The last dog watch is the watch at sea which begins at 22:00 (10:00) and ends at 24:00.  The first dog watch is the two hours preceding.  I liked the name for its several implications, the first being the sense of the dark of the night, the end of the day.  And of course, the “day” is a metaphor for many lengths of time — a life of a man, the life of a country, a way of life.

I don’t know if my own life is in its last dog watch, but that sense of things comes easily.

More ominous to me is the “day” of human life on the planet.  In geological terms our 250,000 years is pretty small.  The 10,000 or so since the great ice ages ended and the rag-tag hunters began to settle into crop enhancement and the accumulation of tools, grains, and culture, is a profoundly short period of time. And in that time, it seems to me, we have overburdened our ship of life.  As on the small little ships of the Phoenicians, braving the wilds of the Mediterranean with living food aboard, it was all too easy to lose the potable water to animal waste and poison barrels of vegetable sea-kale.  As now.

The last dog watch for me brings to mind the famous clock hands of the Association of Atomic Scientists moving slightly back and forth in the minutes before midnight according to the perceived atomic threat.

Or the image of the last dog standing…. or watching….

I’ve been blogging for about 9 years, over at RuthGroup.org and AllInOneBoat.org  and realized, with some regret that I had to sharpen my focus, even while paying attention to the peripheral vision — where the dimmest of dim lights are often seen at sea.

I’d have to not allow myself  daily, 5-10 posts a day.  In the pell-mell noticing of every (most) events, little time or brain is left to find, think about and comment on the patterns.  But not paying attention at all to ‘the news’ seemed impossible for me.

So, while closing down the RuthGroup site, this one becomes a bit of a test, a place to post news, views and concerns about the world which I cannot seem to shut my eyes to.  No promises as to regularity but perhaps a surprise now and then, a find from some far reach in the world, or a reminder of something you already knew –always I hope, useful in keeping watch in the dark hours when we can’t see beyond the horizon, and the hope that we aren’t the last dogs on watch, but simply those in the hours before the turning of a new day.

Will Kirkland


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