Old Journals – Old Memories

I found an old journal from 1996 that I haven’t looked at probably since I stowed it away. Old memories. One of the first entries reads: “No one can play the strings of your song. I realize that now. I realize what I keep playing is your laughter. What I keep playing is your love. It’s you I play, not me.” Though I allowed it to be a painful time, I’m glad I recorded its journey where I had allowed myself to “fall in love” with the most unavailable — and truly the most gorgeous — man on the planet.

How did I deal with my pain? Exactly as I always have: I jumped on a plane and flew away, this time to Florida, by myself. These are the thoughts that I recorded in a brand-new journal.

Wind on the mountain
Freedom pushing
Strength resisting
Isolation
Solitude of the eagle,
Of the hawk.
Everything trying to merge and
Everything trying to separate
Wholeness held in one hand
Loneliness wrapped in love
Love not knowing its own face
Love not seeing, remaining
Undiscovered and unseen.

(I only write poetry when wounded by love.)

A mockingbird sings, looking for love to touch its soul too. I wait for the sunset in Key West. Still thinking of that man. Can’t get into him. Never will. Can’t get away from him. …But I will. The broad arm of a mahogany leans across the second story patio of Mallory Square, giving shade, but my skin is fried by too much sun.  I can’t feel its cool brush. There’s a gentle clatter of ceiling fans in an effort to move air that’s too tired to move.

At the Italian Fisherman, another day, I sit on a patio at the water’s edge. I watch garfish and cat fish being circled by one small barracuda while shadows of pelicans pass over. At the table next to me are two fat women who are bitching about work in Minnesota: that they’re not allowed to wear perfume. The light breeze brings to me a strong odor of overpoured perfume clinging to their clothes as if telling their boss, “Fuck you. Smell me now.”

Later, traveling across the Everglades, heading to Clearwater, I notice a man following me in a gold Subaru. When the highway becomes four-lane, he hovers next to me, turning constantly to stare at me. It creeps me out. My imagination runs wild, as I imagine him taking down my license plate, and though it’s a rental, somehow he will find out who rented it, telling the agency some story to get them to give them my address. Damn my imagination. I slow way down, visibly taking out a pencil and paper while I drive, letting him know to beware that I am now taking down HIS license. He finally drives on ahead.

There are Native Americans in the Everglades that still live in — or at least build — thatched huts of bundled cattails — like the one I built for myself in New Zealand — but they put tar paper across the peak. A canal that borders Highway 41 is dotted with fishermen. The shacks might be their fishing shacks. In the distance a charcoal cloud, heavy with rain, hangs above the swamp that extends to the horizon. I learned later that a jet crashed into the Everglades — not within my vision or point in time — but 109 people died. The nose of the plane, the plane itself, was buried 30 feet deep in the muck. If anyone had survived the crash, the alligators were waiting. Salvage was not discussed.

Farther west, I met the green fabric of fields woven into the blue fabric of sky from which (for whatever reason), I weave in a quote by Annie Proulx: “We face up to the awful things because we can’t go around them.” That man — that man that I came to Florida to escape — is with me again, like a needle stuck in an old record. I must face why I am attracted to the emotionally unavailable. I already know why I get on planes and fly away when my heart is hurt.

I’m airport watching now on my way back to the Northwest, leaving behind plastic-fantastic. Key West is a fascinating amusement, but overall I dislike Florida. Sitting at Delta Gate 54A, a 25-year-old, hidden behind sunglasses, tells me: “…I was 17 then. A long time ago. I was a day late. Didn’t matter if I was a dollar short or a day late, my parents would take care of it.” He takes off his glasses to clean them on his shirt and puts them back on. “But now,” he says, “it’s the real world.” Yes, it is, I think.

I glance away and see an old man, with trembling hands, eating a nacho with jalapenos. He drinks water,  it shaking in his hand, but suddenly he stands up and moves away from a young woman who’s drinking a beer, changing tables. Then he changes tables again. He’s moving yet again when a long-haired man with a beeper, looking at each beep, distracts me.

