On the Term “Loomings”

On the side tab of this website there is a title that says “Places,” and underneath it I plan on providing quick links to all the posts from the various places I visit. As I have not started traveling yet, all these posts are under the category “Loomings,” which takes its name from the first chapter of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Loomings. The murky beginning of something—indistinct in the fog. That’s where I am now, trying to shuffle everything together in the midst of a thick fog. Hopefully naming a section of this website after the ominous beginning of Moby Dick will not curse me with ill-fate travels and sinister white whales. It’s an unrelated thought, and an unsolicited bit of advice, but if you’re reading this and you have not read Moby Dick, give it a try. For my money it’s THE American novel. I’m not saying you have to read the chapters about whale anatomy, though.

There’s a restlessness to those opening lines of “Loomings”: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses … then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” There’s no travel-yearning there—no “wanderlust” as people term it now. It reads like the thoughts of a man about whose waist Fate has fashioned a rope. Pulled by the rope, the man attempts to resist by walking in the opposite direction. Now, though, he’s stopped resisting, and is walking with the tug.

That opening paragraph isn’t all dreary. Another sign the narrator takes as an indicator to get to sea is when he must continually fight the urge to step into the street and go about “methodically knocking people’s hats off.” The overall sentiment is one of restlessness though, and the willingness to now follow wherever Fate steers. That’s what I get out of the opening, anyway.

And that’s how I feel now, twenty-six days away from setting out. It’s like I too am lurching through a tedious opening paragraph—how best to explain myself? How best to keep your attention so you stick around for the main event? There’s no clear way to accomplish a feat like that, although Melville did an admirable job of it. Loomings, he called it. Perhaps I should have named this section “Lurchings.”


One thought on “On the Term “Loomings”

  1. I would like to share this entry with your Shepaug High School English teacher, Mrs Christine Shugrue. She’d be really pleased that your study of Moby Dick with her has stayed with you. I think many new graduates could relate your your feeling of “lurching”, especially if there appears no clear path to economic and social success handy to step onto. Most of your lives have been caught up in the yearly rhythm of school year beginning and school year ending. And now? To widen your view, to look up and far, as you and Billy are, is more than a little bit brave. You’ll come back different people, maybe people with a clearer view of what is worth spending your time, energies and intelligence on. Lurch for now. Most of us do that for more than we’d like to admit. 😉


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