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.

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.