Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Personal Celebration... One Year And Counting

     As the new year moves forward, each of us will mark the days with a thought or memory of last year. Noting how far we have come, what has changed, what is better, what was lost, it is our natural instinct to mark the passage of time.

     This month, in only a few more days, I will be marking a special day, and will celebrate a personal achievement. It will be exactly one year since my last hospital visit. One year without pain, fevers, hospital rooms and the hopeless expressions on the faces of doctors who just don't know what else to do. I will be celebrating hospital-free good health for the first time in twelve years. I will be celebrating having my life back.

    Last January nineteenth, I walked out of Wesley Long Hospital after two surgeries and twenty nine of the longest days of my life. For the first time in years, I had hope that my kidneys and liver would last a few more years. Maybe, if all went well with my recovery, I might even wake up one morning without pain. I'll admit that I had my doubts and fears. I have been down this road before. I told myself at the very moment my son helped me maneuver my weak and tortured body into the car, that I would make this day a milestone. I would get my health and my life back, and I would give myself one year to do it.

     It's been a long journey. I knew that if I was to overcome my challenges, then I must first get my physical strength back. It sounds so simple, but when the realization strikes you that just walking down the drive way, even with the arm of a strong son to lean on, is the best you can do, it is hard not to get discouraged. None the less, everyday, I determined to go a little farther. First half a block, then to the corner, then walking alone to the next corner. It wasn't long before I could walk my dog around the block, slowly at first, but with purpose. Now it is nothing for me to walk my faithful, patient companion for an hour or more through the trails of Guilford Courthouse Park several times a week.

     I have also discovered my limitation is the process of healing. Accepting them took some concentrated effort, and I had to learn to respect new boundaries.  Jogging is out of the question for me now, as are rigorous gym workouts, but that's fine. I'm thrilled with what I can do. And even more amazed that by April of last year I was no longer in pain. A simple walk in the park is pure joy to me these days. How easy it is to take for granted what we once did without thought.

                                                                             by Gustov Klimt
    There have been other adjustments beyond the physical. Years of bad health all but destroyed my career, and my finances. I was forced to take early retirement last January. I can no longer put in the long hours I once spent on my feet, and the demands of very physical photo studio work. It would have been easier to throw in the towel. But I discovered that part of the joy and purpose in my life is my love for the creative work I do. What I found is that I'm simply not happy without it. I had to find a new direction. Using my old skills as an illustrator, I have managed to rebuild a market for my creativity. While I may be limited to working fewer hours, I find I am still able to supplement my meager retirement income with what I can do, and have always enjoyed. With effort and perseverance, I've managed to get out of debt, and have some fun along the way too.

    What is even more important to celebrate on this one year anniversary is my new found sense of what is of value. In finding my way again, reinventing and rediscovering my life, I have also discover a new balance. Things that once seemed vital, now seem an unnecessary expenditure of precious energy. I have learned to say no, without regret or guilt. I have learned the savor quiet times, and the great reward of contemplative thinking. I have learned that peace comes from within, and that like any growing thing it needs to be nurtured and cultivated. I have learned that time is a gift, and is not without end. I have learned that the true freedom of life is in the moment. It is up to me to make each day count.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

To Make Resolutions for the New Year, or Not to Make Resolutions? That is the question..

     I have always struggled with New Year's resolutions, primarily because by mid-February they are already starting to fizzle. By August, they are all but forgotten. None the less, the start of a new year always fills me with ideas of hope and possibility. Who doesn't need a fresh start now and then? The fact that we have this annual marker for saying farewell to the old and stepping into the new is always invigorating to me.
     The thing is, as years pass, I have learned that one cannot predict what the future has in store. I find it is best not to make promises to myself that are too easily waylaid by life and circumstances. I've never liked being disappointed, especially in myself. If I promise that I'm going to jog a mile every day, then break an ankle stepping off the curb, my heart will ache forever. If I decide it's time to fall in love again, but don't meet Mr. Right, how can I be anything but disappointed? This doesn't mean I don't ponder the possibilities, or even try out some new ideas. I simply find that goals work better for me than resolutions, and that those goals need to be based on things I can control with at least some small measure of certainty.
     In a recent post on my favorite blog My French Country Home, the author listed her goals (which I have shared below) for the new year, and I found them inspiring. This is the kind of list that makes sense to me, primarily because it's about being a better person, and living a richer, more rewarding life. These are things to be contemplated every day, not just at the beginning of a new year.

 laugh more - moan less

waste less - live in a more eco-friendly manner

more generosity -  less selfishness

more open-mindedness  -  less prejudice

less deciding for others - more listening to them instead

more time with real people and less in front of a screen!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Tis The Season For Families to Come Together...

