“Clemente’s father lost one of his fishing boats,” my wife tells me over morning coffee in the kitchen. Clemente is the novio of my niece in Spain; they are to be married next summer. His father owns a fleet of commercial fishing boats.
“Where?” I ask.
“Off the coast of Ireland. It went down in rough seas.”
I take a sip of coffee. After a brief silence I say, “How many men were lost?”
“None. Another boat was close by. They were able to pull the men from the sea before the boat sank.”
“At least they managed to avert a secondary tragedy.”
“Yes, but—it was first boat that Clemente’s father owned.”
I recall the refrain of an old Galician sea chanty—
Da Estaca de Bares ó Cabo Ortegal
Hay unha lanchiña que vai naufragar,
Que vai naufragar, que vai naufragar,
Non chores Maruxa, son cousas do mar.
At Estaca de Bares or the Ortegal Cape
A little boat is going to sink,
Going to sink, going to sink;
Don’t cry, Maria, these are but things of the sea.
“Naufragouse o barco.” The boat sank. I repeat the phrase using the heavy accent of gallego, the language of the northwest region of Spain. “Naufragouse o barco. Even the words themselves sound tragic.”
My wife pauses the coffee mug halfway to her lips. “Yes, I was thinking the same thing the other day. Mine are a morose people; it’s even reflected in the way we speak. It’s probably been like that for thousands of years.”
“Maybe it’s because gallegos have historically been drawn to the sea,” I offer.
She regards my face with knowing sea-swept eyes.