Spark

10/3/21 Sunday

There is no longer a tiny ship waiting for me. No sails to mend, no rigging to tune, no bottom to clean. I’m more efficient at work, no longer distracted by fretting about wind and tides, planning the next adventure. Chart #18441 (which covers the southern Salish Sea) has long since been rolled up, collecting dust in a storage unit at the marina. The sound of the bow crashing through waves, the risk of going forward untethered to clear a fouled jib sheet, and the satisfaction of bringing a sailboat back safely to a slip singlehanded are all memories now, fading quickly with time.

To pile on, summer is long gone. Darkness comes early these days, and a quiet gray is creeping in, subtle but persistent. I still go walk the beach sometimes, but the sand is cold, and now I wear shoes. The soles of my feet are becoming soft, muscles are disappearing, and my palms are pasty. Frankly I’m getting fat. The new Monday through Friday work routine is really sealing the deal, and this is having the same dulling effect on the inside. Slowly but surely life is becoming comfortable. The rainy days of autumn are quiet, peaceful in a way, thoughtful, and soft. The only new excitement is my Swedish friend.

It’s late at night, and the rain pitter patters on the window. My energy is spent. I lie on my stomach, legs loosely tangled in a sheet, staring at the flickering candle by the bedside. Her fingertips softly trace my body, like warm little raindrops down my back. Without a word she hands me something. It’s a birthday card, a card and a chocolate bar actually. The chocolate makes me smile, but the card is a stunner. It’s a tiny watercolor of a little yellow Flicka, with tanbark sails no less. As usual she’s really not aware of how much these little gestures mean. I say thank you (a lot), blow out the candle, and lie wide awake drifting on a sea of memories as she quietly drifts off to sleep.

A Simple Man’s Life

9/17/21 Friday

Tonight I write by candlelight, on a pad of paper with a child’s #2 pencil. The power is out for the first time this fall, as a strong southerly blows this part of the island to smithereens. Later I’ll hook up a small inverter to a battery, and plug in the router which should give me just enough internet juice to get this post out. It’s a wonderful evening, the perfect time to reflect on the changes of the seasons and how life has become since summer.

I live in a small country house now full time. It has heat, running water, even a washer/dryer. The property backs up to an old homestead where they raise sheep. My neighbors are kind. Sometimes my fishing buddy comes over, and we head out and try for salmon. Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we don’t, but it’s always fun to be out on the water. We talk and give each other a hard time about who is catching the most fish and why. Every morning I drink coffee, and usually manage to carve out some time to enjoy it out on the back deck with the lovely cat. We watch birds and butterflies, and sometimes see deer and rabbits.

After-the-rain.org / Cat on the deck

Things are going really well with my new Swedish friend. She lives kind of far, but we try to see each other when we can. We take turns driving to the other’s house, where we talk, laugh, and do our best to destroy each other’s bedrooms. We have fun together. She doesn’t know anything about what happened over the last few years. She doesn’t understand why her kind words and soft touches are so meaningful to me. Maybe sometimes she wonders, but for now I’ll enjoy a more simple, quiet time, taking a break from the drama.

A good cup of coffee, talking with a friend, and waking up with a beautiful woman once in a while might not sound like the most exciting life to some, but it is for me. It’s a simple man’s life, and right now it’s my best life. It’s ok if others don’t get that. They may not understand, but they don’t know. They just don’t know.

After-the-rain.org / Morning bedroom

Cookies and Kisses

9/5/21 Sunday

She’s single, smart, successful, and Swedish. She’s taller than I am. I found out all of this because she said yes to my first date proposal. We met on a late summer afternoon at (where else) the marina. Instead of coffee or dinner or a movie or any other standard date activity, I asked her if she would like to go for a little rowboat ride at one of the most meaningful places I’ve ever known. I was excited that she said yes, I was excited to meet her, and we were both all smiles as we walked toward each other to meet for the first time, at a place where the land meets the sea.

