Yes, We Must

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Waiting for the Sun While Turtled @ Wickford Yacht Club. Photo JAL

Summer vacationers in the Ocean State are all too familiar with the verb, must. The word must is the compelling force that propels vacationers to set daily agendas based on what they’ve heard about “must see and do” local attractions. FaceBook grazers are inundated with vacation photo posts, “it hardly ever rains here at the beach, golf course, or hundred year old coastal cottage.”  Narragansett Beach photos challenge FB “friends” to play “Where’s Waldo” and identify their friends frolicking among hundreds of people jammed together in the sunshine and fresh salt air amidst a plethora of sand buckets, beach towels, life guards, surfers, sunglasses, boogie boards, and gallon jugs of SPF 50 sunblock. The message is clear, we must be having fun! Rule number one of family vacations is: to really have fun together you are obliged be here with us ALL right now! We must make memories!” Here must is used as a synonym for “gotta”.

Ah, the magic of grammar.

Many coastal residents refer to the word, must as a noun. Those living close to bodies of water, whether fresh or salt, are familiar with the moist scent that that distinguishes mildew from the pungent odor of it’s pal, mold. For example, locals wax nostalgic at the Autumn Equinox when a beach cover up is found at the back of the closet. They give the article a quick sniff, quickly recognize the musty scent and exclaim, “I so miss summer at the shore!” Must is born of high humidity, heat, coastal weather in general.

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June Gloom @ Narragansett Beach

From late spring through summer, the ever-so-slight scent of must is an accurate predictor of upcoming family reunions, unsubscribed time to catch up with friends, and lazy days of beach reading.  Just a quick whiff of must sets off a tingle of anticipation – must is the oracle summer. Of course, as those who are blessed to own seaside homes know, the fungi that compose must are hard to deter and get rid of – like summer visitors. Sometimes the only way to treat either is by pickling them (vinegar for the fungi and White Russians for the guests).

Visitors to the coast are welcomed by hugs that envelop the greeting with the slightest hint of must. It’s often thought of as salt air. Within that instant, tiny microscopic specks of a scented fungus fly from the Greeter into the Arriver’s sensitive olfactory nerves. The visiting sentinels pick up the chemical signature of mustiness. This triggers the Arrivers autoimmune system’s first responders, histamines. They defend the visiting body with copious mucus production that culminates with a series of sneezes designed to strategically expel the invaders.  Exclamations of “It’s wonderful to be here – we must make an agenda” are followed by a quick pocket check for a twice-used wad of tissues.

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Gray Day @ Wickford. Photo JAL

Must, the New England term for mildew, is found in every coastal home whether its appointed with trendy quartz counters, or cluttered with overstuffed wicker chairs.  Musty colonies thrive on tee shirts crammed in the bottom of beach bags, canvass totes, and tennis socks. Must finds comfort living in shoes that were purchased in cute boutiques, toted home in fancy bags with rattan handles, and then casually tossed into dark closets. Must thrive when soft rains fall and humidity soars.lo

Vast communities of must claim colonial squatters’ rights. Over time, coastal residents learn to cohabitate with fungal colonies. Their noses are numbed and allergies tamed by the musty scents of summer. Let’s face it – coastal residents and visitors are a lot like mildew and mold. During the summer they jam-pack beaches, choose harbors teeming with boats, swarm to restaurants with sea views, and congest traffic. They are everywhere. I’m good with that. Humidity comes with sunshine and rain – it’s a bargain made with nature to live in a coastal climate. I’ve been known to tell my guests as their noses crinkle upon my welcoming hug, “Oh that smell! Salty! Briny! Musty! Love it ALL! Savor the breath of the sea!” My guests sense that the seashore has halitosis. Yet, in rhythm with the tides, they breathe in and out. Mustiness is at the core of coastal living. As is sunshine, families, friends, and, you really must try the local chowdah.

