In celebration of the solstice with the Persian tradition of seeking the divination of Hafez and for my lovely friend Leila whose visit conjured up good times past, contemplated who we have been and become, and inspired possibilities of days ahead…
All the Hemispheres
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
One of These Things First --Nick Drake - Nick Drake
I must have wished all this in another life to wake up with the dream of it in this. I must have lit a candle with all my intentions and set it afloat on a paper boat to sea so that it may find this other me.
How else can I explain the design unfolding itself with every step?
Eleven years ago, on a whim I bought sailing lessons as a birthday gift for my husband. B. and I enjoyed four weekends of instruction on the Hudson River and received our basic keel boat certification. Before that, I had only been on a sailboat twice—a couple of sunset sails off the coasts of Maine and Hawaii as any diligent tourist is apt to do. For months after our class, B. scoured the classifieds looking to buy a small boat that we could trailer and take out for day sails. I wasn’t on board and couldn’t see sailing in our life chalking up his interest as another fleeting hobby that would add more clutter and complexity to an already fully loaded life we were struggling to manage. I bought him a canoe for his next birthday as consolation instead.
I didn’t sail again until six years ago and many turns in life later. As an adventure vacation I chartered a sailboat and a captain/instructor in the Virgin Islands with Allison. For a week we spent our days island hopping and enjoying the beautiful scenery, warm weather, and clear waters and our evenings anchored in charming little bays taking the dinghy ashore for dinner or a night cap with locals and cruisers. I returned with more certifications and an imagination, enamored with the bliss of easy living on the water and the grace of full sails in the sunshine.
Back to work and carrying on with the busyness of life, thoughts of sailing would drift in and out only in passing. Even with masts in the marina and sailboats on the bay as my landscape, most days they served as no more than just a beautiful backdrop to my life. Every now and then, I would get a burger and sit for hours watching the boats come and go and in the calm of it all sort out my troubles and thoughts. In all that time, the dream must have been building silently and without much ado because I remember a day four years ago when naturally and without any predetermination I spoke of it aloud—amidst turmoil at work declaring to my boss that at the next career decision point I was likely to leave it all and go sailing. I’m certain he dismissed it as another one of my bursts of hyperbole. For me, it served as a promise made, as an alternative vision to the seemingly endless pursuit of making a living that felt like more of the same no matter how you sliced it.
Last year this time, the fork in the road appeared as did renewed thoughts of a life at sea. I was tired, tapped out, and restless looking for a change of pace. With nothing biting after a few months of putting in a good faith effort (albeit half hearted) to either find a new job or resettle carrying on with things as they were, I figured this may be the time to call my own bluff. Cancelling a trip to New Orleans, I sequestered myself for two weeks drawing out the vision, researching, plotting. Ultimately emerging with a plan for change of lifestyle complete with the requisite goals, lists and spreadsheets, financial plans, phases, milestones, activities, modeled into scenarios A through D, the dream was articulated, designed and made tangible. I was convinced and committed and the leap of faith simplified to a state of mind.
Today, I am sitting on my beautiful blue water cruising boat, Onyx, exactly six months after my last day of work and the beginning of this new venture. Having just completed an amazing 900-mile maiden voyage from Seattle to San Francisco, I am flush with confidence, feeling validated, empowered, and blessed. Incredulously, I ponder what I have accomplished, learned, and experienced in this short time and how it unfolded as if part of a fully elaborated design that my grandest imagination or plans could have only made out as a fading outline on the horizon. Mostly, I am amazed and truly humbled by the good fortune of having arrived here without much resistance and how the world having heard of my wishes and intentions has been with me, accommodating and affirming every step along the way.
The next six to nine months will be busy with preparations for getting underway for long term cruising and the full realization of the dream of living a life at sea. Between here and there, it is mostly logistics, more learning, and more doing without much extraordinary intervention needed. Good news is I am committed, have a craving and aptitude for learning, and excel at logistics. Break it down, figure it out, line it up, and get it done.
What may not be as straight forward is keeping the anticipation of the dream and the expectations from surging into anxious energy or spiraling into inertia. I catch myself in the restlessness and waiting between one step and next when my mind wanders. I wonder and sometimes worry. A thousand questions, each a thousand presumed outcomes, distracting my focus and eroding my resolve. I am learning this too—to trust a reality made only of my wishes.
How much simpler it would be instead to count and recount blessings and confluences like sheep before sleeping. So that I may always remember the dream upon waking. So that I may know the world is mine and with me. So that I may be at peace in anticipation of the dreams realized.
Today, almost three decades after landing in Boston and having lived many lives in many cities since, I was naturalized as a citizen of the United States of America along with 916 other immigrants from 100 countries. The grand Gatsby art deco extravagance of Oakland’s Paramount Theatre of the Arts especially added to the awe and ambiance as teary-eyed I recited the Oath of Allegiance…
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Every immigrant has their own story and ambition. I may never truly know my father’s reason for bringing us to America though I have to believe it was moving enough to overcome inertia of leaving your home, country, and everything you know for the unknown you can only imagine. Perhaps it’s not much different from the intangible desire I have to chance a life at sea. Perhaps it’s simply the liberty to pursue a life of happiness.
There is a sense of bliss that has come with all of this…the way you may suddenly notice the absence of what was once subconsciously looming. I never fully acknowledged the possibility of being without a country but it has always been there, lingering, unresolved, looking over a shoulder.
Today, I am lighter and the feeling of freedom is as tactile as possibility of life beyond borders.