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Josephine Ensign

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Travels

Degree of Latitude

February 5, 2017
map

By Josephine Ensign

This is a test of your mental state.1

  1. Where are you right now? (But first: Who are you? What’s the story of your true name?)
  2. What’s the date—day, month, year? (Where did you come from and where are you headed?)
  3. Repeat these three words after me: whale, map, stone. (Don’t question them; they’re important words.)
  4. Spell world backwards. (Now spell world spinning.)
  5. Repeat the phrase: ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’ What do you suppose it means? (Be careful of your answer. It can indicate instability.)
  6. Take these stones in your right hand. Roll them slowly in your hand like dice. Drop them on the floor. (Repeat. Gently, rhythmically. Imagine ocean waves lapping the shores of a pebbled beach.)
  7. Write a sentence. (Now write another sentence connected with the first. Repeat.)
  8. Tell me the names of the three items I gave you earlier. (Remember them? Whale, map, stone….)

 _________________________________________

Whale.

August 11, 1980. Time: 1720/ Position: 49.39 degrees N, 60.29 degrees W. Sea level. Banc Beauge, Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada.

Call me Josephine, although at the time I went by my childhood nickname: BJ. I’ve just turned nineteen and I’m at the helm of the Westward, a 125-foot topsail schooner oceanographic research vessel out of Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We’re under full sail. I’m steering a course SE toward Lark Harbour, Bay of Islands, Newfoundland. I glance down at the glass globe crystal ball of the compass binnacle in front of me. We’ve been blown off-course by a Force Nine gale lasting two days and nights. Today it’s passed by to the north, leaving us in sight of the desolate flat-lined coast of Labrador. The heavy grey clouds undulate above us, breaking in places to lapis sky. The breeze is stiff and steady, whipping small white-frothed waves against our hull. Continue Reading…

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