New Critter

8/2/20 Sunday

Meet the new addition to our family, Little Miss Butter Biscuit. She is 11 weeks old, likes to shred things, and is always underfoot. Her specialty is attacking toes, eating, and purring on my neck. She is significant because she is a creature of the world, and deserves a shot at a happy loving life.

after-the-rain.org / New cat

She is also significant because I had planned on officially asking my ex-wife for custody of our son’s other cat which resides with her. This was sure to be a battle, a battle that our son ultimately didn’t need. So I love the other cat, and in a weird way I will always love the ex. But it’s time to move on with a new life, new pets, new dreams, and maybe one day with a little luck – a new love of my own.

Drifting

7/24/20 Friday

Went sailing the other day after work. I was a little nervous about it because of what happened last time, when the winds were stronger than forecast, and I putted back in with my tail between my legs. This time was pretty much the opposite – there was a small craft advisory in effect but when we got out there, I was fighting for every breath of wind I could. Almost dead calm. We limped along downwind at 2 knots, drifting. Now I know why I need a pole for the jib, and a good light-air sail. It was sunny and hot, absolutely roasting. I forgot to lift up the outboard, and the most exciting part of the adventure became leaning way out over the aft rail to clear mounds of eel grass away from the prop.

after-the-rain.org / Dropping sail

This week I had to work on preparing a final settlement offer for the divorce. It’s pretty much complete. Most everything of monetary value I worked for over the last 16 years will be gone one way or another, but I’ve already come to terms with that. It’s just the living beings that matter now – my son, the cats, the fish.

I will soon shed things, money, and the skin of my former self, my life as a devoted married man. Priorities will change, and the world will head in a new direction for me. It’s my nature to plan and dream about it, but I know better now. Whatever I think the winds may be, they will surely be unexpected. I have to live one moment at a time, and appreciate all that is, was, and ever will be. Turning around, perhaps for the last time, I’m leaning back over the aft rail, trying to set my boat free, so close, trying not to fall overboard..

Summer Afternoon at the Marina

7/15/20 Wednesday

North winds lately, the sign of good weather. After work, Day and I slip down to the local marina to try our luck fishing. We get snagged right and left, and catch no fish this time, although my boy almost hooks a pigeon and a seal that swam a little too close.

after-the-rain.org / Old dock pilings

I’ve felt a lot better the last few days, and have noticed a pattern. When my son is with me, I’m busy but happy and content. When he’s with his mom, life is easy but it feels like part of me is missing. I get low and it takes time for me to switch gears from being a Dad to just being… me. It’s such a big change.

after-the-rain.org / Fishing under the dock

It’s a summer afternoon, and life is a bit calmer than usual. The sand is warm and feels good on our feet. We play with old crab claws, look for sea glass, and watch the different boats go by. I have a fleeting thought. For a moment I want to think of myself as a marina – smelling a bit fishy, getting older and beginning to look a bit run down, growing a few barnacles, but still full of life, beautiful in its own way, and in general a fun place to be. I come back to the present and smile. We didn’t catch any fish today, but still got what we came for..

after-the-rain.org / Summer afternoon at the marina

Swayin’ with the Breeze

7/11/20 Saturday

I’m lying in a hammock, swaying with the breeze. Easy sounds drift across the water – laughter, seagulls, boat fenders rubbing against the dock. I smell the suntan lotion blend with salt and sweat on my shoulders. My eyes narrow, squinting toward the sun. It’s quiet inside, I feel my heartbeat.


I’m on Rainier. It’s April but might as well be February. Still dark, and we’re moving fast through the ledges by headlamp. My crampon dislodges a rock and instantly both feet hang in the air, but the handholds don’t budge. Lucky I guess. It’s quiet in the early morning mountain air, save for the rocks tumbling below. Inside, my head is pounding, and a minute later my body trembles uncontrollably.


We’re in the bedroom, I’m at the doorway. She’s yelling at me, her eyes like icy blue lightning. Somehow my ears close, her voice muffles, and I realize the cat is hiding under the bed. I feel the texture of the carpet with my feet and understand. I’m sure my eyes are open but inside I’m somewhere else, going from room to room looking for a bed to hide under.


I’m in the hammock, swaying with the breeze. But I’m a thousand other places, living a thousand memories, and dreaming up a thousand new ones. They come to visit, and I let them in to stay a while, then let them go. Now it’s the present, piercingly beautiful. I see schools of little silver fish, white terns flying high above, and a big fat seal swimming upside down rubbing his belly against the underside of the docks. In the distance there is laughter again. Inside it’s quiet and that’s ok for now. I feel my heartbeat.

after-the-rain.org / Hammock on a boat

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