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Title: The Ballast Water Metaphor
Word Count: 372
A/N: One day I will write a story called Ballast Water and it may touch on concepts dealt with in this piece. However, this is not that story. This is just something I had to write. Quotes from Wiki.

The Ballast Water Metaphor

If ever I were to write my autobiography, I would title it Ballast Water and start it off recounting the first time I properly came across the concept.

A ballast tank is a compartment within a boat, ship or other floating structure that holds water.

I was twenty, or twenty-one, an undergraduate taking a course on invasive species. I would describe the professor, all manic energy and coke-bottle glasses and quirky intimidation.

I would throw in descriptions of ships, large and small, and of those gushing jets of water coming out from their hulls. I never understood them - ships were supposed to want to keep water out, so why make a hole whereby water could creep in? How was the water pumped out again, and why?

Adding ballast to a vessel lowers its center of gravity, and increases the draft of the vessel.

In this imaginary, unwritten autobiography, I would jump six years later, where an older version of that undergraduate student would suddenly understand her life through ballast water.

Ships designed for carrying large amounts of cargo must take on ballast water for proper stability when travelling with light loads and discharge water when heavily laden with cargo.

Because instead of the usual metaphors - the tortoise, lugging its home across the desert, the nomad and his ladden camel, the bulging suitcase going round and round on the baggage claim merry-go-round - it would be ballast water that would best explain me.

Ballast water taken in to a tank from one body of water and discharged in another body of water can introduce invasive species of aquatic life.

I stay at one port, pick up water. I travel, the water inside keeping me steady, harking back to that alien port that, for however brief a time, was a home port. Casting out water when my decks take on weight through my travels, pulling in water when the seas are rough and the ship that I am needs to be steadied, leaving pieces of the first port in the new without knowledge of the chaos this may cause.

It would all make sense - or more sense, even if only for a moment, and there would be some comfort in that.


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January 2011


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