Every summer we meet up with good friends in British Columbia or Alaska for a week of cruising through paradise. Breaching humpbacks, wheeling eagles, starry, starry nights: National Geographic should be so lucky. But even paradise can be daunting: ghostly fog and boat-swamping tides and passages so narrow that only the secret coves they shelter make them worth the risk.
Life, I have found, unfolds much like a boat trip. We can never know what’s waiting for us next. In a moment of happy wonder, something dark and huge may be passing silently beneath us. To live at all requires a certain amount of courage; to live well requires courage plus an unlikely but essential conviction: that no matter what may be required of us, to be here in this place, this time, is nothing less than miraculous.
Meanwhile, it may help to know that the most ominous-looking fjords often attract dolphins. A hundred and fifty strong, they burst from the sea in glittering gray and white arcs, racing the boat and playing at the bow. When we lean out over the railing to take their pictures, they roll on their sides to meet our eyes. We cheer and they chitter. Soon enough, humans and dolphins alike, our time here will be over. But for now, we are their pleasure and they are ours.