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Low clouds @ Jamestown. Photo by JAL

 

 

Constant Vigilance

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Bald Eagles’ Aerie. Symbols of constant and eternal vigilance. They are there. Memorial Day, 2018, Photo JAL

Memorial Day weekend is here in the climate-confused Midwest where we are setting records for the hottest May Days outside of Hades. Choosing something to wear should be easy as nothing, fits. Nature crash and burned spring straight into the dog days of August. Nary a breeze can lift herself from the oppressive sun. The wind has sucummed to an overdose of humidity. Undaunted and perhaps unwisely, we spent the weekend aboard our sailboat, Ex Libris on the Mississippi River.

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Cap’n Barrett sporting his Brown Crew cap navigating his way around Catalina Island, CA.

Meanwhile,  our son Barrett, hopped a ferry from LA to Catalina where the winds were fresh, the seas were calm, and small boat rentals were affordable. Randall opted for the grand opening of his community pool much to the delight of my grand daughters who initiated the first swim of summer vacation.

Amberley explored fiords in southwestern Norway. It’s a country where where summer lasts for 23 minutes and SPF 200 is not adequate sun protection for the locals. As you can see by her photo of Bergan, the Norwegian harbors are just like the Alton Pool’s  except ours’ are the color and consistency of coffee dregs.

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Fiord Festivities @ Norway

Being a Mom, I worry about my family when they are far away frolicking with water sports. Accidents happen. Water always wins. There’s always a bigger fish. Your playground is homeport to mllions of non-human residents. We must all take the wizard of Hogwarts’ advice; “Constant vigilance!”

Paying attention is a survival skill for there are plenty of hellish things in the details that lie quietly and patiently seeking prey. Yesterday, we anchored off a mid-river island and were fascinated to observe a Bald Eagle family nesting. My attention was shifted by a subtle change in Marina’s panting. Although she was shaded, a 16 year-old dog is no match for the incinerating torch of a mid-day sun.

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You never know what lies beneath or behind. 

We quickly motored back to the harbor to head home and escape the dangerous heat. Dockside was equally perilous. I was startled by ravenous Water Moccasin that swam a few feet from the dock and slithered along the shore. I knew the snake was hunting for if not for the hunger instinct it would’ve avoided the filthy water and been content to digest privately in an undisclosed location. I told Marina, who is mostly blind and deaf that if she fell overboard, she was lunch.

Freshly regenerated via the AC, we returned to Ex Libris. After a relaxing dinner aboard, George went to snag a cookie off the galley counter. He abruptly roared, “D¶•§ Son #$ %^$# BIT ME right on my head!” He swatted, swore, and swelled. I’d missed a wasp nest during my ritual debugging of the cabin upon arrival. Bees and wasps are avid boat lovers when people are absentia. The previous day I’d destroyed three wasps nests and too many mud daubers’ messy abodes to count.

George is allergic to bees. Over the years he’s had increasingly bad reactions to their stings. Still yelling, digging for ice in the cooler, he ripped off his shirt afraid that more bees were attacking. We boot-scooted home for emergency First Aid. George’s glaucoma eye was already swollen shut.  His armpits  and hands itched madly and swelled exponentially. Still, his testosterone-histimine-saturated-resistance to the logic of an ER visit prevailed as he ranted, “It’s a holiday, only drunks, car wrecks, addicts, and city shooting victims go to ERs on holidays.”

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Not Big G’s Best Look. Abundant hives too. Even his armpits swelled. 

Fortunately, Barrett was home from his island adventure and he took my call. He’s a physician and advised an immediate trip to the ER. He also inherited a tad of stubborn-ness from his father and understood negotiations were off the table. Dr. Bear recommended a double dose of Benadryl, a blast of Prednisone, ice packs, and spousal patience. His Dad survived.

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A family’s physician is never really and truly off-duty when Mom calls.

Constant vigilance is a mantra for those with the wisdom to know that the world sits at the cross roads of good times and dark times. My grandmother, herself a Gold Star mother, referred to this day as Decoration Day. She didn’t view it as a holiday but as a private holy day of remembrance and gratitude. I see the wisdom of both approaches. It’s a day to celebrate the eternal vigilance of our military. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It’s also a day to be aware of the vipers and wasps that live as they as they are even though their ways are often not compatible with ours’. We live in a brave new world where “eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.[1]” Hoist a flag. Remember. Be vigilant.

