And the soul – isn't it water
by His Spirit poured?
And the water – is it not the soul of the Lord?–
where it isn't,
and yet, no less, is.
This is a glimpse
at a creature that I should call “myself,” as well as at other unmatched ones like me. At all of us. I throw a ray of light at our mutual self, and at what’s hidden in our little days. I don't fall for the collectors for our insatiable minds. This is a travelogue from within, rather than from significant destinations. Don't expect any "wow!" stories and the similar enticements with which the genre abounds by default. Seascoops are a discovery - of the world and of myself the way I always am - the crystal Giacomo! It's all bareback. And it's all in a state of flux. In the heady motion of my constant inner transmutation; in the heady motion of my life's events galloping before my eyes faster than I can perceive; in the heady motion of a sailor (this one is literal) who has only a few hours on land to make a few steps, look around, to pick a bunch of memories and bid goodbye. The delirious haste will slap you at my speed of speaking, thrust you into leaps and bounds from here to there and back, to elsewhere, to nowhere or everywhere. I run. I fly. I live. But I also pause. All at the same time. I have my favorite ability to halt within a second and stand in its transparency woven of a revelation kind of sensation. Amid all the gigantic hassle, these stop-seconds of mine have precipitated priceless "out of time" fragments. These are the treasures of those who have lived. I'm all for treasure sharing. That's what the seascoops came into being for.
They are history to a certain degree, but what they are most of all is the opposite of a narrative. I feel them like the sacred quiet, like the silence that touches you, like a presence. The Everything and the Nothing pulsate in the them, saturating the words with the intimacy of an attitude more than with casual emotions or responses. In that tiny "I" of mine from the seascoops, on a par with timelessness, I cannot but bump into time as well. It is cheeky enough to be present, to gesture and attract the onlookers' eyes. This is how time and timelessness interact inside me within an inexplicable and harmonic juxtaposition, each one claiming its own necessity in a world, which is both perfect and flawed by design.
Well, here I am, the child whose mother guided her to develop her talent as a musician (*I received a classical music education, for which I’ll be grateful to her forever. I graduated from the Music School in Varna with piano, and the Music Academy in Sofia with choral conducting. I had excellent offers for the so-called work realization, but the moment of my life was specific. I finished what was expected to be a career before it began. Shortly after graduating from the Music Academy, I met "the love we can’t do without." We got married in no time, and not long before I started traveling with him)– a country girl found herself in the big white world. Expect endless "Oh’s!" and "Ah’s!" These are the first steps of someone born and bred in a communist country, behind the Iron Curtain, venturing out for the first time. Can't help but reinvent hot water. You might have a bit of a laugh on me… But what can one do, life is not as equal for all of us. Yet, it’s just as equal from within.
"I saw the world!" Everyone who can say this is profoundly appreciative of being able to fly out of his/her coop. My flying out was enabled by my tying the knot with a sailor. It wasn't premeditated, you will figure out for yourself I am not the one to carefully plan and solve her puzzle in advance. It will be getting dark here too, but there is no way around – I promised you boundless sincerity. Waiting for a sailor and living without him were a pain that plagued my soul with the most nightmarish instrument – the fear of his death. Sending him on a voyage was like sending to a war he might not return from. I would compare my torment with a scene in a movie where people were tortured and their leader was forced to watch everything that was being done to them. The unbearable horror made him slam his head into one of those old cast-iron radiators to lose conscience. I had nowhere to slam my head. Each time I experienced everything from scratch - bareback, live, with no anesthesia. Seeing him off and waiting, seeing him off and waiting. Days on end in his pajamas, on his side of the bed, on his pillow, with his perfume in hand – ate nothing, drank nothing, drowned in tears. The Romantic characters are here today. Here I am - an authentic specimen. Until I got the promise, "I'll get him back to you every time." These words gave me unwavering security and peace of mind. The whimpering passed under the bridge. And the chance to take voyages with him opened up before long. I took it up within an instant, so that we would not lose a grain of togetherness. Untogetherness is love too, but it screams out of desire. While togetherness lilts. But it was exactly during our standing apart when we figured out that the innermost core of our oneness was that it was inseparable.
Sailing in a ship was the ultimate challenge. I couldn't even swim! Water sent shudders down my spine. I had drowned as a child and I knew what it felt like. But as I say in my favorite quote:
"There is no higher power than love!
She is almighty!
Even death obeys it.
Her desires salute no one, not a thing, ever!"
The Song over the Songs 8:6 (Ann de Lesté version)
Being on a ship you have all the time in the world and nothing to do. If you are an accompanying person. Work takes it out of everybody else. The captain being the only exception. Responsibility is his only burden. I saw close-up how sailors earned their living and what its price was. I was heartbroken. Slave labor is not history - it is still with us today. (*It is no coincidence that some countries have placed the work of a ship mechanic and that of a miner in the same labor category.) One hundred and fifty million sailors all over the world are virtually sacrificing their lives for the sake of their families, writing themselves off to write the happiness of their children and wives in capital letters. Often, the women and children hail from several broken marriages and add up to a hundred mouths to feed. I saw the men and their fate. Cash machines.
