The ship unfurls seven sails. Music from the TV series “Victoria” plays over the deck. In the distance, the silhouette of Italy jumps up and down like one of those graphs for  height changes in the Tour de France. The houses shelter on the edge of cliffs, tile-roofed and shimmering like the watercolors in a Frederick Kubitz painting. Except Kubitz chose to depict the coast of Maine and these grace the Tuscan coastline. I’m in love with the past that settles across my vision like a field of flowers.

Our ship, the Windstar, carries us forward, channeling the horizon in a series of perfect photo ops. I lean on the rail and imagine the Phoenicians heading toward Spain, the Greeks facing the straits of Gibraltar, the Romans claiming territory with their tradesmen and their soldiers. History fills the clefts in the hills, marches upward on the cliffs, unfurls in the sea beneath the ship. Captivated by the rhythm of sea and sky, I become a time traveler, bridging past eras with present experience.

Is this not what writers do? Poets, essayists, novelists, memoirists…we stare at the horizon and craft narratives, sailing beside all those who wrote before us, captive to the urge to conquer story, to trade our goods for favorable terms — the esteem of readers, the recognition of our peers. Perhaps, in our eagerness to reach that horizon, we overlook the perils around us. Ships founder in a storm. Sea monsters lurk under the waves. Antagonists chew at our resolve. Naysayers, especially the censor inside us, repeat warnings.

Still, like the ship I ride, we sail on. The second week of June, 2018, when I sail, provides perfect weather. Blue skies, fair seas. Not a raindrop in sight. But in the distance, a storm gathers. In the way of all things natural, the tempest will come. Are we ready? Have we done our drills, measured our response to adversity, claimed space on a lifeboat? As I continue my writing journey, I like to think I am prepared to last the course, but just in case, I pack an emergency bag of ideas, rhymes, essays, and a compass to guide me on the trip.