Another man, older, without a chin, is standing nearby. He keeps pulling up his overly baggy pants in a way that accentuates his penis and balls. He looks like a child molester. Two indiscreet Native Americans walk by, carrying ceremonial drums. For some reason, the man I’m trying to erase from my heart and mind re-enters, a constant thrump, like the river flowing over rocks and boulders on its way to the sea. Conversations distract me. “Where’s she going to stay?” a man asks. “In the States,” she answers, jutting out her jaw. I didn’t hear the rest as the conversation blurred into a man talking about back surgery to the stranger next to him.

Yes, there are windows opening constantly in the pulse of time. I take it in, like a grouper’s mouth sucking in the unsuspecting dinner. I notice an elegantly dressed woman in colors that accentuate her aged tan and silvered hair. She sits alone, watching also, her hand lazily drooped over the arm of the chair, while mine is scribbling in my journal.

And then she rises, as do I, when boarding is announced.

Aging Gracefully

In late November of 2011, while living in Costa Rica, I was contacted by a friend of a friend. Introducing herself, she said she was bicycling through Costa Rica, down to Panama, and our mutual friend had suggested she contact me.  I, myself having been a traveler and receiving the hospitality of many friends of friends and total strangers , was quick to invite her to stop on by.  Eleven years ago, she would have been 60 years old.  Though I don’t know all the details of her life, I know she’s lived a simple life, house-sitting for some of the same folks each year,  working half the year in a co-op in Corvallis, and, most pertinent to this story, going off to a foreign country where she would buy a bike upon arrival, and set off touring.

This is when I met her where that year’s adventure brought her to Costa Rica. She’d bought fairly simple 10- or 15-speed (definitely not the high-end bikes).  With two small funky bags strapped to the back, she came and stayed at my house for a few days, participating in the English classes I taught my neighbor children, but eventually headed down to Panama for a month, through the Christmas and New Year’s season.  She returned back to my place in Southern Costa Rica before heading up to Nicaragua.  She had been doing this for several years before then, and she’s done it since then.  Each time, after her four or six months of exploring a new country, she’d then donate her bike to an orphanage or similar place for others less advantaged to use.

I missed her in Bogota, Colombia, by a couple weeks in 2013, I think it was, when I’d gone down for a month-long CELTA course.  I had the chance to meet with her in Taiwan as I was flying to Thailand for a month, but I chose not to get sidetracked from my goal.  COVID kept her in the States these past two years, where she biked around Texas, she said. I’ve met with her once in Corvallis when I was driving down to visit my son in Humboldt County.  But our meetings and correspondence are hit and miss.

But she recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to participate in what she called a “survey,” her instructions:  “Hello my elder friends. In my exploration of how to age ‘gracefully’. I feel I’d like some other inspirations and perspectives. My idea is please send a pic and a few words that tell something positive about this time of your life,” adding, “I’m now 71, I want this to be successful seventies.”

She should know better than to ask ME to send “a few words.”  This is my recipe for staying young or aging gracefully…

EARTH DAY 2022

Today, Earth Day 2022, I sit in quiet calm. The sun is finding its footing through the spreading branches of the alder outside my window. Soon, in weeks, if not days, its footing will fail, almost, as the leaves finish filling out Alder’s headdress and leaving only the tree’s shadow. The cool shade will come soon enough, as the days start to warm, and it will be there that I’ll seek to sit. Quite amazing how the Earth Mother times these things just right. Today, though, the days are still chilly here in the Northwest, and only not yet warm enough to satisfy my thinned frame.

I’m inside right now. There’s a couple small ants coursing across my table in search of a morsel to take back to their nest, always working for the whole, working for their community. I watch them. I’ve always loved ants. As children, when my brothers glued model airplanes together, I glued model ants and bees and other insects.

I just sit in my calm quiet, reflecting on the beauty of this spinning globe, seeing what I see, hearing what I hear, floating on memories of previous times when I slowed enough to absorb this miraculous, mysterious, spellbinding creation spinning through a universe so vast. I too forget to appreciate it.

From where I sit, I can hear the lyrics of a bird’s song, something so enchanting, fascinating, that they can make such trills and whistles and clicks with barely opening their mouths, some sort of unseen process delivering such extraordinary music.

