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The Doldrums

Feared by sailors, the doldrums heralded many things--among them risk. Evolving connotation of the word has not faired well, but is a life without the doldrums worth risking?

Sailors, both captain and crew alike, fear a phenomenon known as the doldrums. In today’s modern shipping world of immense steel structures and propulsion systems, they are perhaps not as fearsome as they once were.

The doldrums occur in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans near the equator and when conditions are conducive, the ocean becomes windless. So windless in fact, ships could be stalled for weeks, risking depletion of food stores as well as causing the crew to face endless monotony.

The sea becomes glass, without the waves and ripples that often define it. The hot, humid air weighs on all who have the misfortune to be in attendance, without the slightest breath of wind offering solace. The next day is like the prior, on and on as if in an endless loop. No wonder monotony was as grave a danger as dwindling supplies and the risk of scurvy.

As tends to happen, new technical terms are created to replace terms that worked for centuries. The doldrums are officially called the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ).

But really, don’t ‘doldrums’ just work so much better?

The word doldrums has also been co-opted to mean stagnation, lack of activity, or even depression. To be sure, the connotation remains not overly positive.

But alas, a new compass may take us to places unknown.

Life is a barrage of opposing forces, internal and external, pushing and pulling, rising and falling. It becomes its own rhythm. We become so used to the cadence that missing a beat throws us off course. The wind and waves, the tide and current propel us ever forward…until we are thrown off-kilter. The wind dies down and the waves disappear. Water so perfectly mirrors the sky so as to leave no demarcation of where one begins and the other ends.

We have limited time, finite resources; we muster our willpower, we must get back on track. No rest for the weary, today’s labor will bear tomorrow’s fruit.


Hear the ocean’s mic drop.

The beauty of stillness. The wonder of time standing still, if only for a moment.

Let your heartbeat slow…and slow. Breathe in the moment, drink it in.

May peace surround you, and contentedness cloak you.

Stagnant waters run deep. Immerse yourself in your truth, your purpose.

In a world of dual meanings and opposing forces, the rescuer is the rescued. The doldrums can pull us from the doldrums.

Lest we forget, today is also the fruit of yesterday’s labor.

Today is the dream of years prior and the whisper before the dream was ever formed.

Navigate to the doldrums as you chart your course.

The wind, in its pause, is breathtaking.

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