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Wrong, Captain Ron. It didn’t happen “out there” – it happened right here! Sioux Harbor, MO

[1] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. 1932

Bamboozled

 

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Extreme Breathability @ The Helm

My husband retired three weeks, two days, and one hour ago. He prides himself on keeping a busy schedule, like walking a couple of miles on the Katy Trail along the Missouri River before his wife wakes up in the morning. He claims to be a “simple man” who keeps a daily “Do List” and maintains a sense of order. He is also a voracious reader and picks up on tiny nuances of change. Yet, I was still surprised when he actually went clothes shopping in preparation for our upcoming trip to Florida and bought one item.

A Bamboo Boxer Brief… Bamboo F

 

… as in Waltzing Matilda underwear.

He’d found a small advertisement in today’s paper hailing a new product for manly men that promises, “Performance is Natural”. The underwear’s MOSO features include moisture wicking and extreme reliability. George’s fresh passion for Organic Performance Wear is puzzling. Noting the slogan, “It’s a Pleasure for Your Business” I wondered, what sort of business opportunities does this bundle of soft bamboo promise consumers?

 

Is George’s attention to fine undergarments a natural part of the early days of retirement? Is this an organic phase of leaving the business world to focus one’s time on personal business? Do men really seek personal clothing that “feels better than silk and performs better than (wait for it) petroleum-based polyester synthetics”? This is all new to me. The fine print on the package also promises “your man parts will stay cool, dry, and stink- free, even during peak intensity!”

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I guess Victoria’s Secret is out. Good-bye silk worms. Hello bamboo stalks. I must admit saying bamboo aloud has a subtle, sultry, sound (bam b-oooohhhh). All that I picked up in today’s news is that Tide Podding is out and the condom-snorting challenge is in. I suppose my Helly Hansen performance sailing gear is on it’s way out too – though it is a product of Norway and we know how everyone there wants to get in here.

I want to issue a warning to our boating friends. Should you see Big George hoisting the main sail chanting, “Weigh hey, and up she rises!” Turn away. It’s just the koala beneath his belt nibbling on the bamboo.

Meanwhile, I’m going to stock up on organic bamboo toilet paper for the head. If you come aboard to sail on Ex Libris, feel free to use the head to do your business. But for Pete’s sake, please don’t start singing, “Tie me kangaroo down sport!” (clean living is all about punctuation).

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Lordy, thankfully only boaters know where he is standing. The sailor’s version of the VS Catwalk.

 

Hail the Spring Equinox! Ostara!

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Quaint working harbor in Ballymena Northern Ireland. December, 2017. Photo JAL

This, the first day of spring, is when the hours of daylight and nighttime are perfectly balanced. The sun is a great big sugar cookie perfectly divided between the two. Perfect symmetry is not meant to endure. It’s now the third day of spring at my harbor where  day has purloined two extra minutes of sunlight. Way to go!

The vernal equinox signifies it’s time to shed the final threads of winter dormancy and flourish. Our woodpile has shrunk in equal proportion to the last heap of ashes in the hearth. Sitting next to a warm fire with a good book is eclipsed by an intrinsic desire to get outside and do something.

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Hammerfest, Norway. February, 2018. Photo courtesy of Amberley Doskey.

There are many rituals associated with the vernal equinox such as the pagan celebrations of Ostara at Stonehenge. Lots of spring rituals deal with mating calls, bunnies, eggs, and rebirth. Spring bills itself as a very sexy season. My favorite spring ritual takes place fully clothed, if not layered in fleece and goose down. It’s time to commission our boat for spring sailing! Sailors have great affection for “spring cleaning”. Here are the rites of Ostara for my 34 Catalina, the Ex Libris.

