Blown Out

7/1/20 Wednesday

Less meat, less alcohol, more vegetables, more working out, stretching and breathing exercises. If the world crumbles I can handle it better if I’m fit. Less thinking and more doing, thoughts can’t spin out of control if there aren’t any.

I need to feel wind, hot sun, cold water. Muscles burn and lungs stretch, the taste of salt and the feel of sand and rock. Duck diving beneath the waves, I join the sea instead of fighting it. There’s no one around. My hip slams a boulder just beneath the surface and leaves a bloody bruise, despite a 6 mil wetsuit. I’m grateful, I don’t have to pinch myself to know I’m alive.

I’ve been surfing twice in the last few days and although my secret spot is fickle, it has its moments. Here’s a shot from a few hundred yards down the beach as the current swell was dying out, and just before a gale was coming in, about to blow the coast to smithereens. You can see it coming, the sun filters through a wall of wind, an airborne blanket of spray about a mile out, coming closer, closer..

after-the-rain,org / Incoming gale

Jumper

6/27/20 Saturday

I had a dream the other night. I was slowly driving onto an old wooden bridge, spanning a large ravine. The bridge used to be stable, but was old now and beginning to rot away. As it took the weight of my vehicle, the wood slowly began to buckle. I backed up, got out of the truck, and waited for the inevitable. Suddenly Sara appeared out of nowhere and jumped onto the bridge. She knelt down and held firm to a plank as the bridge began to crumble. She looked into my eyes and I could see the intention. As the bridge began to fall, she let go with one hand and reached out to me. I couldn’t help it, I jumped to take her outstretched hand.


Yesterday in real life I jumped off the dock onto my boat, and headed out to get a taste of single-handing in 20+ knot winds. From the spray on my face I can say it tastes salty, and from my motor quitting as I headed out of the channel I can say that at least for me it was frightening. I learned that when the boat heels over past 15 degrees, everything not secured in the cabin will crash to the floor, and that it would be better to get my reefing lines ready before I hoist the mainsail. I learned that in those conditions I should probably clip in to something secure in the cockpit, but the fact is I just can’t stand being tethered to anything, a fact which would probably be interesting to my therapist.

Eventually it was time to go in, so I pointed to the wind and raced forward to drop the sails before the bow could blow back around which could cause the sails to fill again which would buck me off like Fu Man Chu the rodeo bull. Then it was troubleshooting the motor while drifting toward a lee shore for extra excitement. Fortunately it was an easy fix, because the problem was with the boat heeled over, the gas in the gas can sloshed away from the fuel intake, which is something I had never thought of. With my tail between my legs I headed back to the marina and surprised myself by easing into my tiny slip without hitting the dock (this time) or the new $100k power boat parked next to me.

Jumping off, letting go, expanding my comfort zone, and change in general is difficult for me. But I know the best way to address fear is to look it in the eye and confront it, embrace it, and watch it disappear. Looking forward through life with optimism and confidence is the only way to keep growing, but I know it takes practice. So I fully expect to get my ass handed to me as my own fears are confronted, be it sailing or surfing large waves or relationships or removing the occasional spider from the bathtub. Holding tight to what matters, jumping off from the illusion of security, letting go of expectation.

after-the-rain.org / Resting in the cockpit

A Terrible Beauty

6/21/20 Sunday

We lost two good people from the sailing community recently – Brion Toss, a traditional master rigger from Port Townsend due to cancer, and Patrick Childress, a legendary blue water sailor and author due to COVID 19. I was just a follower of Childress’ popular vlog where he shared so much of his practical knowledge, but I had met Brion a few times in his little waterfront shop. I needed new lifelines, and brought him my old stainless ones so he could measure and make me up some new ones out of Dyneema. He suggested I learn how to do it myself and proceeded to show me how to brummel splice 12 strand. I was impressed by his graciousness, bought his book The Rigger’s Apprentice, and for some reason asked him to sign it before I left. His knowledge will be passed on.

after-the-rain.org / Dogfish shark

The juxtaposition between the light and dark sides of life seem intense these days. So much beauty, so much pain. New beginnings, unexpected death. The unpredictability makes me appreciate the simple things. My son graduated from 4th grade last week. For the ceremony each family stayed in their vehicles and drove through an arch of balloons, cheered on by the teachers who stood 6 feet apart along the sidewalk. I invited Day’s mom and gramma to ride along with us and my own mom. Together we decorated the truck, together we drove through the arch, and separately we drove home.

after-the-rain.org / Boy fighting fish

Today we went fishing at the marina. We talked about boats and birds, and had lunch by the sea. We broke open mussels, used them as bait to catch little perch, and used the perch as bait to catch whatever we could find patrolling the bottom of the bay, which happened to be a small shark. It was strong, rough and aggressive, but when we let it go swam away with pure grace. Afterward we played at the playground until I told him we had to leave – on Father’s Day – because I had to take him to his mom’s at a certain time for the weekly handoff.