He used to work all day, sometimes through the night, a few times reaching up to 72 hours without a break. And the engine room of the ship is one of the most life-threatening working environments, providing thousands of opportunities for one to suffer. Once back, it was as if he had returned from a battlefield. I'll spare you the details for being too off-putting. The inhuman fatigue of his face is what I pray we could erase from our lives altogether. I have been his wife for 20 years and it is still very, very difficult for me to live with what his profession defines as his way of life. But this is what he is best at. So, I had to adjust. And that is why I began writing – as a subconscious reaction to my and his preservation – not to think about how he was, what he was struggling with, whether he hurt himself, etc. women's care, which I have disciplined over time, because of my faith in the big picture, in which all the pieces of our lives definitely and in a predestined manner have their place and meaning. I don't know if I have to answer myself why and how I started writing. The important thing is that over the years I have enjoyed the pleasure of continuing to do so. I want to leave a sound behind us; I want it to be beautiful and true. It's that simple.
Sometimes I see a semblance between myself and Andersen's Elisa from The Wild Swans. I am trying to sew shirts from nettles. They are neither convenient nor trendy, but instead are magical. If I throw them on my brothers, they will become themselves. So I have persisted in the sewing business for over 15 years. In the beginning, I was doing it for the sake of our future children. I wanted them to know what mom and dad were like before they came to the world, what mom and dad had been through, how they loved each other, and how they waited for their kids to come. I was also writing for my friends who were excited and wanted us to tell them about our travels, about life on a ship. But how are you supposed to give an account of two, four, or seven months of life?! How could you convey how it feels to live in isolation from everything and everyone for days, weeks and months, outside civilization, only twenty on board, all of them men, debased by iron and salt?! And myself – I beg your pardon, ma'am! With food that runs out the first month; and morning, lunch, evening thereafter - meat, meat, and more meat. Or food is available, but the chef is no good and you eat cheese sandwiches from the microwave for two months. Yet all that is cakewalk. Now let's come to the real thing. The storms. Crew security is not a priority on cargo ships. The priority is the cargo. It must arrive at its destination intact and, most of all, on time. Therefore, horrific crimes are being committed against human life, the price of which in merchant shipping industry is below that of the cargo. We have had at least three iron-cast deaths amid sea storms that God rescued us from. I don't know how, He does. In one of them, no sun was seen for three and a half days. The stars made no appearance either. As the whirligig of horrors, the ship crashes full force to the wave's base, and after a few seconds' quake beyond any scale, the wave hoists it up to the skies almost vertically, only to jump over it and drive its entire mass back into its infernal bite. And this comes every few seconds, with every subsequent wave, hours on end, day in and day out. And the movement is not only up and down, right-to-left, but in all directions - it twists, bends and bangs the ship, the screw turbines above the water howl you dizzy. It all buffets and vibrates, hops and collapses, everything crashes to the ground. You roll this way and the other, then tie yourself to avoid the battering. There is no sleep for days, for months (in the monsoon season). You place your mattress on the floor to avoid dropping from a high place, various objects hit you, there's no fixing things into place, there is nothing, everything is going to crush to pieces in an instant, but oh glory, thank God, there is a GOD who never ends! I spared a lot of things as I wrote. As Nicky says of the best and the worst, "This is stuff for only the two of us, Zorie." But my tongue got somehow untied now.
So that's where it all started. And where it came to is living on a cruise ship six months a year, free of charge at that, as currently (2018) Niki is one of the senior officers on board and has earned the privilege of having his wife along with him while at work. The last seascoop is from a cruise ship. Yes, we’ve been given this gift too… We are flabbergasted into silence.
So, Seascoops are a series. A five-course menu. The first two, the one from 2002 ("holy land walking the holy lands"") and the one from 2005 ("outside the letters of the books, even the holy ones - I want inside their Authorare from Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and West Africa. Back then I penned them in a notebook. And, to tell you the truth, I didn't feel like writing too long: there was a whole lot of other stuff to experience. Against the backdrop of the last three, the first two seascoops sound almost telegraphic. They are about the size of hors d'oeuvres - tiny bites. This was the result of my hurrying to finish writing and stay alone with the blue for hours. I remember standing on the deck from dawn till dusk, taking photos, hovering, standing silent, bursting with raptures, jumping over my fear, face to face with a mountain of water coming onto our board, you could see the sun right behind it...
In Seascoop 2005, we spent our nights in the middle of the African savannah, sailing for two days upstream the Congo, all the way to Matadi. My few hours in this "city" witnessing bits of the African way of life have become one of my most poignant experiences ever. Incidentally, the most horrific storm happened during that same voyage. We were sailing past Namibia. It rocked us for three days beyond any measure or mercy … We had a glitch in the main engine, it could seize up in an instant, which was equivalent to sinking shortly thereafter. Even if we had managed to lower the lifeboats and somehow make it to land through the forty-foot waves, the Namibian desert, a thousand miles long, would have swallowed us. Nothing has ever centered me as much as our survival after this humongous storm.
