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.