Lift On a Wave

This from a reader:

“…if you get a moment for a response, from the description of the blow delivered by the male Orca, how can the shark still be circling, waiting, out there?”

Lift On A Wave is a story about survival that takes place on a sailboat heading south through French Polynesia, bound for Tahiti, then points further south. The tale evolves within a sea of metaphors, with Orcas playing a supporting role, and near the end, a reef shark enters the story – as a metaphor of the story’s primary antagonist, Death. But it’s an evolving metaphor, as the hero’s struggle is with prostate cancer, and he must evolve to meet the challenge.

The story concludes with the following three paragraphs:

“The man walks back to the woman, his wife, his life, and sits beside her while she watches the sails and adjusts her course a little. He turns and looks back at Papeete as it falls away, then down, at the smooth wake the Orca makes as she slips through cobalt waters.

“The shark still circles, he knows; it is still out there, waiting. But that’s life, this foolish mortal coil that holds us for but a brief time.

“He takes a deep breath, the cool sea air bathes his soul. He looks at the woman by his side, watches as she alters her course a little — again — adjusting to the ever changing wind. There is a smile in her eyes, too.”

Adjusting course? Yes, a metaphor for the resilience and willingness to tackle change;

The ever changing wind? Another metaphor for life’s continuing shifts;

And, oh yes, that shark. As David preserves life in the beginning of the story, by saving the baby orca who’s become entangled in it’s umbilicus, he affirms life – all life – even when faced with his own mortality. He does so again when he saves the orca entangled in netting, even at great risk to himself. The shark exists in the story as a counterpoint to David’s affirmation; the shark is Death, both literally – during David’s encounter at sea – and metaphorically, in this last passage.

While the shark in the pivotal encounter at sea is literally killed, David knows the other shark is still “out there” – the metaphorical shark…as Death is always out there, waiting, circling. But his attitude is “so what?” – I am not going to allow death to cheat me out of life, keep me from living. He and his wife will “change course” as they make their way through life together. The “shifting winds” of his illness will not keep Death away forever, but they will lift on life’s waves while they can, rising above their fear and continuing to meet life head on.

Awaken TPL

So, thanks to RB for the question, and as always, thanks for coming along. AL/abw

Note: the original version of this story was posted at in April 2009, and can be found here:

1 thought on “Lift On a Wave

  1. thank you.
    I prefer to think of a dolphin with two small scars below her eye doing the circling, but I understand the metaphor now.


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