Nerf Guns & Army Guys

7/5/20 Sunday

Just dropped Day off at his mom’s for the week. For now my time with him is over. Nerf gun battles, jenga blocks, lincoln logs, army guys, camping, fireworks, swinging in the new hammock – now just memories. Sunday handoffs are the hardest, it’s a time of transition, a time of change from being a single dad to just being….single.

after-the-rain.org / Empty hammock

Coming back to an empty house is hard. It’s tempting not to clean, not to do the laundry, not to eat. With no appetite I struggle to the kitchen and whip up a big slab of halibut, caesar salad and leftover mashed potatoes from yesterday. Feeling better, I can pause to think, and clumsily put together a post to reflect on the last week. My ideas crumble though, and am left with just a few thoughts of the present – It would be nice not to have to work this week. I have an overwhelming urge to climb a mountain, to sail, and to have a cup of coffee with a woman. My soul needs to connect with the world, to feel its love and pain wash through me like a wave.

This pressure won’t be contained forever. At some point I’ll need to break free, to stop fighting the current and flow with it, to resume growing into the man I was meant to be, with or without someone new in my life. Tonight I’ll do what I can, which will likely be stretching, breathing exercises, and reading before bed. I’ll do what I can to move through these hard days. I know I’m too sentimental. One thing I won’t do just yet is put away my son’s toys. I need that connection, even if it’s just to a memory, just a few more minutes..

after-the-rain.org / Nerf guns and army guys

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

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

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

Fighting Pirates

4/26/20 Sunday

We take advantage of the empty places around us. Skateboarding on the sidewalks, scootering on freshly paved parking lots, paddling around the empty marina. Staying active, breathing cool clean salty air.

after-the-rain.org / Kayak at the marina

Being outside, on the water, the mundane becomes an adventure as we load our lunch into the kayak, paddle across the bay, and sit in the cockpit eating turkey sandwiches, pretzels, fruit snacks and oreos. The wind howls through the rigging but for the moment the sun is out and it’s smiles all around.

after-the-rain.org / Pulling up to the boat

We try fishing but don’t have any luck. Everyone seems to be hunkered down, even the little perch that we usually catch. Day’s focus changes to defending the boat against pirates. He swings gallantly from the jib halyard as I point out the imaginary attackers. An American flag marks our base and we make our stand with an empty flare gun and a paddle.

after-the-rain.org / Boy swinging from halyard

As the clouds move in, the wind picks up and the temperature drops. Our adventure for the day is at an end. We claw our way back to the ramp where it all began and start the process of heading back. Soon we will be at home. Soon he will look away and tell me he is tired. Soon he will turn around and I will see a tear slide down his cheek.

His mother’s restriction on visitation is ending. She has met the criteria for spending time with him on an unsupervised basis. We are rolling into a 50/50 parenting plan. It’s what we have been striving for, but when I see my son’s reaction to going back, I realize the struggle is not over. I guess we all have our demons, our own pirates. Today I watch my son fight his at the end of the dock. I’m with him all the way.

after-the-rain.org / Fighting pirates

All In Good Time

4/19/20 Sunday

She waits patiently for me. Moving to the only song she understands, she follows the lead of the wind, swaying back and forth in her little slip. As I approach along the floating dock, her head bobs up and down, and it reminds me of coming home to a faithful dog wagging its tail.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 bowsprit

I had planned to go sailing today, had it all worked out with the tides, wind, and forecast, time off from work. But as I stepped aboard and went below, I knew it just wasn’t the right time. It was overcast, I forgot half the things I wanted to bring from home, and the boat was just a mess. I made a decision, changed gears and got to work. I removed everything that wasn’t screwed or epoxied down from the cabin and dumped it hobo style into the cockpit. The pile grew rapidly until there was no more room. I knew there was no more room because when I took my shoes off and put them on top of the pile, one of them rolled off into the water.

Next I brought in a 5 gallon bucket of warm sudsy citrus soap and went through the whole cabin, washing, rinsing, and drying. Then it was teak oil for all the woodwork, and the cushions came back in with clean covers. Looking good and smelling great.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 interior

Then it was time to give her topsides a nice warm bath. A winter’s worth of moss and grime was promptly scrubbed away, revealing a shining happy boat underneath. The sun was coming out, the breeze picked up, and with all windows and hatches open she was airing out beautifully. I was able to tune the rig, set all cotter pins and tape the turnbuckles. The mainsail is bent on and flaked up cleanly under its new cover. With a little time left I applied a maintenance coat of Cetol to the brightwork, plugged in the little oil heater to keep her warm at night, and packed up my stuff.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 brightwork

People often ask why I don’t sail more often. I see them come out to their boats, sail and come back and quickly leave. I never really had a good answer for them. One thing is I just don’t feel comfortable doing things until I get my shit together and organized. That’s probably not a good thing but I just feel more relaxed if things are well maintained and where they need to be.

But I had a good long conversation with an old timer down at the fuel dock yesterday. He mentioned that he hadn’t seen me with Day recently, so I explained that I’m with him Monday through Friday these days but not the weekends. That got us talking about life, love and divorce. After hearing a bit of my story, he was able to understand why I work on my boat so much. He remarked that fixing up this old boat is my therapy. Working on it is a means to itself, it is its own purpose. He’s right about that. I am looking forward to going sailing, and I think I’m ready. I guess there is a time and a place for everything, if we can just tune in to our own rhythms and let opportunities reveal themselves naturally. Before I get in my truck I take a last look across the water. She waits patiently for me..

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 in the marina