.

The captain has become resigned too, because he is afraid of antagonizing his passengers by coming about to avoid the unknown reefs that he perceives from the depths of his instinct.

Visibility worsens, the wind increases, but the Beautiful Sailboat stays on the same course. The captain hopes a miracle will calm the sea and let them come about without disturbing anyone.

The sun climbs. It passes its meridian, and I have still not moved. Now my little gull is sleeping on my knee.

I have known her a long time. She is the Fairy Tern, who lives on all islands where the sun is the god of men. She flies out to sea in the morning and always returns to her island by dusk. So all you have to do is follow. And she came more than 700 miles to warn me today, though she usually never goes more than 30 or 40 miles out. In the Indian Ocean, as Marie-Therese was sailing to the reefs, I had looked for her in vain. And I lost my boat in the night.

The truth is, I was sleeping that afternoon in the comfort of my cabin when the Fairy Tern wanted to show me the island hidden behind the reefs.

The source of the experience

Moitessier, Bernard

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble