Brown, Blond, Gray

9/23/20 Wednesday

I turn 48 tomorrow, and am excited about it for three reasons:

1) I’ll get to spend the day with my son, which was a 50/50 shot considering our current parenting plan. Nothing will make me happier than an evening of cupcakes, candles, balloons, a kitty cat, and watching my boy’s favorite show with him on a big fat couch.

after-the-rain.org / Brown, blond, gray

2) I feel really good considering… I’m getting older but am in pretty good shape, definitely in the “I’m not as good as I once was but am as good as I was once – once” category. I play hard until I sweat and my muscles burn, but please let me sleep in the next day..

3) Learning to appreciate life – thank you to friends, family, and the good lord above. I’m lucky to be here and for the chance to experience the world and see my dreams come true, little by little and one at a time, often in the most unexpected ways.

Refuge

9/21/20 Monday

The smoke from the wildfires cleared out yesterday, and for the first time in weeks we can breathe fresh air. Conditions had become oppressive, with even healthy people reporting burning eyes and an irritated throat. People with lung problems had it worse, and it goes without saying that we were the lucky ones – many lost homes and even lives.

It was hard not to notice that even the animals were affected. Some were displaced, and many seemed to seek refuge or water from humans. I’m a construction manager for a cellular phone carrier, and we lost a handful of cell sites to fire last week. I was talking to a site tech today who said deer have been coming up to his truck for water, and another tech reported a black bear doing the same.

At the marina, visibility was down to just over a hundred yards at one point. This blue heron has been hanging around a little extra close lately, using the Flicka as a comfortable place to eat mussels, prawns and fish. He is a total slob and makes a huge mess, but I don’t mind having him around. I feel like it’s the least I can do to offer up a safe place to stay for a little while.

after-the-rain.org / Heron at the boat

Decision #2: Selling the Boat

9/13/20: Sunday

It’s leftover night for dinner. Sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil, mixed with the hamburger meat and mac & cheese that Day and I couldn’t finish last night, plus a drizzle from a glass of red wine. I just handed him back to his mom for the week, so I bury myself in food and thought.

I’ve been thinking about selling the sailboat, a 1978 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, hull #34 – the boat that has protected me while I learn to sail, taught me patience, and provided a place to live when my son and I needed it most. I have given her my time, my money, all my energy. Written off by others, I could see her potential. Pouring forth the effort, I gave all I had to give which was everything. What now floats before me is a structurally sound, stout but beautiful, tiny ship full of charm and possibility.

When I think of her, I dream of adventure – of exploring the Sea of Cortez, trucking her to Tennessee to sail with my dad, navigating shanty style down to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico, and sailing across the Pacific to Hawaii and on to Japan. I feel at home within her spacious cabin, and am comfortable with a life on and around the water.

The flip side is how demanding she can be. She craves attention, loves shiny gifts, new hardware, standing rigging, lines of all sorts, and an endless supply of maintenance products. Most of all, she just wants my time. People tend to think of the sailing life as the simple life, but in my view that is only if you live on your boat full time. Otherwise owning a sailboat is the opposite of minimalism.

I desire to shed my attachment to the boat, to set both of us free. It makes so much sense in so many ways. But much like decisions with actual women in my past life, I have a hard time saying no, and derive all satisfaction from giving. I need to finish writing now so I can sand and varnish the companionway drop boards that I brought home. I’ll bring them out to her tomorrow, probably with some flowers to apologize for my terrible thoughts.

after-the-rain.org / Flowers on a Flicka sailboat

Decision #1: Forgiveness

9/9/20 Wednesday

Over the long weekend, we had the best sunny weather imaginable for the Pacific Northwest. But instead of joining the masses out on the water, the new kitten and I stayed put at the marina tackling a long list of boat maintenance projects that need to get done before the rains begin. While I labored away, Little Miss Butter Biscuit explored the dark recesses of the bilge and took long naps. We both had a lot of time to think.

I want to forgive my ex wife, for all the things she did to me, herself, and my son. However I’m not sure how to go about it. First of all, I tend to think of forgiveness as something that happens after the harm is done. But since we are still going through a difficult divorce, the pain is still present and raw. I wonder if I should wait until later. Also, I don’t know if I really can forgive her for what she did to herself or others, am I only able to forgive someone for what they did to me?

Endlessly I sand, varnish, sand and varnish. The sun burns my back and sweat drips down my face. The terns cry over and over from high above, and the kitten emerges surprisingly from the battery locker. I’m ready for peace, to let the bitterness go. I’m ready to forgive, but don’t know how. We close our eyes, and rock gently with the wind on a late summer afternoon, safe and snug in our little slip.

after-the-rain.org / Sleepy kitten on a boat

Sailing with Cookies

8/16/20 Sunday

The heat warms by bones, the wind fills the sails, and the water cools my fingers as I reach over the rail and drag my hand through the sea. It’s been busy lately, and if I’m not working the days are being spent camping, fishing, swimming, and sailing.

A year and a half ago when my ex-wife and I split up, I tried what seemed the appropriate response – I posted myself belly up at the nearest bar with a big mug of beer. Watching football and attempting small talk with the people around me, it was soon obvious that this was not the direction I wanted to go. Since then I hardly drink, don’t smoke, and drugs were never for me. I work out and stay active, likely to a fault. I run full steam ahead, because I’m afraid of falling back. Moving forward with whomever and whatever are still around me, I cherish my time on this planet and appreciate everyone and everything around me. The sun feels more intense, the water colder, the sky bluer, and these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are next level as my little ship pushes forward through the waves of time.

after-the-rain.org / Cookies on the boat

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