Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Technicolor Gems

Cruising is an act of faith. It’s like grabbing hold of a lump of rock and trusting that somehow, in a short period of time, the rock will transform into polished gem. The polishing process doesn’t happen through events I plan. Instead, life on a sailboat attracts the unexpected, like an electric storm that hangs in silence from horizon to horizon, or the impulsive surfacing of a pod of dolphins. With the unexpected, pieces of my rock's rough exterior fall off and reveal the flawless jewel that is life itself.

The morning of our departure from Cape Fear, we spotted a family with three small boys as they came into the marina for fuel. Forty yards of safety netting meant to keep our new kitten from falling off the boat sat uninstalled below decks on WILD HAIR. To protect their boys, this family had successfully strung safety netting to their lifelines. I needed to see how it was installed. To initiate conversation I brought Dinghy to meet them.

The boys were instantly smitten at the sight of Dinghy’s dear little frame. Asking their parents permission, they scrambled off the 38 foot sailboat and gently took turns petting the kitten. The family had sailed down from French Canada and was on their way to the Caribbean. Sabbaticals and home schooling were part of their cruising strategy. In their travels south, they had especially enjoyed anchoring at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.

Most striking to Dave and I was how kindly they treated each other. The boys wearing large, uncomfortable-looking life jackets were calm, attentive, and responsive to their parent’s instruction. They spoke no English but whispered among themselves in an intimate world of brotherhood. Filled to the brim by life, the parents were incredibly good natured, laughing and enjoying the conversation. The family vibrated with energies of trust and co-dependence unlike anything found in the suburbs.

We spoke for no more than 10 minutes. I learned what I set out to learn: how to install the safety netting. But something else happened. A large piece of my rock's shell fell away and the gem of life was revealed in Technicolor.
I'm certain we won't cross paths again. But, I am grateful for the gift they gave. The family’s gift was the lingering picture of kindness made manifest.

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