New leaves are budding. Most noticeably to me are the droops of maple flowers that burst open, shooting outwards their new opposing leaves and to its sides draping corymbs of pentamerous flowers. It’s true, I cheated to find these wonderful words. “Pentamerous” sounds very amorous.

Almost mirroring the color of the salmon berry blossoms, there’s a young quince tree on the property with magenta blossoms, sharing too-close of space with a young lilac that will flower by the time the quince ends its blossoming. All the while, the grass is growing after a long winter and will continue to grow tall enough to wave to the world in the wind – to reveal the invisibility of a wind we feel but is only revealed in its waving, symbiotic relationship with the trees and fields to say, “Now do you see me?”

A vision I only hold in my mind’s eye, at this moment: I revisit the sun’s rays as it glistens and dances on a smooth glassy warm southern ocean. From there, I’m immediately transported to a deep pool I came across wandering in the countryside outside of Oslo, Norway. It too was glassy, but dark, almost black in the shade of trees but more so from years of autumn leaves dropping into its waters, rotting. The newest contributions, oranges and reds and burnt peach colored leaves, lay on the water’s edge of that gladed pond. If I were to step into its darkness, my toes would squish and sink into the silkiest of mucky mud, though I know I’d also feel the sticks and twigs that had not yet rotted. I’m touching the circle and exchange of life. The changes that never cease.

Water skeeters shoot across the still surface, taking me to my childhood, where I was forever wondering how do they walk on water? Magic water walkers. And turtles — that I visit again only in my imagination in this moment because I never seem to see them living in the Northwest, but there in my mind they sit on logs, sometimes in a row, and yet I’ve never seen how they manage to climb up out of the water onto those round logs with their cumbersome shells. The frogs speak, more so as evening nears, but occasionally allowing me to catch them almost hidden, sitting on lily pads or the edge of a reed. They have magic feet too. The pond frogs then rush me to Hawai’i where I hear the coming evening burst into the loud coquies choir.

Back in the gladed forest floor, I’m drawn to the beauty of a rotting log and all the activity going on. Home to grubs and ants and beetles and fungi, left alone, they devour the log, allowing it to fall back to its children’s roots, nourishing its offspring, like a breast given to a child. Those logs are often called nurse logs for a reason.

Bees buzz by, working away, harvesting nectar and loading pollen onto their legs until they’re almost too heavy to take off and fly back to their hive, where in some magical transformation, they turn the nectar into honey for the workers and royal jelly to feed their queen, to feed their brood. I’m witness to a community working together.

I’ll avoid exploring the science behind their magic, for that would take me away from the moment. Instead, I’ll return to the meadow that is out my window, and I’ll just sit. In peace. I’ll still the cacophony of my endless parade of thoughts, and I’ll just be in this moment, removed from man’s world that’s happening out there somewhere, a world that has forgotten to stop and observe and receive this beauty. Instead, I will bring it all into my core and hold it, seeing it as the world I wish to live in, created in my mind’s eye, the place I can return to and visit in those moments most needed.

And I’ll invite the world to join me and walk out into this beauty!
Happy Earth Day, Mother Earth.

A Clear-Flowing River — all the rest is just window dressing

First thing each morning, I put on my clothes — no, that’s not true.  First, after I jump out of bed, I scurry quickly five feet down to turn on my little heater in my van in which I live, and as that heat quickly changes the temperature from 39 to a passable 64, then I put on my clothes, often the same ones I wore the day before, but-for clean underwear and socks. I put on a saucepan of water to boil for my coffee while I grind my half cup of beans and put them in the French press, and then, a never-fail ritual, I turn on my laptop and check my emails.

I have five email addresses created for different reasons. They’re like different clothes I put on, or different hats worn for different occasions.

The first email I opened was a weekly post on CaringBridge, updating a friend’s journey with cancer. This week, five weeks after her treatment began, she is completely bald. She posed in the window of the camera lens in her baldness and in a colorful head wrap, trying on her new looks that she’ll wear for awhile.