Ritual #1. Inspect my personal collection of Topsiders. Banish winter pairs to the back of the closet. Bring forth the spring collection. Retire socks to the bottom drawer.

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Remember the Endeavor, memorial. Hammerfest, Norway. The photos have no connection with the content. I just like them. Photo courtesy AMLD

Ritual #2. Check the Sperry.com web page to view the spring collection. If necessary, select size and hit, Buy Now.

Ritual #3. Round up my boat cleaning supplies. Browse the West Marine catalog. Decide there’s nothing really needed so, go back to the Sperry page and reconsider options.

Ritual #4. Finally, wearing chic maritime footwear,

we drive to the harbor where the boat wintered over. George pulls out the bubbler (an electric fan the keeps ice from forming around the hull) and estimates that the water tempis a half dozen degrees above freezing. I offer up a quick prayer that neither of us  trip on a line and fall off the dock. We climb aboard. I savor the exhilaration of a new season and that I’m still physically fit to sail. I remind myself that it’s time to watch Captain Ron – again. Clean and turn on fridge to ensure beverages are chilled.

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Meanwhile, in Stavanger, Norway with just a trickle of the Gulf Stream, sailing regattas take place year round. Photo AMLD.

Ritual 5. Realize it’s too darn cold to sail. I don’t need a cooler or to waste electricity on the fridge because after 30 minutes the beer became room temperature and turned to slush. The cabin is colder than Ahab’s wife when he returned home with a wink after three hygiene-free years at sea mucking about in whale guts.

Ritual 6. Go home. Ask George to make a fire. Hunker down with a hot toddy and a good book about sailing in the tropics. Double-check the Sperry web site. Watch Captain Ron – again.

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Patience. Waiting for longer, warmer days of spring. Photo JAL

 

 

 

 

Repeat the ritual in another month when the weather is conducive to water sports and add;

Ritual 7. Hank on the mainsail, kick the tires and light the fires. Get out of the harbor and into the season of the wind.

 

 

Virtual Tour of Avalon on the Narrow River, RI

This visual tour of our nearly complete home renovation is my first step back into blogging. Since my last post I’ve worked too hard and played not enough – with words, boats, and people. I’m ready to Spring Forward and meddle with matters connected with boats and water.

Take a visual tour at:

http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4459794e444d334e7a4d3d0d0a&blogview=true

 

4th Coming

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Zeke’s, Jamestown, RI

The 4th of July reminds me of Nantucketeers rounding the Horn (southernmost tip of South America) on their way to the Pacific whaling grounds. Passage from the chilly spring rains to the summer inferno can be rough weather-wise. We’ve endured Mississippi River floods, been scorched by heat waves everywhere south of the Canadian border, tested by intermittent squalls blasting eastward down the NY Thruway, and depressed by June gloom that shrouds California and New England’s coastlines. Once you round the Horn, the forecast is optimistic. Unless you recall Herman Mehlville’s inspiration, the whale ship, Essex. It broke free from a horrific passage round the Horn where the crew was endlessly pummeled by icy gales as they careened through mountainous swells and swallowed vicious headwinds. The Essex’s survival was brief. The crew were busy the middle of the balmy Pacific harpooning a pod  when the schooner was abruptly rammed broadside and sunk by an albino sperm whale. IMGP2569

I’m relaxing alongshore on Narragansett Bay, musing about the six degrees of separation between truly great Americans and myself. My summertime neighbors gather during pleasant midweek evenings under the moniker of the “Wild Women of Wednesdays and Wine.” We often chat about our personal passages from youth to a “certain age.” This week we name-dropped famous people we’d met who truly made a difference in America.

First up was Sheila, who as a young child was a communicant at the Newport church attended by the Bouvier family. On a balmy fall morning in 1953, Sheila stood on tiptoes outside the doors of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The bride and groom, Jack and Jackie Kennedy brushed pass her and waved. Years later she shook the presidential candidate’s hand. Over a decade after that, miles from Newport’s Cliff Walk, the epicenter of high society, Sheila met Martin Luther King. MLK’s impact? The white glove luncheons of southern Naval officers’ wives were far right from the Freedom Riders, Sheila shed her gloves and challenged racism by registering voters in Montgomery, Alabama.