No matter how good of a week we’ve had together, it’s rough to come back to an empty house. It’s hard to put his toys away that he was playing with just this morning. I don’t even want to fix dinner but I will, and as I eat will be conscious of both the joy and pain I’m lucky enough to experience these days.

after-the-rain.org / Father and son with shark

Busy Sun

6/17/20 Wednesday

It’s been such a busy week so far with work, watching Day, and getting ready for his 4th grade graduation. I know most students don’t head off to middle school until later, but there are so few kids here on the island that our school district had to get creative. It’s a big deal for him and I’m proud. I’m even more proud that this week he won the school’s annual reader award, the only student to do so from the whole school!

I’m burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up with everything, but managed to carve out a few sunny minutes at the beach this afternoon before returning Day to his mom’s for her mid-week overnight visit. That gives me enough of a break this evening to eat a plate of leftover rice and chicken and a big fat bowl of ice cream, write this post, and get back to decorating the truck for the graduation parade before coming back inside and falling into bed. Before closing my eyes the busy schedule drifts away, and I find myself checking wind and weather forecasts for next week. It looks promising and I faintly hear the boat calling, whispering a soft reminder that she needs my attention too..

after-the-rain / Dad and son

On the Lighter Side

6/11/20 Thursday

On the lighter side of life, the sun came out today. To most of the world that doesn’t mean much, but in this tiny corner of the Pacific Northwest it’s something worth writing about. It was worth putting work aside and taking my iced coffee out to a sunny seat on the front porch.

after-the-rain.org / Drinking coffee

Comfy pants, coffee, and sunshine come together to remind me that the simple pleasures of life make it worth living. The flowers that Day and I planted are coming on strong, and we just got our first strawberry. It feels warm, it smells like hope.

A blacktail doe has been leaving her fawn out back again, just like last year. The little one sees me through the window and tries its hardest to be still. I see it of course and it knows I see it of course, just the game we play. I respect the vulnerability and politely leave it be. Space and trust are important.

after-the-rain.org / Blacktail fawn

The sun is out, the sheep are out. Yesterday Day and I walked up and fed a granny smith apple to the ram, which is kept separate from the flock at this time of year. The ram’s name is Romeo, but we call him Boss Derp, because sheep are sooooo derpy. Derpy is a word I think my son made up, which is clever and useful, because it fills a void in the English language. It’s sort of a cross between silly, goofy, and loveable. I’m proud of my son.

after-the-rain.org / Sheep pasture

We’ve made significant headway in the parenting plan part of our divorce proceedings, and now we’re starting in on the financial part. It’s not pretty. I want to pay less and she wants me to pay more, imagine that. But money is just money, and stuff is just stuff. In my little world it’s the people, the cats, and the fish that are important – the living things. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun, and for a moment the negativity of the world drifts away..

after-the-rain.org / No slugs allowed!

Does Your Ex Know You Have a Blog?

6/7/20 Sunday

Roasted peppers and a chopped Walla Walla sweet onion sautéed in olive oil, salt and pepper, hamburger meat and buttery pasta noodles. Another leftover surprise dinner, the kind I love to fix. I like the creativity of cooking and the challenge of using ingredients I already have, which is usually whatever my son did not eat the week before. No tv tonight – just dinner, a candle, a fat glass of milk, and this thin blog machine with a backlit keyboard that allows me to express my heart to the world.

I’ve felt pressured to write about current events, but there’s something about that pressure which has rubbed me the wrong way. Should I be outraged about police brutality? Of course and there have been bad cops doing bad things for a long time and it needs to change, but there have been a lot of other bad things happening to people and where is their justice? Where are the protests and outrage about domestic violence, child abuse, drunk driving, animal torture, world hunger, and on and on? There’s such a tendency to be swept up in the crisis of the moment. Before George Floyd it was coronavirus, before that Me Too. In my opinion the real problem is a crisis of accountability. People should not be judged by the color of their skin, where they are from, if they are fat or skinny, rich or poor, male or female, old or young, gay or straight, or if they wear a uniform. There are plenty of police and military who put their own lives at risk and do extraordinary things for many on a daily basis. People from all walks of life do good things and bad things, it is action (or lack thereof) which should define us – we are all responsible for our own behavior and should act as such. All of these problems will see improvement when we approach others with compassion and respect, which begins inside each one of us.