She also shared a picture of her granddaughter’s sixth birthday, the Great Unicorn Gathering. With sparkles in her eyes and a smile, she, her granddaughter, was standing by a table of colorful cakes and cupcakes, also dressed in their own headdresses of white-“haired” frosted chocolate cupcakes, drizzled with something looking like strawberry syrup, and a round single-layer cake mounded with fresh raspberries and sliced almonds.

In her CaringBridge entry, my friend writes about the joy of her granddaughter’s little party. Also, she makes a comment about a “challenging” nurse she’d had to contend with during her last chemo appointment. Something that’s so special about my friend is her compassion and understanding of others.  This is often reflected, I think, in her filter and her ability to think before she speaks, making her the go-to school counselor for hundreds of children, and a dear person who has shouldered maybe too many of her friends’ secrets and woes. I too have taken my problems to her, where she’s listened deeply, and then asked those questions of me wherein the answers rested. A miracle worker, she is, revealing the one constant of life: the beauty of love and caring.

These are the thoughts I have as I look at these images she’s shared reflected in these window frames: her bald pate, her colorful head wrap. She emanates a beauty from within that overshadows any of the guises of clothes and hairdos she’s worn over the years.

She also wrote of the tears she cried as a friend shaved off the last tufts of hair that had clung to her head like flood-torn branches on a river’s edge, life’s river. But her current still runs strong and clear, and if obstacles appear, she is held safely by her husband and surrounded with the closest and most loving friends to help her remove those rocks and boulders or to portage her around, over, or through them. The love she’s given is returning thousandfold.

She is and always has been the most beautiful woman I’ve had the privilege to share my life with. Just as I get used to my thinning hair that’s come with aging, just as she watched her husband’s hair turn from dark to white (both of which were slow processes that slipped in through the cracks of time, while hers came upon her so quickly), she will get used to not having hair for a while. It’s just a different guise — or disguise — she’s trying on, while her beauty shines even brighter.

Right now, she’s the beauty of an acorn without its top hat, shiny and smooth. We already know — all of us who love her — that within that shiny, beautiful seed is a great, strong tree, burgeoning with life, strength, and love which is, after all, the beauty that always has and always will shine forth.

She is the clear-flowing river.  All the rest is just window dressing.

You know who you are, and I love you.

Mother Ocean

The ocean is a deep womb, holding and nurturing all life in her depths. I know this, for she held me close for years as I sailed upon her waters towards a horizon that I have yet to reach. Dancing with her on several small boats, I moved across her face, pushed by the winds that coursed across her surface, forever aware that beneath her surface, there is this great calm. She could be as still as a breathless day, her great fluid mass not moving at all but for the pull of the moon or winds that passed over her, stirring her, changing her moods, changing her texture.

Those winds, like life, pushed her waters to rise up into mountains, up which we rode in our little boats, after which we’d plunge down into her valleys, not unlike a surfer on the mammoth waves of Nazare or Jaws. There were many days, too, where the winds were but a tickle on her cheek, a feather brushing across its mirror-smooth waters, leaving her to lay still, quiet, truly pacified. There were days that seemed to never end as we sat in her doldrums, looking deeply into her depths. (Doldrums, by the way, are not sad; they are deep and still.) We followed the Bible rays of the sun down, down as far as they reached until they no longer reflected the blue sky above. She gave us night waltzes too where the dancers were like feetless ballerinas, lighting her up in a mesmerizing phosphorescent dance on the darkest of nights with the only music being the lap and lisp of water against our hull.

She is the giver of life, from which we all on land once came. Flying fish often emerged from her watery womb, landing on our decks. Playful dolphins swam with us for hours or gave us a front-row seat to the circle of life of which we all participate in one way or another. This particular show of life taking life was witnessed in a squall line that churned the water, attracting a school of small fish which attracted a school of tuna, which attracted a mile-long line of porpoises that had come to feast and have their fill. Life giving life.

If one is lazy or tired or not observant, great moments of friendship pass by in the night. A whale of unknown species joined us one chilly night. Outlined by a phosphorescent glow the length of our 45-foot boat, she traveled only feet from our hull, exhaling her fishy breath in a calm rhythm. She moved silently, but for those breathy exhales, until the sun began to lighten the sky. I’m sure she knew we were not one of her kind — but kind she knew we were; definitely not a dangerous fishing trawler. She blew a final farewell and disappeared into the depths.