Deb spoke of the excitement she felt as a child when she saw President Harry Truman, and much later, as an adult, saw Pope John Paul II in St. Louis. Truman had left office by then and the buck stopped in Missouri. The Pope Mobile sped by Deb at breakneck speed as the pontiff serenely blessed the crowds and prayed for world peace.

IMG_6525I offered up seeing Neil Diamond who gave us songs that most of us could remember almost all of the lyrics. They weren’t impressed since Neil’s been constantly touring since the 60’s. It’s harder to find someone our age who hadn’t seen him in concert than those who had.

We agreed, JFK, MLK, and Harry before Potter are icons that symbolize American ideals. They’d earned recognition and respect that has endured over time. As for the Pope, he earned sainthood though his words and actions.

We’re at a time where for some people, realizing Diamond’s hit, Coming to America is as difficult as rounding the Horn on a Nantucket whaler. Today we bought a new flag to hang out front for Independence Day. It’s the same flag my Uncle wore on his Naval uniform when he flew as crew in a B24 over the Pacific for one last time during WWII. It’s the same stars and stripes Puerto Rico flies. It is flown over the Freedom Tower, Newport, St. Louis, and Montgomery. To be a citizen in any state is not just a good thing, it’s great. Paul Revere and John Paul Jones knew there was no free ticket to Independence. Let’s honor heroes past and present by only saying things about our fellow Americans that are appropriate to say in front of young children. Try to be civil and proud — at least until after the 4th of July.

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Pop (left) and his Big Brother Francis (USN): My Heros

Winter Kill

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Winter kill at Sioux Harbor. Carp. Nasty alive. Wretched dead.

Whether you believe in climate change or not – I find it odd that I’m spending President’s Weekend (3rd weekend of February) boating on the Mississippi. It’s peculiar because for the past quarter century our merry band of friends, offspring, and their springs have spent this particular weekend skiing down the bluffs of the upper Mississippi. That’s downhill, snow skiing where we reveled in temperatures just shy of 30° F. We played outside all day and it felt good to be cold.

Generally, people don’t succumb to winter kill. Bad ankles and metallic knees force a lot of Boomers to set their ski gear out in spring garage sales. Aging and the ravaging effects of disease take folks off the river. Some of those diseases are brought on by the sloth-like

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Wouldn’t it be nice if all social media were this peaceful?

tendency of people living North of 35° latitude to hibernate during the winter months. The most exercise they get is getting up for snacks during Netflix binges. Post holiday sales blitzes mark down Eddie Bauer and North Face outerwear to at least 60% off MRSP. There aren’t a whole lot of reasons to stay inside. Our closets are stuffed with jackets from the clearance sales of winters past. Pick one and get outside.

The high here today in St. Louis is expected to top 70°. We’re headed back to the river to tend to our sailboat, Ex Libris. There’s nothing we have to do – she’s been decommissioned for the winter and is tethered safely to the dock. We’re restless because Mother Nature is teasing us. Or perhaps, she’s sending forth a not so subtle warning. If it’s this warm mid-winter – imagine the blazing inferno of July.

There are a lot of dead carp decomposing on the river this weekend. Typical for this time of year – much like the winter kill of too much inside screen time. Get on out – it’ll do you good.

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Captain Joe Fisher aboard his 34′ trawler Feb. 18, 2017, with George at the helm.

Winter Over

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South Pole Marker. Image courtesy NOAA

We northerners expect and generally prepare for cold and darkness every winter but our mind-bodies seem to favor hot, bright summer days. My closet is crammed with high tech outerwear that lies dormant despite Mercury levels that have sunk to the teens. Sporadic urges to don layers of fleece and goose down are no match for a primordial desire to winter over within the heat radius of our fireplace. My MacBook Pro serves as a lap warmer. A muffled subconscious whisper is counseling me to get out of this rut or succumb to the Arctic Syndrome.