I’m sure I won’t be making any new internet friends tonight with this post, but writing for others is not where my own blog came from. My own story comes from trying to make sense of the circumstances around the collapse of my marriage over a year ago, and my struggle to persevere and eventually rebuild my life and move forward. I never intended to make the blog public, and ended up doing so by accident because I’m somewhat of a technological idiot. But in doing so I’ve since found a lot of support and understanding from other writers who are courageous enough to step forward and tell their own stories, however hard it may be.

I’ve been tempted to unpublish this blog again because so much of it is personal and painful, and I’m normally a private introvert. My emotions and vulnerabilities lie exposed to the world, and probably most intimidating they lie exposed to my ex who is still not technically my ex because our divorce has been going on for over a year now. I don’t know if she reads this or not but I have to come to terms with that possibility. The few people who have read my posts from the beginning know that although our relationship crashed and burned in a pretty spectacular way, I still respect her as a person and have great sympathy for what she has had to deal with.

In the end I’m deciding to keep my blog public because it helps me, apparently it helps some others too, and I need to have the courage and conviction to say what comes from my heart regardless if my views are popular or not, or who reads them. Riots? Protests? Coronavirus? My ex wife? For a couple of hours today I took a break from the world, took my son to the beach and dug a giant hole in the sand for him to play in. We paddled out in the Salish Sea and looked down in the water at schools of young perch and baby halibut. The sun came out briefly but long enough to appreciate a quiet moment away from the world, and the confidence to share it with others.

after-the-rain,org / Boy at the beach

Dinner with Candlelight for One

5/29/20 Friday

All week long I’d been looking forward to sailing today, but the closer today came the less I was feeling it. The winds were picking up and the clouds were forecast to move in. So instead, I packed up for an overnight stay and came out to the boat anyway just to hang out at the marina. Day is with his mom this week so it’s just me. I miss him but feel content, it’s peaceful here. Schools of anchovies swim in circles around the boat, gills flared out. The noisy gulls and terns have left for the evening and blue herons are coming in to roost.

after-the-rain.org / Folding the jib

Without sailing or projects I have a chance to just take it easy. I talk with buddies on the dock and soak up some sun, flaking and folding up my sails that I put away too impatiently last time. Down below I lay out my stuff for the evening, marveling how much gear can fit in such a small space if that space is well designed. It’s all fun and nostalgic, and I’m happy to be here. I take frequent breaks to just sit and appreciate the moment.

after-the-rain.org / Bronze bottle opener

As the day drifts away, the sky begins its dreamy performance that will last well into the evening. Blueish white, then pinkish gray. The air is cool and moist and wisps around the cabin like dancing ghosts. I feel the temperature change on my skin, and wonder for a moment if it’s possible to taste color. At this time of year at 48 degrees north latitude the sunset will last for 3 or 4 hours. Misty pink flares out into orange and red, then honey brown, and an eventual purplish black.

after-the-rain.org / Barometer

As the wind chills I’m excited to come in and start the little stove and light a candle, it’s time to fix dinner. A hot castiron pan, olive oil, sizzling onions and orange bell peppers. Chicken, black beans, rice, salt, pepper, and a diced jalapeno. I taste it already with my eyes, wrapped up in a warm tortilla. I wish I had wine but the spring water I fortunately had in the truck will do.

after-the-rain.org / Dinner on the boat

These are the meals I like to fix when Day is away. These are the quiet moments I’m growing to appreciate. Confident with just myself, comfortable in my own skin. Not searching anymore for who I am, but gravitating toward my true self, without ego, without effort. Truth, goodness, beauty – core values that rise naturally from within, that perhaps were always there, waiting for an unexpected life change to strip away years of being someone else, someone who someone else wanted me to be. Tonight I eat dinner alone but I’m not lonely. It’s chilly outside but I’m comfy and content, and soon I’ll drift off, rocking gently to sleep in my 6500 pound waterbed, sturdy and loving like a country grandma.

after-the-rain.org / Brass light

How to get a modern-day child to put down the iPad

5/25/20 Monday

Step1 : Give them something interesting and meaningful to do. There really is no step 2, but helping them figure out for themselves just what is worthy of their time and attention is a really big step 1, often a massive struggle. The tablet, phone, or game console is an easy and profound distraction, providing the challenges and social gratification children crave. How does a parent compete?

after-the-rain.org / Boy at the helm

I think the key to unlocking this awakening is to not look at the child as separate from the parent. It’s not so much what we can do for them, it’s about what we can do for us, which has a direct influence on them. I can’t make my son put down his iPad. But if he sees something more interesting to do he will put it down himself. He will see something more interesting to do when he sees me doing something more meaningful to myself than looking at my phone, or my work computer. It all starts with us. Being a good parent starts with me, leading by example. How can I tell him to cut back on his screen time if I look at one all day? I’m still dancing around the subject. The problem isn’t the tablet, it isn’t the screen time. The problem we have, the real meat of step 1, is more about motivation, which is the effect of (deep breath) inspiration. It’s not so much about how to get a child to put down an iPad. It’s about how do we as adults live a life inspiring to us, which will in turn inspire those around us to live a life inspiring to them.