We chit chat as I rowed, getting to know a little about each other. We looked at boats, seals, and herons, and said hi to people as we made our way between the docks. With each methodical pull of my arms, the oarlocks creaked, and saltwater slipped beneath a wooden boat I built with my own two hands. As she spoke, she leaned forward, and I found myself getting distracted as the tips of her blonde hair brushed over her forearms, tickling the tiny turquoise beads of her bracelet.

After a while I tied up the boat. We talked some more, and ate chocolate chip cookies I had made the night before. Autumn is well on its way, and as the sun began to set we pulled each other close to keep warm. We leaned in, my fingers began to play with that same blonde hair, and the day faded away to sweet, salty kisses.

I’ve met someone to spend time with, without expectation, without judgment. Each moment is new, each conversation is an exploration, each touch an unspoken dialogue. Without the past I would never be where I am today. Each moment is appreciated, and I am thankful. I have let go of the past, and perhaps more importantly I have let go of the future. Only now am I truly free.

Goodbye Summer

8/26/21 Thursday

The sun is hot but my skin won’t burn. The northerly breeze is cool but I don’t need a shirt. I walk across driftwood for hours and smile at my bare feet, I can’t remember where my shoes are, or the last time I wore any. It’s the end of summer, and this is the way a body is meant to be.

Tides and wind, rock and sand, terns dive in the distance for baitfish. They guide me to the salmon, which I fish for, because I am hungry. So I don’t starve, I go into town and get salads to go, and so my cat doesn’t starve, I go home to feed her. Holding her in my arms, she purrs for an hour until she falls asleep.

This is a life where the mind is quiet, where there is no dividing line between inside my head and the natural world around me. There’s no such thing as time, only cycles. Only vibrations. The sun is my companion for 14 hours a day, the nights last forever. Then, as things tend to happen – there is a change. I’m going home.

Following through with my commitments, I did end up starting a company with the motto “seeking a return on happiness through serving others”. My old boss left me a message, he wants to extend my previous contract. To help him I say yes. My son starts school soon, I need to be there to support him. My best friend is sick and tired of seeing pictures of me catching fish so he wants me to take him out. Probably most exciting is I have an actual date lined up with a real life American woman next week.

And so I say goodbye to this phase of life, and say hello to another. Goodbye summer, love you.

10 Breaths

8/4/21 Wednesday

Every day I pause to take ten breaths, with each one taking a little longer. The last inhale and exhale is the forever breath, where time stands still and the universe tingles in my ears. Usually this is in the evening after stretching, today it was at the beach.

This is where I’ve spent the last few days, my favorite place on the island. There’s no easy access, so I take the long way in with the kayak. It’s warm and sunny, and a perfect day to let go of the last 3 years of my work life. Time is spent looking for agates, fishing the kelp beds, drinking water, and just sitting. Over and over and over again.

After-the-rain.org / Ocean kayak

Days go by without wearing shoes. Everything smells like ocean. I brought food but forgot utensils, so I made chopsticks out of driftwood. I miss my son and my cat and my goldfish, but today Am Happy.

With an emptying mind new ideas take shape, and I’ve made two decisions so far about what to do next in life. #1: I’m going to start a new consulting company, just so I can have this mission statement: “Seeking a return on happiness by serving others“. #2: During each week that I do not have my son with me, I would like to not eat any meat unless I catch and kill it myself. This is just a morality issue I’ve been grappling with lately. Both of these are experiments that I plan to commit to for six months starting this week. I feel a lot better about #2 because I caught a salmon today, cleaned it, cooked it, and ate it. Prepared with olive oil, basalmic, garlic, butter, salt, pepper and all spice, and tossed with bowtie pasta it was the most delicious salmon dinner I can remember and I am grateful.

After-the-rain.org / Sockeye salmon

Am Sad

7/20/21 Tuesday

I get sad when my son goes back to his mom’s every other week. Not a little sad, but a gut wrenching sickness type of sad that no amount of logic can relieve. There’s no fix for it other than time.