This is the season of the Arctic Stare, a look described by polar researchers as a 12 foot stare in a 10 foot room. During winter our minds periodically slide into fugue states. Our thoughts are aswinter blank as empty sonnets. Many northerners describe winter moods as depressed and irritable. They go to bed early to avoid the boredom associated with long, dark evenings but have trouble sleeping. Folks dismiss absentmindedness as a symptom of Cabin Fever. Some feel lonely but don’t return calls or set up play dates. They get iced in.

The Blanchette Bridge carried me across the Missouri River on a recent frigid winter afternoon. A friend spied a tiny johnboat down on the river moving south amidst ice chunks. She shook her head, “What a fool. If anything happens in that cold water he’s dead in less than 60 seconds.”

I shuddered, “Like a cold fish?” I pictured dead fish spread evenly on mounds of crushed ice in seafood departments.

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Champlins Fish Market, Galilee RI

“No”, explained my friend, who happens to be an expert on all things that kill people. “Cold water at 50ºF causes ventricular fibrillation in people. The heart beats fast but erratic and fails to pump blood properly. This causes a massive heart attack and death. On the other hand, frigid waters trigger fish to relax and enter a phase called winter dormancy. They move very little but are not frozen. It’s different from hibernating but necessary for procreation.”

Freezing ambient air and water stir up the birds and bees?

Yes. Anyone who went to college north of the Mason Dixon line is familiar with winter dormancy. Undergrads hate to leave their snug, pheromone saturated burrows between winter solstice and spring equinox. Cold weather disturbs their heart rhythms.  They become lethargic and fake hibernation by spending 12 to 18 hours at a crack sleeping. Youth have a different sense of time than bears that stick to their caves and avoid socializing until the spring thaw. Coeds are impatient with winter and seek the comfort of communal heat. They tend to rejuvenate long past nightfall on winter weekends. The Sirens of tweets and texts beckon even the most comatose of bedheads to rise from musky bunks. Tribes of sleepwalkers gather. Loud rhythmic music with a strong backbeat resets cardiac rhythms. Lips burn from quaffing high-octane liquids that slosh from one red solo cup to the next. Arctic stares melt into steamy lascivious looks. Warm embraces beget hot kisses that lead to quivering hearts. Birds fly. Bees buzz.

People aren’t meant to hibernate. The best antidote for Winter Over Syndrome – for those of us not fortunate enough to migrate to warmer climes – is to bundle up, get outside, and warm your heart by doing something nice for someone else. It beats lying dormant at the bottom of a river next to a cold fish.

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Slumbering Kayaks on the Narrow River

Leave the Year Awake and A Wake

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Not so fast. Narrow River, RI

It’s the last day of a year that sped by at warp speed during the wholesome days and glacially when times turned harsh. Confucius said, “Time flows away like water in a river.” Some people approach life by going with the flow wherever it may take them. Not me. I know rivers. Sure, they are fun to play on and pretty to look at but they can’t be trusted. Their flow is often unpredictable and impossible to control from a boat. Rivers flow into dark and scary places, breech their banks, and and lay havoc to land. They have a perverse habit of changing everything they pass through.

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JAL & GHL Aboard Finn, Narrow River, RI

Not all of us are content, or for that matter even able, to go with the flow. Simply drifting with the current or doing what others expect us to do rarely carries anyone to our dreams. I’m at my best when on the river taking charge of my boat, going in whatever darn direction I choose. Whether speeding upstream under power or tacking sails to cross the channel there is undeniable freedom that brings great bliss. When my boat moves I disturb the flow. I leave a bow wake. It’s the essence of being awake and one with the moment. I’m set to made wakes and put 2016 astern.

I’m going to fill my sails with wind, cross currents, plow up-stream, and disregard the tug of strong ebb tides. Disturbing the flow demands being awake. I’ve

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Newport, RI

got to pay attention to where I’m going and how hard I push the boat to get there. My decisions create bow wakes as the water is forced to get out of my way. Dolphins love to leap through bow wakes. Boaters don’t. When sails fill, or paddles settle into rhythmic J strokes, or the propeller spins – it’s going to take some time to stop me. I must temper my desire for speed with the safety of others. I need to be awake and judge the impact of my wake. Sometimes the only safe thing to do will be to slow down to lessen the size of my waves and spare others from being disturbed.

