Alton Pool Ice Flow 2/23/14
Photo by JAL


Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, Hiroshige Utagawa
Courtesy of University of Waikato

Flights into and out of Chicago last week were cancelled due to bad weather. I adjusted my plans by booking a later flight directly to Detroit. The winter weather was ominous. The temperature fluctuated from 43º in the late morning to 72º mid-afternoon. In the Midwest we know this as “tornado weather.” Sure enough, the skies suddenly blackened, winds bucked. Within minutes the temperature plummeted 30 degrees and tornado alerts began crawling across the TV. The evening flight was bound to be delayed and turbulent. I was an unsettled, agitated traveler who was in for a rough ride to the Motor City.


Airplane Vortex
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Most fliers, with the exception of my husband, detest turbulence, those sudden, violent movements encountered when the plane hits what pilots languidly describe with their Texan drawls as “a little bumpy patch of air.” White knuckled passengers can be divided into God fearing penitents and those who figure their number’s up or it isn’t and smugly chug the rest of their drinks before they’re spilled or evaporated. Nobody wearing a seat belt actually dies of commonplace turbulence because it simply doesn’t have the power to crash planes – it’s lot in life is to just terrify passengers into thinking they’re going down.


Sioux Harbor Storm Brewing
Photo JAL

Turbulence is part of living whether you’ve ever flown or not. Sudden swirls and eddies in routines create great commotion and upset our emotional wellbeing. When relationships depart from the smooth flow of comfortable compatibility to an irregular fluctuation due to miscommunication, emotional unavailability or conflict we get agitated and can’t think of much else. Some people get into a sense of flow regarding the turbulence and focus their motivation on getting the relationship back on course and moving along as it had and should. Whether these relationships are work bound or personal, turbulence can unsettle the most stalwart among us. Like aircraft, we’re built to handle the turbulent flow of life.

Only about 20 out of 800 million US passengers (not counting the flight crews bustling down isles with those essential peanuts) are injured by turbulence in any given year. More people are hurt by emotional turbulence – worrying about things they can’t control, stress, grief, conflict – which prevents them from thinking about and acting on other good things in their lives. It’s estimated that as global warming continues, air turbulence will double – so the older we get the bumpier the ride is going to be. Life, like the wind and water is full of turbulence. Relationships with ourselves and others include regular incidences of turbulence. We’ve got to understand that just as wind turbulence doesn’t crash planes emotional turbulence shouldn’t kill us.

This weekend I heard the river flow. It was full of mini-icebergs jockeying in the turbulent current for position as they raced towards New Orleans. The air was filled with static that was similar to the sound of Ship to Shore or AM radios – agitated, confused, cold and ominous noise. I envisioned the terror of falling in – sinking into the frigid black depths, then bobbing to surface only to have my skull crushed by oncoming ice and being unable to hold on to any of the ice chunks – drowning. It was a scary sound, softer than the winds that blast ahead of a cold front, quieter than shuddering joints of an aircraft as it slams through the jet stream. It was the unsettling sound of nature on the move and the turbulent wind that sent me scuttling off the dock back into Palisades.

Once inside – safe and warm – the view of the ice flow was majestic. A pod of pelicans soared playfully on air currents above the ice flow as the setting sun reflected off pure white light from their feathers. A week ago the harbor was a solid block of ice and today it was disappointing to see the river’s ice-free current carrying trees and debris south. On my next flight, it will be good to remember how quickly icebergs disperse and that pilots are trained to handle rough spots. I’ll relax and think about where most of my life is spent – being in the smooth flow – comfortably in the groove.


Newport RI, Going with the Wind and Air Flow
Photo JAL

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