Sometimes I spend time riding this boat. It’s a ferry, which presents a nuisance to most people who just wish to get to the other side. They want to go somewhere. When you let go however, there is no somewhere, only here. I see the mountains, the sea, and lean out over the rail to watch the wake. The air is chilly but the sun wins today, warming my skin. Feeling the low vibration of 6000 horsepower diesel engines, I close my eyes and imagine Vasudeva from the best book of all time, Siddhartha. I spend the day going back and forth for hours..

My contract at work ends next week. It’s exciting and nerve wracking to think about the prospect of having a boatload of bills to pay and zero income. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do to pay the bills, but I have a plan to at least think about it – going total castaway. With a fishing rod and a crab trap, I’m going to set up camp at a remote beach on the island, absorb the saltwater/sand/sun and figure something out. Wishing you a happy and meaningful summer week.

Spinning

7/5/21 Monday

4th of July, island style. All the locals head to the beach, fire up the BBQ grills, turn up their radios and blow stuff up. Fireworks are big, loud and beautiful and this day is always a highlight of summer. Seeing my son happy makes me happy, and spinning around together at midnight on the beach with sparklers turned out to be the most fun of the entire evening. It’s a reminder that moments of pure happiness are still out there, but now they are more meaningful and fully appreciated. Wishing everyone out there some unexpected moments of brightness in your own lives..

Open Water

6/21/21 Monday

This section of water freaked me out in a sailboat. The ships are intimidating, but it’s the currents that can get you. The rips reach out from both sides, and are at their most severe when the tide battles the wind. Even on a warm summer day, there’s no effing around.

Recently I chose to head out in a kayak. My big idea was to paddle to a secluded kelp bed I know, stash the boat in the bushes nearby, and use it over the summer to fish with. With the price of food going up, I’ve decided it’s ridiculous to pay for seafood when I can just go get it straight from the actual sea.

Making it to the serenity of the kelp bed was easy, and with the current, the paddle became more of a rudder. A lot of distance was covered in a short amount of time. I tied off to the kelp over a giant submerged boulder for a rest and a bite of lunch, soaking in the sun.

Before stashing the boat, I decided to try my luck fishing, hoping to catch a greenling or at least a flounder, something easy to clean and pack back to the truck. Surprisingly I caught this mini sea monster, which came up thrashing and snapping its sharp teeth in a menacing way. Fortunately I had pliers and was able to release the fish without getting cut by the teeth or spines.

Should have learned my lesson with this little guy, but I threw another lure out (this fish destroyed the jig I was using) and let it sink down 20′ or so by the boulder. What happened next was ridiculous, I tied into a legitimate mammoth of the same kind of fish, which I believe is a ling cod. After being pulled around the kelp for 15 minutes he finally tired out, and from the murky depths I pulled up a full on sea monster, with a massive white mouth full of inflatable kayak puncturing teeth. When he saw me he turned, made a final lunge and broke the line, fortunately saving me the adventure of getting the hook out. Next time I’ll be better prepared.

Even though it was a complete failure as far as bringing home something to eat, it was good to get out, feel the sun on my skin and sand between my toes. Surviving Admiralty Inlet was a plus, and as I dipped my fingers into the cold, sickeningly deep emerald water, I realized that traversing open water water is where I’ve always been emotionally, and there’s no place I’d rather be. I’m in love with life, and there’s no place to make one feel alive like the sea.

Exhale

5/31/21

The day after the check cleared from selling the sailboat, I put every cent of the proceeds into gold. The return on investment is significant. Plus I’m saving an ungodly amount of money from not buying all the upgrades and maintenance supplies that were planned for the near future. Not to mention a big boost in free time, both physical time free from working on the boat and mental time daydreaming about sailing and projects. Considering all this, I surprised myself by driving to the marina to sit and stare at an empty slip, where Ventana used to wait patiently for me..

The more I sell, give away or throw away just increases the amount of freedom I feel. Time goes by more and more slowly. Opportunities are increasing, decisions are easier. There’s no pressure to commit, to say yes or no. I value the choices, think about them, and find myself thinking “not yet” or “not today”, but soon I’ll be ready. In the meantime I value those around me, and the quiet moments of solitude. It’s easy to get away for some peace these days, even on a memorial day weekend. Lots of sun, lots of quiet time at the beach.