I don’t know about everyone but for me the heart of the home is the kitchen. The smell of a heating skillet, tasting of ingredients, the ritual of coffee, the temperature change of reaching in the freezer. The kitchen table, a constant collection of what is happening on any given day, what needs to be done, what needs to be put away. Homework, meals, projects, games, bills groceries, nowhere else in the house does more go down than in the kitchen. And by far the most important thing is verbal and physical communication.
Our kitchen is small, so it forces us to move about in close proximity, constantly aware of each other, timing our movements to avoid collision as one reaches for the bread and the other a plate. A small east facing window shines light on it all, a spotlight on the actors of life playing out a performance both common and unique, timeless and special. One way you know you’re doing something right in life is when time stands still, when the world stops for a moment and you really appreciate it, and intense and fragile beauty. Take your wife by the hand, twirl her around, and make your own world stand still as you dance together in the kitchen.
A calm and pleasant Saturday. I fix ham and toast, OJ and milk, doughnuts. It’s coffee on the patio, the cat plays with mouse toys and Day brings out his magnifying glass to light things on fire and torture ants. Sara joins us with her own coffee and that makes me happy inside. The glare of the morning sun reveals an awkward, pained look on her face which is probably a reflection of mine. Emotionally separated but physically close, today I’ll take what I can get.
In the afternoon I head to the boat, just to write, eat lunch, just to be. The stiff geometry of the docks plays with the curvature of the other sailboats around me. The spring sun shines on everything, and I’m happy to be here.
Nightmares last night and was awake for hours. The thought of another lonely day working from home on the computer drives me away, to pack up for the day and head to the boat. Coffee and music, a nice drive up the island. The wind whips across Penn Cove, a gull hovers above the water, back lit by morning sun. The images enter my head, they are absorbed, released.
Pulling into the marina is like the start of a new day. Casual conversation with people on the dock (dock talk) is uplifting. Most of the people are older, they move slowly, and take their time organizing their thoughts before they speak – I like that. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Some have little dogs. With their lovely curious eyes and and playful wags my frown turns upside down. In the present, one moment at a time.
The boat waits patiently, gently rocking, like one of the little dogs wagging her tail. The sun peeks through the clouds for a brief moment, beautiful. No dew, no bird crap, did she know I was coming today? Lights, heat, music, my mood continues to improve. Typing away on a little laptop, work issues come and go, a zen to the flow of emails, in and out, pressure and release. Before long it’s time for lunch, I take a break and go up top. Sitting there in the cockpit eating the leftover half of the chicken sandwich that Day didn’t eat last night at dinner, I think about my son – he is at school. I think about my wife – I don’t know where she is.
A car slowly approaches my son, and I’m having trouble pulling him out of the way. Banging on the passenger window gets the driver to stop just in time, but Day walks to the rear of the car and sits down behind the back tire. The car starts to back up, and I just can’t drag him away. I’ve saved him so many times before, why can’t I save him now? I wake up in the cold still dark, sweat drips down my chest. I’m too upset to go back to sleep, too afraid.
It’s late March and 55 degrees but I can’t shake the chill. My little black space heater is maxed out, rattling away on the bottom step of the companionway, creating a ray of warmth to a distance of about 2 feet. Somehow adding more layers just doesn’t help. Unfortunately the only real way to warm up is to get busy and actually do something – I put on my shoes, tie the laces in slow motion, put on my game face for the day.
I go up top and decide to rig a lowering system for the mast. It’s a job that’s been put off for too long but needs to be done before sailing this season. The fiberglass section beneath the mast needs beefing up, plus the steel mast step that holds the mast to the boat is backwards, something that has taken me months to realize. It feels good to work the lines again, adjusting the main and jib halyards, tearing apart the cabin lockers looking for just the right straps, webbing, carabiners, and blocks. It’s fun to work this stuff out in my head, to work rope, to walk the deck of the boat and feel it respond to each step. Before long it’s all worked out, the boat is a mess, but it doesn’t feel as cold anymore.
I head into town and try out a new restaurant. Skylights and hazy sunshine, hot black coffee, hash browns and eggs with diced tomatoes and avocado. The server is blonde and gorgeous. The back and forth of asking how my meal was and that everything was great and that I’m ready for the check now will be the most romantic interaction I’ve had in recent memory. As I walk out the door I marvel at how distant the gulf feels between me and the possibility of meeting someone new, but the sun is out now, and as I walk down the sidewalk it occurs to me that I’m warm.
From the driveway I see the tree house I built at the edge of the woods. It took 9 months to build what would take a carpenter two weeks. Every kid needs a tree house I thought. Day doesn’t play in it. Sara shows no interest. Did I build it just for me? I can’t help think the same about the marriage..