The ocean gave us her bays and shorelines, too, in which she allowed us to drop anchors into her lesser depths, to stay awhile, where we watched a wedding of sorts as she kissed the shore and caressed the sands. And, yes, crashed against rocks and headlands. In anger? No. It was just the wind that appeared to be moving her, stirring her. She never resisted as the storms and currents played across her. In her calm depth, she let them pass, as we, in meditation, let our thoughts pass, remaining calm deep down, just simply allowing the wind to speak its voice. It is both her deep calm and her changing moods or moving currents that have given me life’s lessons and nurtured my soul. Blessed Mother Ocean, thank you.

These days I no longer sail on her surface but when I stand on the shores, on the cliffs, and see her endless reach beyond the horizon, the places where the albatross fly, I return to her embrace, the love she shared with me, the peace she revealed, a gift deeply held, even in what I perceive as her most tumultuous moments. Or mine.

I leave you with this, a beautiful song that is also a gift from the sea. I know because I hear it in the words and in the tune. Several years ago, staying a few days at Cabinas Sol y Mar in Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica, a man named Bob Tobin, a musician, was in the cabin next to us. He came there each year for three or four weeks. He asked if he could serenade us. Like the whale that traveled with us all night, why would anyone turn away from a beautiful gift. This song speaks to me just as the ocean does. Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exbx6OCZOlw                               (The song itself starts at 1:35)

May you all remember the sky you were born under, and the sea that gave you life.

I am a Spoon

Pieces of wood lay on the table, having been carved by the hands of a man who had nothing to do but search for his creativity. I saw the boxes of spoons he carved, over 200 at least. Only a few were smooth and finished and usable for scooping, stirring, lifting foods from one vessel to another. He played with the grains where the centers swirled, that declared:

“Yes, once I was a tree and this is my lineage. Now that I’m reduced to being a spoon, let me remind you of how old I had grown before some man came and cut me to the ground, chipping my skin away like a scalped native, and then slicing me into lengths, just pieces of my original grand height so I am no longer that marvel I’d been, a holder of tributaries and vessels, pulling nutrients from the darkness below and taking the Sun and Air into my head-strong leaves, mixing it all as only the greatest magician can.

“I was a magician and now I’m a half-finished spoon sitting in another wooden box, made up of pieces of my brothers and sisters, sitting on a hard cement floor. Cement! Even my boxed brothers and sisters can no longer touch the Earth for if they could, we have other friends that would so kindly begin the funereal process of bringing us home, of breaking down our fibers by whatever magic they know, with fungus and insects all working their magic together that we might — just might have a proper burial, in which I, and my siblings, could feed the offspring of life.

“And yet for what — why — I wonder now, because it is a great authoritarian dictator that rules over us, who has determined our existence: where we should live, how we should live — in rows of mirrored trees, all the same age with no variety — without the voices made when the wind wiggles the wide leaves of the maples or the sharp needles of the spruce, the quaking of the aspens, joined by the rasping of errant branches rubbing against its neighbors. Yes, I am sad and hurting and I wonder is this all there is now?

“The voice of my ancestors no longer speaks its stories through the mycelium and root systems which have been plowed over, ripped to nothingness, ripped to silence and stilled forever. I am a spoon now. Only a spoon, made and designed to serve my master. Even in this box with my other broken brothers and sisters, our souls are so diminished that we stand in the same stillness as the land on which we were raised. Our voices are silent. Silent. But for the crackling of the forest fires.

“Some say this has become our battle cry. We would rather burn in the fires than suffer the continued destruction of our homes, replaced by words like sustainable forestry, though in truth it’s the jailing of our souls only to be chipped and cut and splintered and mashed to make paper to wipe our master’s ass, for paper on which they write their perceived goals and purposes with no regard for us.

“There was a time — I was young then but I remember — when people first lived and walked amongst us as one. We shared ourselves freely, giving our back for clothes or roofs, our leaves and fruit for food. Those days are no more. I am a spoon. I serve. I serve up food to feed the monster who destroyed my family.”

