Pulling the Cork...
by Robert Winter
A note in a bottle... The practice appears to have originated in the age of sailing ships. Somebody would become shipwrecked on an uninhabited island--perhaps in the manner of the fictional Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family Robinson; or perhaps as depicted in a spate of later popular cartoons, featuring a bearded survivor on an island the size of a small area rug, with a single palm tree at its center. The stranded party would place a message in a bottle and toss it into the great briny, hoping the tides would carry it to someone who would read its contents. Putting a note in a bottle by definition involves dealing with uncertain prospects. A bottle could arrive somewhere in a week or a month; or it could bob around for years, decades, even centuries. Predicting where such a message might end up is also impossible: the bottle might wash back up on its beach of origin, or float no farther than another island that is also uninhabited. It might also arrive at a place where nobody knows the language in which the note is written, or where nobody reads any language at all. Still, I have learned that composing messages of this type is worthwhile. If it reaches one other stranded individual, a person's description of his situation can enable someone else to put his own circumstances in enough context to improve them. A sense of connectedness is also a basic human need. Reading what another person has found can give us nurturance and strength; while for the person writing the note, sharing experiences and discoveries is no less fundamental a necessity.
© COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.