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.

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.

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.

Sold

5/16/21 Sunday

She had a name actually, I just didn’t tell anyone.

There’s a restaurant that sits up on a hill in Big Sur, California, that has a large patio with an expansive view of the sea. The afternoon sun scatters sparkly diamonds of golden light across endless waves of the bluest blue. Back in the day the prices of the food were too expensive for me to afford, so when I was a teenager my girlfriend and I used to sneak sandwiches and drinks out on to that big patio and gaze for hours out to the curved horizon. The name of the restaurant is the Spanish word for window, a portal through which the world seems a brighter, calmer, more peaceful place to be.

Her name was Ventana.

After-the-rain.org / Fair winds
Fair winds and following seas to the boat who saved me.

Tempting Fate

5/12/21 Wednesday

When my son does thing like this it drives me a little crazy. I instantly go into dad mode and remind him of how slippery wet rocks can be, how he could hurt himself, get soaked, all the lame things I can think of to say that just end up making me sound old.

After-the-rain.org / Tempting fate
“Be Careful!!!”

But opening yourself up to risk, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and surrendering to the pull of the universe is a powerful thing, and who am I to criticize? The world is teaching me a valuable lesson, that the unpredictable nature of life isn’t something to protect against, but perhaps something to accept and even embrace.

My younger days may have been filled with physical risk, but now it’s more psychological and emotional. Less deadly, more powerful. The big push these days is letting go of things that have crept into the image of my identity, cluttering not just my closet but my mind and spirit. The road bike, the sprinter van, the beautiful house in the country, the image of myself as a surfer, mountaineer, husband. Letting go of objects that were becoming my identity has set me free. Opening my heart and thoughts up to the world hasn’t made me vulnerable, it’s made me stronger. Sometimes playing it safe is the biggest risk of all.


I think there is a buyer for the boat. This is a big mind f@#! for me, and will put my big ideas above to the test. More to follow..

Change a Comin’

4/28/21 Wednesday

Just got my hair cut. I was her last customer of the day. Usually I close my eyes and zone out, but this time was different. I quietly looked into the mirror, transfixed by her big brown doey eyes and round shaven head. Neither of us spoke which is unusual at a barber shop. She was a fair bit younger than me, which would normally be a turn off, but when she rested her soft hands on the back of my neck afterward, I was hooked. Some people just have the touch, and it goes to show a connection can happen anywhere, anytime.


There’s some kind of change coming but I can’t figure out what it is. At first I thought it was my living situation, I got preapproved for a loan to start looking for a house, but I don’t think that’s it. Then I thought it was the stock market. I really enjoy investing, and just recently totally restructured all my positions, but I don’t think that’s it either. It’s fun to think about, but I’ve learned not to think too hard. I’ll just do what tends to work out for me which is is thinking for fun but acting on instinct.

after-the-rain.org / Storm clouds over Salish Sea
This was one of those magical Northwest moments, when the weather calls for nothing but rain, but the clouds unexpectedly part, and the sun comes out – just where you happen to be.

The boat hasn’t sold which is interesting. At first there were a lot of emails and calls, but they gradually drifted off and I stopped replying to the weird questions people tend to ask. I check on her as often as possible, she sits there patiently. Patiently waiting? It really seems that way. At night before I go to sleep I often think about weird things like overhauling the standing rigging, where to store provisions for a long voyage, a new tri-color masthead light, a solid VHF with AIS, new cruising main, deck lighting, Hydrovane. I draw out a plan in my head for a hard dodger, built to fit a rigid solar panel. She’s a pretty boat, clean and simple, equipped for day sailing, local overnights and light Salish Sea exploration. However I’m beginning to wonder if it might be my destiny to bring her back to her full potential, equipped to handle big water. I hope not as it that would break me financially, taking everything I have. Maybe that’s why I really want to sell the boat, because I know better. But who am I to deny a connection if it’s meant to be? It’s fun to think, it feels good to be active, and it’s exciting to have an open-ended life again. It was a good day today.

Learning from Mistakes

4/18/21 Sunday

This skipper made a handful of misjudgments – wind, tide, draft, siltation, current. But what looked like a minor disaster was practically a non-issue. A line was thrown to him from the dock and tied off to a cleat, then as the tide rose the boat righted, popped free, and was pulled up to the dock without any further drama.

After-the-rain.org / grounded sailboat

I’m starting to wonder if there really is such a thing as a mistake. Decisions are made, and most of them have unintended consequences. The fatalist in me believes things happen for a reason, the buddhist in me believes there are no mistakes – there is just Now, and my protestant history tells me I’ve made plenty of mistakes and should probably feel guilty about them. Whatever the case, it’s probably healthiest to see life a constant chance to learn.

The most successful people in my industry are not necessarily the smartest people, but those who are most open to learning. Technology is the clearest example. As the hardware in our cell sites went from analog to digital, the button, dials, and calibrating machines were replaced with settings that were adjusted in laptop program software. Those reluctant to change retired, quit, or were fired. Those open to change were able to learn, adapt, succeed, and progress. One of the old timers who was able to adapt told me he just viewed a computer as a new kind of tool, which makes sense. I would go further to say it’s more like the biggest most versatile tool bag that has ever been invented.

After-the-rain.org / Laptop and sailboat

I myself am naturally reluctant to change. I’m stubborn, steadfast, loyal to a fault, old school, old fashioned, old, opinionated, and of Scottish and English descent. But life is teaching me how to let go, to recognize the futility of attachment, to be more like water. I’m learning to how to be more open, how to listen, how to be more accepting of myself and others, and how to move forward.

For what it’s worth I’ve recently learned how to whip rope ends so they don’t fray and unravel. It’s fun and I’m crawling all over the boat whipping every rope end I can find. I even canceled the boat showings for this weekend because they get in the way of me spending time working on the boat. Yes it is still for sale, but I haven’t found anyone quite yet who qualifies. Until then I’ll keep on learning about boat stuff, and learning about myself and where I fit in this wonderful glorious mysterious and unpredictable world.

After-the-rain.org / whipped 3 strand

Release

3/28/21 Sunday

Hello, it’s been a while. After a silent winter, I’ll try to ease back into this. A good start might be to apologize for leaving so abruptly last time. I acknowledge it wasn’t fair to some of the readers I’ve grown closer to, those who have shared this difficult journey with me. The reason is that things were getting worse and more intense, and it was starting to have a noticeable effect on my son. Everything else had to be set aside while I focused on getting us through this.

There’s a funny thing I learned along the way about living through the pain and hardship. The issues we faced were difficult, severe, and consequential. Life in general would change as we knew it, as shaped by our own decisions, with recommendations from various counselors, advice from attorneys, and decisions handed down from numerous court appearances. However after coming through all that, I can say that ripping the bandaid off a failing marriage was better than continuing life as it was before, a sad charade of appearance, where habit, routine, wishful thinking, and long nights of emotional isolation became a breeding ground for fear, deceit, and manipulation.


The other day I went down to the beach just to watch. No surfing, no sailing, just watching seabirds and listening to the sound of the pebbles wash in and out with the waves. So present, so timeless. The longer I sit the more the “I” melts away, until there is only wind, water, and rock.. Not long ago the divorce was finalized. My contract at work is coming to an end, and the lease for my little cottage is almost up. The boat up for sale. I don’t remember the last time I felt so naked, so alone, so alive, and so excited about a future that is unwritten. I kind of thought this moment would be all about letting go, but the sea made me realize something – I already had.

after-the-rain.org / Wind water rock