E komo mai nou ka hale





“Make yourself at home” — Come on in.

Hawai’i is where my big sailing days began. I say “big” because I had sailed 8-Ball prams in Santa Barbara when I was 11 and 12. Even before that, though, from the youngest of age in Maryland, water was my medium, my place of peace and refuge. As young as four, my brothers and I played on the estuarial channels of the Chesapeake, where we had our own rowboat, our own oyster beds, our own sandbar to which we’d row for clams, as well as long stretches of river on which to lay out trotlines baited with chunks of salted eel to entice the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Great bodies of water, whether mighty rivers like the Columbia, estuaries like the Chesapeake, the Crater Lakes of the world, or the endless ocean itself, humble me, quiet me, heal me.
The Big Island, of all the Hawaiian islands, is not famous for its beaches. Instead, the long-driven energy of the ocean’s movement meet these rocky coastlines with great exhalations and explosions of its power. Again and again, the mighty sea slams the volcanic cliffs, some newly created by Pele, leaping high in its apparent desire to keep moving and not be halted. Its swells back off and recede, only to gather together again to fling itself onto that hardened shore. Then the moon pulls the weight of the water to the other side of the earth, quieting its assault, maybe giving it respite before surging forth with yet another high tide. Ancient myths are whispered in the salt spray and foam, giving explanation for the dance of the elements.
Like I did sailing at sea, I can spend hours on a beach, on a coastline, gazing out to the farthest horizon. It’s one of the few times I can truly relax and let go of any need to “do” or “be” or, sometimes more importantly, think anything. It is healing to me in these times we live in. The ocean is, to me, like a Buddhist monk, sitting in perpetual stillness under the stormy waves at its surface. Though I too hear its death throes caused by the onslaught of an arrogant and greedy human race that has taken too much from it, returning to it only the sewage of our wasteful lives, I find stillness and peace at the point where water meets earth, exhaling its breath to sparkle in the sunshine of that turbulent explosion. Water, earth, air, fire. Dance.
I’ve been in Hawai’i on the Big Island since the first of December. I’ve come to visit and stay with one of my sons for several months. I come only for him, because the now damaged makeup of the land of Hawai’i is not the same as it was 50 years ago when I first came to these shores — and then sailed away. It’s filled with box stores and crowded roads, high-rise buildings that alter the direction of the wind. It looks not too different from the Mainland, except it’s warm year round. The coral reefs are dying due to global warming, yes, but, now they’ve discovered that the chemicals in sunscreen have an extremely deleterious effect on coral and may be responsible for killing up to 50% of the coral reefs in Hawai’i. Further, it has been discovered — always in hindsight — that the seawalls built to protect the waterfront homes of the rich and famous are in fact increasing the erosion and destruction of the coastline.
While here, I try to sell my book. Writing is much easier than marketing, at least for me. I sit in farmer’s markets or I approach people on the streets of downtown Hilo asking if they’d like to buy a great adventure story, my story, of my seven years in the South Pacific. Some walk past me, not even catching my eye, as if I were one of the invisible homeless panhandling; some thank me for writing my book, but “no thank you.” And then there are those who stop and talk with me, share their stories, and sometimes buy my book. Some of them come back and buy more copies because I touched something in them that they also want to share. I feel that the ones who stop are also the ones who care about this earth and its relationships on all levels.

It took me 45 years to find the voice to write my story. Some of the impetus came when the echoes of my memories met the anguished cries of an earth abused. “Aweigh of Life” won’t stop the bulldozer of “progress.” But it points to a simpler life. I invite you to experience a time not too long ago, where cultures still thrived in harmony with the magic of a paradise now forsaken.

Anchors aweigh, my friend.

Anchors aweigh, my friend.  

Ah, to be aweigh of life

Ah, that I could be aweigh of life
And not know the miseries of the world
Perpetuated by the greed of man-unkind,
Perpetuated by the evil of power seekers,
Perpetuated by delusions of fear and lack.

