Harbingers @ Sioux Harbor


Running Before the Wind


Dew & Spider Harbingers

Sailors are as obsessed with weather forecasts as pirates are with rum. Saturday morning on our dock, Sailor Jerry, the one with mutton chops not the rum bottle, pointed to the cars parked on the lot and said, “There is no dew this morning. That’s a good harbinger for rain.” I stuck my head out of the cabin, squinted at the clear blue sky, donned sunglasses and pondered the use of such heavy vocabulary so early in the day. The wind was brisk but the harbor was as smooth as a pool table. I focused my senses and tried to figure out how missing dew was connected with precipitation.

I watched the water for a bit and noted an awful lot of fish were jumping and small schools were spooling around the boat. A remembered George’s great Aunt Hetta (who owned a patch of land on a Connecticut lake) telling us that when fish are jumping, rains are coming. She also claimed to be an esteemed member of the Degree of Pocahontas, the Women’s Auxillary of The Improved Order of Red Men. They gather to honor Pocahontas by teaching kindness, charity, and loyalty to one’s nation. When I inquired about her tribe of origin, she scoffed that none of the members were Indians or Italians.  I ignored her bigotry and weather forecasting aptitude.


Web o’ Sails

A Cottonrattlemoccasin Snake glided through the water and slipped beneath the dock. I grabbed the gaff hook and assumed a defensive posture. I recalled a video about robot snakes being developed at Carnegie Mellon to do search and rescue. Sometimes science is just stupid, if a snakebot came searching for me, my heart would simply stop. I counted six new spider webs adorning the standing rigging and bimini cover.  I squished an exceptionally large spider beneath my foot and figured rain was now guaranteed because killing spiders is bad luck. I wondered whether the cows were lying down and noted my knee felt stiff.

The skies were clear as we sailed upriver propelled by 20 knot gusts and warily eyed an ominous strip of nimbus clouds that darkened the eastern bluffs. The western clouds were wrinkled – a verse about cloud wrinkles and sprinkles came to mind. We heeded the dockside harbinger’s forecast of rain and returned to the harbor to caulk the main hatch and secure the sails.

Sometime before midnight cold rain dripped through the open hatch into our bunk. We snapped to attention, closed the portholes and tumbled back to sleep. Sunday dawned with a thick dew that covered the topsides. NOAA weather radio forecasted clear skies and light breezes.

When the mainsail was raised long silky gossamer strands attached to tiny parachutes drifted from the canvas – baby spiders swinging through the air. The captain laughed that sails are like giant milkweeds only instead of incubating monarch butterflies they are nurseries for spiders. That’s nice – spiders are good omens. We watched the sunset from a cantina on the western shore. During the last gasp of daylight, the Mississippi was transformed into an elegant silver-blue serpentine stretching toward the sea. Was this twilight scene a harbinger for good days to come? Best to go with the flow and find out.


Sailors’ Delight

Pirates of a Certain Age


Rags Raised

Our second son is an attorney who specializes in elder law. He often counsels families on fine details of Granny and Pawpaw’s estate planning. The grandparents are often in their 90s, the kids in their 70s, and grandkids in their 50s. He says the 90s are a hot time in life – most folks got the math down pretty good and know a thing or two about saving for rainy days. They’ve got enough stashed away to give the great grandkids more than just good advice.


Chicken Sheet

I spent the weekend surrounded by other grandparents and two of our own grand kids. We whiled away Saturday aboard the Ex Libris, our sailboat, playing pirates on the Mississippi with a rowdy band of grandparents. There were a dozen other boats flying Jolly Rogers, flinging rubber chickens, and drenching opposing crews with water cannons. All of the scally wags were in proper attire and the letter right between Q and S (if I hear it one more time I’ll scream) was yelled more times than a hip-hop rapper can drop the F bomb.


Big G Won a Cutlass for Best Pirate Costume

When I was a kid during the middle of the last century it was politically correct to play cowboys and Indians. Our six shooters were filled with bright red rolls of caps. The pungent aroma of burnt power was one of the best smells of childhood, followed by a fresh can of Play Doh and the sugary scent of a slender slab of bubble gum that came free with baseball cards. We built forts in the woods and played baseball in back yards with out any adults tending to our super egos. If someone cheated he or she was summarily chased, caught, and pummeled.  Although the rules of any game changed depending on who’s house it was played – it was a given that somebody would break the rules. Wondering who and when was part of the fun. Getting away with breaking the rules and winning was pure ecstasy.

By middle age the smell of a new car pretty much topped burnt caps and our weekends were consumed watching our kids play games. They were very organized games with referees and red cards that could eject a player who broke the rules or a parent who dropped an F bomb (rather than the letter right smack between Q and S) right out of the park.


Cap’n Bloody Bruce’s Boat

But during all that time there was one toy that was ageless. A boat. Whether it has an engine, paddles, oars, or sails, a boat is simply one of the best toys ever invented. Boats enable people to play on or in water, dance with waves, float a dream, and drift way.   Donning a pirate hat, slipping into a worn pair of Top Siders, and raising the main sail piques the same imagination we had as kids. Pirates get to break the rules all the time! It’s their job to play dirty and Cheat! Grandpas leer at nauti-wenches and are rewarded with a sly wink and a soaking shot of river blasted from a PVC water cannon. Flasks of personal choice poison are quaffed and by day’s end the booty is surrendered.