The sunniest and most memorable voyage of all took place from December 2005 to July 2006, with Ilia Mutafov as the Captain (Western Europe, West Africa). There was no shortage of adventures on this one either. I snapped from some African virus. Three days and nights, I spent in scrambling for life and limb. We were out in the ocean, with no physician on board. I was saved by God's will and my pastor’s prayer, whom I e-mailed saying that I was dying and he "happened" to be online in his account and answered me in a flash. We went through a whole lot in the course of that voyage: the end of the truce in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, i.e. the beginning of the shootout. We sailed off along with the withdrawal of the UN helicopters. They also shot at us in Nigeria, where in an effort to escape as fast as we could we got stuck in the river (thank God for only a few minutes). But I have no seascoop from this particular voyage. I devoted those seven months to writing my version of Galatians and the Old Testament Poetic Books (Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and a portion of the Psalms), which later on morphed into a launchpad for Romans and Jews (2008 and 2010). Still later, everything already written, and especially the Romans-Jews, nudged into the world my last book.
Unlike the first two, the last three seascoops are really extensive. Seascoop 2013 ("comes down as lightning and stays within you as the Spirit") hails from Southeast Asia - Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
During Seascoop 2014 ("one strides over oneself to enter the Other of oneself"...) I spent 4 months without coming to land. We meandered between Mumbai, India, and Richards Bay, South Africa, anchoring in front of both cities without going ashore. I won't forget the parade of thousands of migrating whales in front of Richards Bay. This was also the time when our ship crossed the pirate-infested area off the Somalian coast. All the time, we had professional, heavily armed military security on board. These were the four months in the Indian Ocean during the monsoons - the perfect time for inner life, ha-ha! To our comfort, the mad rocking alternated with periods at anchor, so we did take breaks from the horror. During those days of lull, I edited my huge Roman-Jews and penned their gigantic preface. 2014 was also the time when I realized I wanted to have a book out. I felt like sharing my life not only with my loved ones, but also with those thousands of "distant" people, whom I feel in fact as close, being bound in an eternal and wonderful way. My wish grew into a decision, perhaps most of all because several times during our years at sea I was literally standing at the doorstep of the worlds, on the border crossing from here to over There. And standing on that cusp profoundly changes one. You quickly mature to the meaning of everything, and hence to the meaning of your existence as well. You can now see what you are an envoy for. The sea reduces you. It thickens you to the essence of Life - to be with God and detest being without Him. There are no atheists out at sea. We are all clear about it out there.
Seascoops from cruises ("we are the ship people; the passengers are the sparrows on our window sill") is my last seascoop. I have put writing on hold for a while. The New Amsterdam is the most voluminous one, and it is chock-full of experiences and destinations. It comprises five several-month cruises in Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe. Here I found myself amid the big of the big world. People from all continents, races, ethnicities, religions, cultures, here we are – we fall asleep here to wake up over there, by yet another tourist icon, we criss-cross the world far and wide, sharing our days and lives with all their curves, straight lines, loops and upturns. Hilarious, sad, tender and painful - for months on end, for years together, we have been hovering across our shared ocean home. We are no longer those twenty on board. The ship has a crew of over a thousand. Plus 2000 passengers coming and going - new ones flooding in every week. Dozens of friendships and hundreds of acquaintances have been struck.
Seascoops are accompanied by gigantic video and photo material, and it is absorbing enough in itself despite its amateurish dialect (*my time to indulge in photography the way I want has not come yet). You can see the full photo archive on https://anndeleste.com. For what you are going to read from here on, as well as for everything in my humble human life, I want to thank the two and only ones:
The only God - who kept us alive and whose unconditional Love and fatherly care each one of us can rely on in any circumstances;
and the only Nikolay these pages would not have existed without him. The sweetest thing in my life is sharing your life, Niki! The sweetest thing in our life together is that we share the life of God who cannot stop making us witnesses of what Love is and what it is capable of.
At the close of this lengthy preface, I would like to warn you against too high expectations. Please take into account that the Seascoops are no more than my pajamas diaries – deprived of striving for literary writing, sensing the pulse of the market, the most current trends or anything like that. There is room in the world for all these things, but for me too, I hope – it's big enough to hold us all. I'm not a writer, I'm not capable of writing as a pro. I write the way I talk to my friends – casually, but frankly and deeply to my own measure – about everything I find exciting. If I can make someone focus not on the type or quality of writing but on the ideal behind it, instead, it will make me happy enough. Everyone is limited and humanly stupid in their own right. We shouldn’t be ashamed of this, but to the extent possible, turn our limitations into opportunities and tame our stupidity, though we will not quite succeed. We all leave here with few grams of it to last us during the trip. (*At the moment of death, the body lightens - the weight of the soul, as they say)
Last but not least, I would like to put my hand in the hand of anyone who reads my sea diaries and thank you personally for reaching out to them, hopefully in an attempt to add something to your life. I believe you'll get it
An de Lesté
(Literally from Roma language: : in Him, in Christ)1