Ah, that I could be a river’s flow
Lacking attachment to bank or bottom;
That I could be an ocean wave
Reaching out to caress a shore,
Before gathering back into its wholeness.

Ah, that I could wake up man-unkind,
Pulling off the blinds used to separate.
That I could convince the cults of the world
That the proclaimed apex of “God’s creation,”
Man-unkind, has brought doom to all.

Ah, to be aweigh of life,
To not hear the screams,
To not see the wounds,
To not feel the pain, to not witness
What man-unkind has done to this earth.

Ah, to be aweigh of life and not know
That too many planes flew to Glasgow
And powerful people talked…
… only to decide what they’re willing to do
To protect the bottom line…of the wealthy.

Ah, to be aweigh of life,
In blissful ignorance
Of all I cannot change.
Where, from a distance,
There are no boundaries.

And that from a distance
And aweigh of life
Only then can I feel hope
In the quiet
Of my dreams.

Ah, to be aweigh of life.

pm 11/14/21

Two years later

A little behind-the-scenes about writing Aweigh of Life: I wrote the rough draft of Aweigh of Life while living in Costa Rica back in 2013. Though I had kept very detailed journals during a large part of my sailing years, I wrote most of the first draft from memory, just the “big picture.” And then Life got in the way – I think. I’m not real sure why — but I set it aside and never looked at it again until January of 2019, at which point, a bit appalled that I’d done nothing with it all those years, I spent three months doing the hard work of editing it, rewriting it, rearranging it, adding to it, and subtracting to it. (In spite of all that work, there’s still a few typos — aggh!!). Finally, with a great sense of trepidation, as it was a rather hefty monetary outlay to self-publish, I sent it off to the publisher.

I was living in Arcata, California, at the time. As part of my “publishing package,” I received 40 “free books.” Besides selling on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line sites, I would sit on the street corner on the edges of Arcata’s farmers’ market and hawk my wares, i.e., my book. Whether they bought the book or not (I usually would sell one or two on a Saturday morning), I enjoyed the conversations with passers-by, even more delighted when one or another would return a few weeks later either to give me praise or — the ultimate praise — to purchase another copy as a gift to give to someone. Having finally sold or gifted that first 40 books, I dove in deeper and ordered more.

COVID-19 affected my ability to be a book busker. Public markets and farmers’ markets closed. Summer festivals ceased. The books sat in boxes. My restlessness returned, and I bought an old converted box van, a land boat, so to speak, and after settling in for a bit, I took off vagabonding. I’d find remote and free places to “drop anchor.” I’d hawk my books in camp grounds and at viewpoints when chatting with folks. Folks (particularly older folks) seemed fascinated (yet so natural to me) that this single woman in her seventies would be cruising around in a big ol’ box van on her own. Conversation would lead to my past life of cruising on sailboats, and then, voila, I’d make a book sale.

I met a wonderful lady while camping on the Olympic Peninsula who invited me to park my rig on her property, reminiscent of the generosity of folks met while sailing years before. With winter coming on, it’s a good time to hunker down. But when the weather is good, I’m back sitting on street corners and at markets, meeting wonderful people, talking tales, and selling books.

After two years, still not having quite recouped my investment, I am trying to find balance. In one breath, it’s discouraging realizing that no matter how much heart, soul and skill I’ve put into Aweigh of Life, it is unlikely that I will get rich and famous. With another breath, a more invigorating one, I recognize that indeed it is up to me alone to market my book. Street corners alone won’t suffice, hence the impetus to create this web page and blog regularly, to hopefully create that buzz that puts the book into more hands. Many of the reviews I’ve received suggest this would make a great movie. Of course, I agree, but, hmm, I’m not holding my breath. From the reviews and feedback I’ve gotten, though, the praise has assured me I’ve written a book well worth reading for which I’m humbly pleased and filled with gratitude.

What can I say? I can say it’s much easier — and definitely more enjoyable — to write a book than to try to market it. So I’ll keep it short and sweet, and I will end with my last-ditch pitch: if you haven’t bought Aweigh of Life, please do. If you have bought it, please consider buying copies as a gift for whatever occasion.

Until next time, be kind.