According to Wikipedia, the term laying the keel has “entered the language as a phrase meaning the beginning of any significant undertaking.” In traditional shipbuilding, the keel is the structural beam around which the hull is built. The keel acts as the spine of the ship, keeping it upright by providing ballast to counteract the lateral forces on the sail from the wind, and generating lift to “convert the sideways motion of the wind when it is abeam into forward motion.” A ship won’t sail upright or straightforwardly unless it has a proper keel.
The importance and integrity of the keel was understood by the ancients. Wikipedia also tells us that “the word “keel” comes from Old English ceol, Old Norse kjóll, = “ship” or “keel”. It has the distinction of being regarded by some scholars as the very first word in the English language recorded in writing,” referring to Saxon ships in the 6th Century. Nowadays, laying the keel is the first milestone in the history of a vessel.
Last November, Lori Hoeck and I set a keel in place. We began the collaboration that resulted in the e-book we will launch next week, The Narcissist: A User’s Guide. As I thought about everything that has led up to this moment of launch – the many blog posts that so intrigued me on Lori’s site, the offer from Sirius Graphix to give our words a beautiful presentation, and the additional support from those with whom we’ve shared the project – I realized more needed to be said. I needed to tell you more about our project’s keel.
When Vikings built their ships, they split logs to make planks, planing them by chipping with an adz. They understood that wood has a tendency to wick water, cell by cell, so the strength of any board could be easily compromised. Each log’s composition was evaluated for knots or scars. The adz planing process accommodated the individuality of the wood by extracting the planks from its center marrow, where the radial pores of the cells could run parallel along the plank’s length.
Jørn Olav Løset tells us the Vikings’ choppy, labor-intensive method actually contributed more to the individual plank’s strength by compressing the wood cells, creating a smoother surface that was more resistant to water. The direction these planks were placed in the boat’s structure allowed the adz markings to work at rejecting the water flow, as well. By working with the wood, not against it, the Vikings built stronger, more seaworthy boats than those of their contemporaries. They sailed longer distances and weathered greater storms.
You can probably guess where all this is going. When Lori and I began preparing the keel for our e-book project on narcissism and its harmful effects on relationships, we had to re-examine. We knew we had independently arrived at similar conclusions from our own experiences in very dark places. Organizing and categorizing what we’d concluded for me meant revisiting the forest, in search of the hardwood that would comprise my contribution’s spine.
What I found were the signs of pain, defense, and defiance. I viewed the markings that parasitical opportunism had emotionally inflicted. Some of the wounds had been very deep, and while certain areas had knit together in a haphazard emulation of unimpeded growth, others were barely protected with very thin scars, vulnerable. The forest, just as I remembered it, was very dark. If something grabbed me, its teeth could easily pierce me again. But still, I had grown.
Instead of Lori and me laying the keel for this project, I realized this project had really done the selecting and the setting. In choosing us, our content found something it could work with. For me, scraping away the layers, chipping around the hard new skin, planing the emerging surface with smoothness and calm imperviousness, was a process that revealed a stronger spine. In Lori, I see work akin with her “determined heart and mind.”
Flanking the keel are the strakes that Sirius has provided. Their visual representation is frankly stunning in its capture of the hard, dead-end realities of dysfunction, but leavened by the visual punning in a colorful peacock’s feather.
You, who will read this book and pass it along to others in similar situations, will be the rivets, the ribs, and the caulk, keeping our hull worthy of the sea.
There are many places to sail. Away from and to. PassingThru was conceived to be any number of journey-based reflections. But before any launch, there must be “a keel that is truly and fairly laid” with authentication. Consider it done.
PassingThru is also honored:
- by the opportunity to post at Eliza Fayle’s Silver and Grace today about my other spine, the one that is affected by osteoporosis. Thanks to Eliza – what a great site she is building!
- and by the effervescent Jannie Funster, who has bestowed upon us a Scary Clown award, citing the wordsmithing on PassingThru. Ha! Jannie today you get more! Thank you!