Pirate by Day Grandma by Night

Boats bring forth one of the best scents of the good life – water. Playing pirates allows anybody to break the rules and play make believe on real boats. Eventually, I’ll have to sit down with my heirs and plan for rainy days when we can no longer float our boat. But thinking of Randy at work today – I am pretty confident that being only in his mid 30’s he is not expecting to inherit a boat for another quarter of a century. Who knows whether playing pirates today will be thought of tomorrow as yet another politically incorrect game of a generation who simply never grew up? Who cares? We got to keep the rubber chicken as a souvenir and I passed on my foam cutlass to our oldest granddaughter. Heck, maybe I’ll make her the captain someday and break the rules of inheritance etiquette. Argggghhhhh.


Nice Heir

Laws of Motion Love Potion #64

Hey Jude

Hey Jude

Relationships change as people move on through life. It’s a pretty simple truism. If my best friend from high school never moved on we’d both still be lusting for Paul McCartney, skipping school to sneak to the beach, and craving hot fudge sundaes before bed time. Okay, those things might remain constant for half a century (but if  Sir Paul, who is way past 64, was out ‘til quarter to three, I’d lock the door) – but we certainly are not the same bodies or minds that were bonded by young friendships. As we grow older all of our relationships are impacted by Newton’s three laws of motion.



Yes, as in Isaac Newton – the guy who figured out that it’s natural for things to resist change and prefer to, keep on keeping on, in the same way and at the same speed. Knock back 50 years to friendships back when, “will you still love me when I’m 64” was a hit –30 was too old and 12 was too young to appreciate the finer things in life. We just kept paddling toward the future, the zeitgeist, the thought that binds each generation, was the promise of a good life – one that would be even better than our parents enjoyed. The future was just a stroke or two before our bow. Life was but a breeze.

Then along came the college graduation requirements, career launch, marriage, kids, and mortgages. Newton’s second law kicked in. As responsibilities became heavier it took more force to move us along with the same people doing the same things we did back in the day. We drifted towards other people and sometimes it seemed to take an awful lot of effort to force ourselves to play with our old friends. Commitments and deadlines shifted our balance away from some friends and towards new friends.

Regardless of one’s age, the Newton’s third law should be respected across relationships. If we force ourselves into somebody else’s social circle, we should expect to be pushed just as hard in the opposite direction. The laws of motion interact, if we’ve always been pushy, until we’re social pariahs, we’re going to keep moving to and from people – some will become friends, others will not. It’s simple nature.



Ask anyone along the eastern seaboard or Midwest who has been outside during these waning days of summer – and they’ll confirm that life is ment to be shared with others of similar dispositions. They’ve heard the raucous, ear drum blistering beat of a billion circadas’ wings. Their harsh song dominates the air as each emerges from a 17 year down-under, solo, dark phase of development. They emerge with one unified passion – meet and mate according to Law #1. Each will belt out a grating serenade until it finds love or lust – either will do – brief hook ups are  not an issue for millenials. The couple will join forces -move as one – and resist any changes to stop. It’s a joyous celebration of Law #3, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.

Listen again – that’s Ode to Joy you hear being sung in the trees. Silence will prevail later as Law #2 emerges, and it always does, because heavier objects require more force to move the same distance as lighter objects. Lust satiated, passions wane, and the heavy weight of the female’s duty to lay eggs quiets the symphony. All that’s left for us by season’s end are the quickly tossed aside outerwear scattered under the trees.

To be relatively assured of hearing the next generation of circadas, abide by Sir Isaac’s first law – don’t stop moving because once you stop it is going to take a whole lot of force to get up and keep up with friends. This means playing with and supporting friends beyond a post on FaceBook. Be Newtonian; expect changes and alter your pace because it’s impossible to avoid unbalanced forces. Don’t let the weight of the world weigh you down so that those with lighter dispositions seem to dance while you slump. Stay in motion because someone’s going to need you long past sixty-four.


Now Forward, Past Later


Solana Beach, CA


Solana Beach at Sunset

It is Labor Day. An impudent breeze is ushering out summer and welcoming football season. The winds of change shift to different compass points and we reorient ourselves from lazy dog days of summer to working like a dog. Honestly, if any of our pets were role models, it’s not a particularly aggressive work ethic.

Work is a lot like the wind. We gust with short bursts of high speed energy to complete some tasks while other projects require the sustained power of a gale that blows for days. There are those mind numbing jobs that catch us in irons, like a sailboat pointed directly into the wind. Lots of noise, sails slapping, slamming into waves, but no forward motion. You’re just stuck in the wind. I’d rather not think about work on this national celebration of a day off. It’s more fun to think about a simple way to play with the wind. Go fly a kite. It an easy way to kiss the sky while grounded to Terra Firma.

Kites are simple toys – no batteries required – just a kite, a tail, and a long, really long, piece of line. Kites are tethered aircraft. Sky high they fly while connected to the earth by a thin line to the kite flyer. Kite flying is an empowering pastime because it encourages imaginations to slip the straps of reality – so powerful that when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, kite flying was outlawed. Relax, here it’s as legal as medicinal pot in Denver.

I realized during an eastbound Southwest Airlines flight bouncing through turbulence above the Rockies that airline passengers are tethered souls. We are linked by heart strings to family and friends six miles below our fastened seat belts.

Two weeks later; aboard S/v Ex Libris, Sioux Harbor, MO

Voyager 1

Outa Here

The Voyager 1 spacecraft has exited our solar system after a 36 year trek with no high tech entertainment aboard other than an 8 track tape-recorder endlessly looping the song “all by myself – just wanna be all by myself”. It is in a free fall through the galaxy – with over 31 million miles of look backs and multiple universes ahead. Voyager was launched the same year as the Star Wars franchise – that both continue to thrive is an assurance that old missions can still do exciting things – as can a graying kite flyer who stands grinning aside her four year old grand daughter who grasps the string and shrieks, “It’s up!”

Simple moments, a fresh breeze, a destination unknown, sometimes feeling connected to another generation – and the skies above – I feel like a kite.


Free to be tethered