New Project

7/29/20 Wednesday

I used to live in a small but well built craftsman home on 6 acres. Other folks in the neighborhood had similar sized property, so there was a rural country feel to the place. Old logging roads have since turned into walking trails, and it was common to come across a neighbor while out for an evening walk. One of these neighbors was “Bike Man John”, who at 85 years old still rode a bike, and had a memory (still has a memory) better than mine at 47. I got a call from him the other day, and he wanted to talk about boats.

Bike Man John has built more than 20 wooden vessels, but was stuck on his current project. It took a while to get around to why exactly he was calling, and what the issue was with his latest endeavor. But I knew he still hadn’t finished the little stitch and glue project he had told me about years ago, and was really beating around the bush in telling me why. I had to figure it out which was tough because I can be dense that way. The reason he was calling was to tell me he couldn’t finish building his little boat, because he is going blind and can’t see well enough to fit joints, read plans, measure dimensions. He was calling to ask if I would take over the project, finish it out, and in return keep the boat.

I don’t know about women but I know for sure it can be really difficult for a man to admit that something is beyond his physical ability, especially when that diminished ability is due to age. Not only did Bike Man John have a hard time letting me know he couldn’t finish his project because he was losing his eyesight (and has had 3 heart attacks in the last year and a half), he proceeded to tell me about his “next 2 projects” – 2 more wooden boats he had been thinking about. I did my part as the receiver of this gift, which was letting him know in no uncertain terms what an honor it was, that I was thankful and would take good care of his dream, and encouraged his future boat building endeavors.

I look at his half-built project, which fits snuggly in the back of my truck. It’s an 8′ Glen L Sabotina, a beautiful little pram designed to sail or row. Somehow Bike Man John was able to true up the hull, it is even steven. He says he would have painted it white.

The last thing I really need is another boat, but maybe it’s just what I need. It makes me happy to think about, and I guess that’s as good a reason as any.

after-the-rain.com / Glen L Sabotina

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

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

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