We do not live in a No Wake Zone. People all around us are moving pretty fast in many directions at speeds that make waves. Our country seems set on creating a tsunami -sized wake that by the nature of change is going to disturb the flow. We are aboard a great vessel in the river of time. We’re moving away and creating lots of waves. Some will surf the bow wakes of change with great joy. Others will be caught in the rips and struggle. I’m just one sailor among many. I can only attempt to command my own boat. I’m setting a course for 2017 that will keep me awake and well aware of the wakes created whenever my actions disturb the flow. Carpe Momentum. 

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Aboard the Jamestown-Newport Ferry

Winter Solstice

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Sunrise @ The Nest over Inter Coastal Water Way, Indian Rocks Beach, FL

Solstice means, sun standing still. Or so it seems when our very own stellar wonder rises over the horizon at Stonehenge, triumphs over darkness and blesses day with light. 12/21 (a mathematical palindrome!) is the shortest day of 2016. It is exactly 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 41 seconds, shorter than the June Solstice. This means we have about 8 extra hours of darkness to snuggle by the fire, wrap gifts, and binge watch Netflix.

Today is the start of the solar year. It’s time to honor an ancient celebration of light and rebirth of the sun. The sun in its annual infancy, it’s weak and can’t produce much warmth or stay up very late. The parallels between honoring sun and a Son every December are obvious, but for the moment let’s focus on a star that’s 93 million miles away.

The longest night affords us time to look deeply into the tiny wonders of our lives. The Druids believe Solstice is a time to feel at home in the world and to be just where you belong. That’s rather Zen as it tells us to be mindful of who we are and what we are doing on this very short day. At the same time, the Druid challenge is to honor Solstice by taking a long look at whether or not our actions are just. The Druids mulled over this existential notion by slaughtering cattle that could not be fed over the long winter but could feed the entire village. Living for others is a cow’s destiny. They also celebrated the Solstice for signaling that the wine and beer brewed during the harvest were finally fermented and ready to drink. Headaches during the short days that followed appear to be one of the many the perils of winter.

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SunRise July Solstice, Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Let’s think about just being where we belong. Just what? Naughty or nice? Is being just the same as being good? Defining good is something that has deeply divided us but I’ve got a handful of notions about good.

  1. Wheels are good, as are propellers and sails. They help us get from here to there without wearing out our shoes or fins. There are wheels inside wheels and we need to roll with them because not even the sun can stand still for long. If what goes around comes around it’d better be good, less the wheel gets a flat and we go nowhere.
  2. Evergreens and mistletoe are good. They remind us of everlasting life and at least one of them smells good while the other draws kisses from those we hope smell good. Lighting up a Christmas tree reassures us that the sun will keep it’s promise to spend more time growing daylight.
  3. Long winter nights are good for quieting one’s soul from all the glare of days too crammed with “gottas” and Do Lists.
  4. Short days are good because they seed a hope that the future will be brighter. They caution us not to hope the days will be so much warmer that we fry the planet. Life is short and we’d best take good care of it and our home.
  5. It’s good to feel at home and be just where you belong. Home is where most of us, most of the time, feel loved and can love in return. That’s part of being just. We could all do well to end this year trying to be fair and reasonable, unprejudiced, and even-handed.

In fact, it would be really nice if just for today – and it’s a very short day – we could practice being just nice. Maybe if we try again tomorrow, and the day after (because after all, He knows if you’ve been a wicked pain in the celestial butt of creation or a joy to behold) being nice will become a habit. Today Earth is 3 million miles closer to the sun than we are at the June Solstice. It’s not our proximity to each other that keeps us warm, it’s the love we share wherever we are.

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Same Sun Rise – a moment later.