"Louie found that the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge. He had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was. Here, drifting in almost total silence, with no scents other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving but the slow procession of shark fins, every vista empty save water and sky, his time unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it. In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple. He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about. (italics mine)
He had always enjoyed excellent recall, but on the raft, his memory became infinitely more nimble, reaching back further, offering detail that had once escaped him. One day, trying to pinpoint his earliest memory, he saw a two-story building and, inside, a stairway broken into two parts of six steps each, with a landing in between. He was there in the image, a tiny child toddling along the stairs. As he crawled down the first set of steps and moved toward the edge of the landing, a tall yellow dog stepped in front of him to stop him from tumbling off. It was his parents' dog, Askim, whom they had had in Olean, when Louie was very little. Louis had never remembered him before."
I've been marveling at the resourcefulness and sheer will it took to survive 47 days on a raft in the Pacific, cringing in horror at the inhuman treatment of vicious POW camp guards, wondering how anyone could survive all that. I'm reading Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.
I gave this book to both Coty and my dad for Christmas. I knew my runner husband and track history and statistics buff would like it because it chronicles the incredible story of a man who literally ran his way out of a troubled youth to a spot on the 1936 Olympic track and field team. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and while on a mission to look for a lost plane, his own plane crashed into the Pacific. Louie and one of the other men who survived the crash drifted in the ocean until they were captured by the Japanese Navy. They spent the rest of the war in POW camps and were thought to be dead.
I'll leave the rest of the story for you to read. Or if this isn't going on your reading list anytime soon, you can learn more here or here.
I'm heading out to my own little raft in the middle of a much smaller body of water to finish the book. There won't be any sharks or bombers strafing me. Just floating with a good book in peace - my own little "intellectual refuge" for a bit.