Mara had always wished she could cross the Atlantic Ocean by land. People around her knew of this dream of hers. Most of them were convinced it was because she was a bit strange, and sometimes got very excited about going on what were always unrealistic adventures. Nobody had ever even thought about building a land connection between, say, Europe and the United States and Canada.
As far as Mara was concerned, the people who didn't understand her sometimes were lacking in creativity. One had to have a good imagination to be successful in society, she thought. Her own life was an example of this. Extravagance was her middle name. Mara E. Jones.
Except... except that this extravagant idea regarding the Atlantic was not due to the love of oddity, nor was it due to the fact that a land connection might possibly be a way to save money for the countries of the world, but instead to a secret Mara rarely told people about. She had an extreme case of fear of flying, aerophobia. She had traveled by plane, of course, but to even get to the place where they scan your tickets, she had to use some type of 'medication' so she wouldn't have a panic attack.
Mara avoided flying like the plague, but kept her fear to herself. Thus, she let people think her wish for a land connection between the two continents was just another weird idea she had. They might laugh, but she had a serious problem, because part of her family lived over the ocean to the east, in a place called Galicia. Sometimes her job required her to fly, too. She hated having to numb herself so much before every trip. Nobody else felt like she did. It was so childish.
On one of the (horrible plane) trips to Galicia, a relative, probably a second or third cousin, gave her a book of poems by Rosalía de Castro, the mother of modern Galician literature. Mara was touched by the gift, which was an inexpensive edition but that was irrelevant, and started reading soon after receiving it. Her heart quickly went out to the widows of the living, women whose husbands had emigrated to find employment. She wondered if the voyages by ship were decent or if they were horrible.
When Mara read the line Se o mar tivera barandas, her heart burst. It was written just for her. If the sea had a walkway, a railing... words which the poet completed with I'd go see you in Brasil, fórate ver ao Brasil. If a young woman poet in 1860 - 1870 could write those things, why couldn't she, Mara, try to find a solution to the distance, the big hole between the two continents? She could, darn it!
Another thing: When was it the first transatlantic cables were laid for the telegraph? 1858 or 1866, with many more added. Whoever believed that outlandish proposal long enough to fund it?
When we think about it, Magellan did something crazy when he sailed completely around the Earth. Mara knew she was starting to obsess about other people's opinions about her. She wasn't mad, though.
That was how, year after year, Mara insisted on devising, searching for a way to fill the hole. She thought of quite a few methods. Most of these she didn't tell anybody about, because the few times she did describe one of her ideas, there were guffaws, snickers, and other impolite gestures.
Here is a very, very small selection of the ideas Mara came up with. It's not clear exactly how many other people have heard them prior to now, but it probably won't harm anything if we put them out there at this point:
Idea Number 1 was probably the most obvious, the least creative. Mara's proposal basically was to have lots of trucks filling in the gap, materially. They would do this with the usual materials, with sand, stones.
Number 1 sounded low-tech, but of course would be an environmental disaster. The circulation of sea life, plants and animals, would be cut off. There was also the question of how ships would cross from one latitude to another. The traffic jams would be total nightmares. Even Mara could see that when it was pointed out to her. She hadn't been thinkingg and quickly sent that idea flying into the wastebasket.
Idea Number 2 seemed more reasonable, at least on the surface. Mara proposed that a big bridge be built. People could drive on it or take the train. It would need to be very high, so the tallest freighters could pass under it. There were a number of examples of towering bridges in other countries, maybe Japan or China, or both. Surey there were civil engineers in the world who could collaborate on such a super-project.
Then it hit her: traveling on a bridge like that might be too high. It would give her vertigo and be every bit as bad as flying. Worse than flying. She couldn't handle worse. Bad idea, even if some of those extremely bridges in places whose names she didn't want to recall (like Don Quixote and La Mancha, a place nobody wanted to remember, it was that awful) really had been built.
Mara thus scratched her second Idea and proposed another. This time she had decided that long-distance ferries could work. Of course there would be lots of people wanting to travel that way, so there would have to be tons of ferries because a ferry doesn't even hold as many people as an airplane. So, yes, tons of ferries and lots of people would be happy.