I move toward the bow to fix a fouled jib sheet. My hand slides forward on a teak grab rail that I shaped, sanded and varnished. My shoulders feel the heat of the sun but my bare feet are comfy as they catch the cooler wind closer to the water. I squint from the glare and taste salt from holding sail ties in my mouth. Day spots dolphins and we watch, feeling closer to them than we would if we were on shore. He nudges the tiller and feels the response of a 6500 pound sailboat. His job is straightforward and important. Steer a steady course and don’t hit anything. It’s a big responsibility and he handles it well. Maybe the real trick of teaching a child is to do the opposite – to let them teach us, to look at the world through the eyes of our younger selves, to do them justice by having some respect for our own nature. How can we encourage others to follow their dreams if we don’t show them how by following our own?

…………………………………………………..

After sailing this weekend my son and I came back to the house. We sat on the couch and played video games together. It flies in the face of everything I just wrote, but it was just another great part of a great day. I guess I’m still learning, which is encouraging. It means I’m on the right track.

More Sailing, More Smiling

5/16/20 Saturday

When the sun is out these days, I’ve never seen the sky so blue. Usually at this time of year when we get high pressure, there is a haze in the air from the traffic in Seattle. With the lockdown still in effect there are now less cars on the road and less pollution in the air. Looking up at the sky is like looking up into space. The blue is rich and deep. The clouds are so white it makes me notice how old my sails look. I know this because I went sailing again on Friday.

after-the-rain.org / Standing on the bowsprit

The wind was light and the air warm. I was excited to be out, to be free, if only for an afternoon. Seals, cormorants, and eagles kept me company. I was able to practice tacking and jibing, and got to wear my badass new life jacket, which I figure increases my survival chance from 0% to about 5% if I fall overboard. I love being on the water, and handling a boat by myself forces me to forget about problems like work and divorce. The boat demands my full attention and I’m happy to give.

Once safely back at the marina, it’s time to relax in the cockpit and crack a moderately cold IPA, to celebrate sailing and docking the boat by myself without crashing. I spend an hour watching terns dive over and over, picking off anchovies. The afternoon sun beats down, the sails spill onto the deck, and loose lines are everywhere. It makes me think of a bed on a lazy Sunday morning.

Usually I write on Sunday night as I eat a ghetto dinner of leftovers, but tomorrow my boy will be back at 4pm, so tonight is the night I pause to put my life into perspective for the week. And instead of mixing whatever my son didn’t eat into some sort of pasta surprise, tonight I make myself a caesar salad with fresh king salmon, flash fried in olive oil and garlic, drizzled with a dab of Tillamook butter, wine, and roasted peppers. Chocolate for dessert.

In a way sitting at home alone except for two goldfish on a Saturday night really shows what a loser I’ve become. But simple pleasures mean a lot these days, and I am grateful. It’s nice to feel full, and to have something to look forward to. It feels good to be happy again.

Sailing and Smiling

5/10/20 Sunday

Last week was one of the toughest yet. All of the heavy issues seem to be spiraling, gaining speed, coming together like the forming of a hurricane. I figured divorce would be hard, but there just doesn’t seem to be a limit to how far this can go. Coronavirus isn’t helping, layoffs at work aren’t either, and the shadow of Sara’s mental illness never did. There’s news of a new diagnosis, news of more infidelity, and we’re just now starting the process of dividing assets, working out alimony, child support, and who gets the cat. All of this on the back of a broken heart, with a 10 year old son caught in the middle. I’ve started seeing a counselor again, and I lean on her hard. I don’t know what I’d do without the support.

There’s a trick though that I learned a long time ago. When things get so low that I really start getting down, there’s something that really seems to work. I have to put down my own problems, climb out of my head, and help someone else who is struggling with their own battles. My mom has known her fair share of hardship. She raised me mostly on her own, then had my half brother when I was almost 13, then raised him entirely on her own. She is losing her memory, and worries about her future though she tries not to let it show. Instead of flowers or a card, today I just wanted to spend time with her. Today I took her sailing. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I love you.

after-the-rain.org / Mom on the boat