It is, in some ways, the darkest time of winter. The days are still short, and the weather has bent away from thin cold wind to the thick wet knives more familiar to March. The kind of days when you might find yourself feeling like you’re standing behind your car in the freezing dark, trying to find a way to stuff the 32-inch-high washer into the 31-inch-high hatchback of your car while the world spins around you, uncaring.
So find one thing, and do it well. Make your home in it.
Exhibit A: Ira Mowen.
Mowen is an artist and surfer from Santa Cruz, Calif., who now lives in Berlin. In past incarnations he was involved in the balloon project, a video art experiment that saw video cameras released under bundles of red helium balloons. The video cameras were later recovered, documenting the aerial travels of the apparatus.
Mowen is still making art, but surfing is tougher. Berlin is 976 kilometres away from the Baltic Sea, and in its own way, even further from surfing.
But every day, on a nearby waterway, Mowen is attempting to ride one last surfable wave. And he’s making a film about the attempt.
The peculiar design of the bow of a passing roll-on/roll-off car ferry makes a single, straight-line wave.
The vessel passes once a day and, if there is other shipping traffic, slows to the point that the wave is unsurfable that day. The ferry’s been in operation for 30 years and is being taken out of service — its replacement is a different design and won’t produce a surfable wave.
Some days, Mowen manages to catch the head-high wave with the perfect break. Other days, he miscalculates his speed or the ship’s. Other times, the wave fails to form properly.
You can see a little more about it at http://www.surfberlin.com/ as Mowen finishes production on the film of his attempts, a film he expects to release late this year.
It’s a little thing.
Some would say it’s an unnecessary and trivial thing.
But it’s Mowen’s thing — and perhaps that is the great wonder of being human, that we can be seized with something so divorced from the basic necessities of food and shelter, that we can find wonder in something as simple as seeking a single surfable wave in water where few such waves exist.
It is the dead of winter. Bitter and windy and damp and cold, it is the kind of weather you bend into and fight forwards against.
And it’s easy to stop fighting forwards, to
settle into the regular day-to-day plod that is many people’s existence.
Perhaps, though, what we should all be doing is taking one small facet of Mowen’s example to heart.
Wait for your once-a-day-ship and be ready to try and catch that wave.
It’s a better place for you trying.