Somebody who had actually heard Mara explain Idea Number 3 pointed out that it was not safe to be crossing such a wide, variable body of water in a vessel that small. Some had the poor taste to bring up the Titanic, which wasn't exactly small. Stories of shipwrecks and even some (also real) of sea pirates started to erode the happy theory of a cozy boat family traversing the Atlantic according to a specific schedule.
No, thought Mara sadly, that won't work at all. Maybe the Atlantic just is too big to fill.
Having arrived at this point - and there are many more ideas than the three described here - Mara the schemer decided to invent something that even she conceded was odd. She decided to go about the whole matter of the hole between Europe and the Americas in a metaphorical way. That would teach the people who weren't creative, didn't like people who thought outside the box.
She would write poetry, poems of the best quality she could produce, and in her poems she would reduce that ocean to the blink of an eye, a beat of the heart, a syllable. At the least, she call diminish its size and say she would be there in five minutes. She could will her family over there, on the other side, to be only five minutes away. The loved ones would populate her verses, would be with her, on the page. The sea would no longer exist.
Now it seemed like she was getting somewhere. The writing thing was a good option. Still, Mara wanted to keep searching for the best hole-filler possible. In addition, if one idea stopped working, she would need a back-up. She really was tired of all the self-numbing she had to do in order to get on a plane.
Walk on water, silly. You can walk on water. It's been done before.
Mara looked around, but she knew the voice didn't belong to her cat, Lonnie. It must be a voice in her head, so it made sense. She wasn't clear on whether the ability to walk on a liquid surface was natural or you had to practice. It didn't seem very practical, in any event, because what if you had a heavy suitcase? Or important documents? Carrying a lot of luggage and trying to keep dry sounded a bit too challenging, so after a long conversation with herself, Mara gave this Idea - was it Number 4 or Number 5? - up.
And so things continued in this manner for many years. Mara kept inventing and then discarding her solutions to the big gap between the two continents. At one point she wondered if anybody was doing the same thing for the Pacific Ocean, but she quickly decided that she couldn't allow herself to be distracted. Her Ideas had reached well over a hundred, maybe were closer to two hundred, but she should be given credit for never getting discouraged.
Even though she still had to be numb to get into an airplane. Nothing illegal, it should be noted. That wasn't the way she did things. But numb, in her own way, with her own methods. It's hard to say how many years went by and hard to say how the solution came about. There are two possibilities for how things were resolved. You, Reader, are welcome to select the one that best suits your taste.
Solution Number 1. Mara moved there, moved to Galicia, leaving the family in Maine behind but gaining the proximity to her Galician relatives, whose affection for her she had never found back home in Maine. She would be a foreigner, but would be surrounded by caring people.
Maybe this is what happened. It isn't impossible. Even for somebody with a limited budget, there are affordable places to live. And people grow a lott of things in their gardens. The cost of living is very low.
But winters can be cold there, and very dreary. Drops of rain for eight days straight are no source of poetic inspiration. Shopping for things takes extra effort. Some itemsare never available and there is never a huge variety of anything. Art supplies, for example, are nonexistent; you have to go to a large town or a city for things like that. Rural Galicia may be pure art, the lanscape, stones, trees and brooks might inspire many painters, but the actual residents of the rural areas are rarely inclined to paint or draw.
Mara liked to paint and painted a lot.
Solution Number 2. Mara passed away. She was quite old, nearly, or even over, a hundred. Still, she had never gotten over her fear of flying and the subsequent desire to cross the Atlantic by land or at least on the waters' surface. Anything but high in the air.
Minna was Mara's daughter and had been entrusted with her late mother's small estate. Among her wishes (Mara's. not Minna's) had been to be cremated and her ashes placed in two equal urns. Minna's responsibility was minimal, and she carried out the request to have half of Mara's ashes spread in little Fonseca Square, in Santiago de Compostela. The ashes would not get vertigo from their last plane ride. After all, they had nothing to lose.
Fonseca was one of Mara's obsessions, or had been, her whole life. She had spent so many hours there. Her daughter knew this, and she smiled, happy to oblige the request. This final request had been expected. It satisfied many hearts and minds, and also solved the problem of the big Atlantic hole.
The other urn, with its half of Mara's ashes, remained in Maine. Minna knows where the urn is and keeps it safe.
Is there a better ending? We can keep looking for one, if you like.