    There is one thing the holiday season does unfailingly, and with the mighty force of all that is powerful. From Thanksgiving Day through the first day of the new year, it is as if the very stars in the heavens shine down as one to spotlight all that is good, bad and ugly about our families. The pull of our family ties is so mighty, we journey across town, across borders, across oceans to share the season's celebrations together, dragging all our nagging resentments, petty irritations, grudges and disappointments, right along with our crock pots, pies and presents.
   “Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we're related for better or for worse...and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”
 Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters
 It sometimes feels this tedious tradition is more an exercise in contradiction than an act of devotion, loyalty and bonding. None the less, we pour great energy and effort into the scheduling of arrivals and accommodations, the preparation of meals, the purchase of gifts, the decorating and the photographs that will document it all. All this is done so that we can unite  in restraint-mode, holding our tongues and our wise cracks to vent later with spouses and friends who sympathize. Small wonder nerves are tense, tempers flare, and the neighborhood watering hole is always packed on holiday nights. Ah yes, it is a season to celebrate family, like it or not.

One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family.”― Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated

“Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.”― Marjorie Pay Hinekley

   It has been my observation that the ordeal of returning home for the holidays doesn't take on it's true colors until that stage in life when we have moved out and on to create our own world. Somehow the new found independence, along with a partner, husband or wife, new friends and interests changes us. It's not that we're not drawn, or even long to visit our relations. It is more that we don't wish to step back into the place we were so eager to leave. We don't want to be treated like the child, the little sister, the youngest again. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we inevitably turn into the bratty little kid we always were. It's disappointing to realize that despite how far we have come in life, we have changed so little at the core. 

     For me, going home meant stepping under the scrutinizing, judgemental eye of my mother. From an early age, I understood that no matter how I tried, there was no pleasing her. If I played quietly in my room, she would prefer I was outside with friends. If I spent time with my friends, I was limiting my options. If I wore makeup, it was always too much, but without it she said I looked plain. If my hair was long, she liked it better short. If it was short, it wasn't feminine enough. When I was married, he wasn't the right man for me. When I got divorced, I had ruined his life. It took me years of living away (and a good therapist), to accept what I wanted as the right or best choice for me. Holidays were tough because I had my family issues, so it wasn't long before my own son developed family issues as well. 

     Despite it all, I always went home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. The few times my parents came to me, something always went haywire. I remember the first time they came for Thanksgiving, my oven caught on fire at the exact moment their car pulled into the driveway. While I ran the turkey next door to finish cooking, my son blasted the oven with the fire extinguisher. What a mess. All I could think about was what Mother was going to say. It was simply easier for me to go there, because I could leave when my control began to wain.

“When your mother asks, "Do you want a piece of advice?" it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway.”― Erma Bombeck

     This year is the second Christmas since Mother died, and the third since Dad passed away. I have realized that despite the old torture, I actually miss those holiday visits. There was plenty of good stuff during those visits, although I was generally to engrossed in my own thoughts to pay much attention. 

    Now, I'm the mom, and mother-in-law, visiting for the holidays. I often wonder what my daughter-in-law goes through each time I come to them. It seems I have inherited my mother's knack for triggering mini-disasters when I visit. Once it was mice in the walls, then came a leak in the bathroom. There was the burn in the kitchen flooring, and last visit the kids had been exposed to head lice. The poor woman is always a nervous wreck anticipating my reactions. At this very moment she is no doubt deep cleaning every inch of their house, rearranging furniture or painting the extra bathroom, hoping to make everything perfect. 

    I am determined to put her at ease the moment I arrive. I'll wear something that says I'm comfortable, and will avoid being so over dressed I intimidate. I understand their life is more casual then mine, and I want her to know it's alright. I really don't mind sleeping on the sofa in the family room, and I hope she will believe me this time. No apologies necessary. I'll tell her she looks pretty, and that I'm proud she's going back to school and doing so well. I'll gush over how the grandkids have grown and blossomed into such smart, well-mannered children under her good parenting. Above all, I'll be a good mother-in-law, leaving the opinions and advice at home. I'm there to enjoy their company and celebrate Christmas, and I want them to enjoy their holiday too.
When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching--they are your family.”
― Jim Butcher, Proven Guilty
     In the end, they will be glad I'm gone, and I'll be glad to get home. But no matter what, I hope we will all be happy we spent the holiday together this year.

Happy Holidays to You and to Your!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Get Out And Embrace the Season. There Is Much To Do For The Holidays In Greensboro.

     There is absolutely no reason you can't get into the holiday spirit this year. You just need to step outside your door and enjoy what is available to you in your own home town. Greensboro offers so many wonderful events and opportunities to make your season merry and bright.

  • Dec. 7-9, 14-16: The Greensboro Ballet presents THE NUTCRACKER at the Carolina Theater in downtown Greensboro. Perfect for the entire family.
  • Dec. 2: The dance connoisseur, the MOSCOW CLASSICAL BALLET presents The Great Russian Nutcracker, at the War Memorial Auditorium.

  • Dec. 10-20: Carolina Film Classics present the best loved Christmas movies at THE CAROLINA THEATER, like White Christmas, It's A Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street.
  • Now through Jan. 1: Don't miss the neighborhood LIGHTS in Sunset Hills. It will warm your heart, especially realizing that friends and neighbors come together each year to create this breathtaking presentation. Bring a non-perishable food item to put in the Food Bank cart.
  • Now through Dec. 24: A CHRISTMAS CAROL presented at Triad Stage
  • Now through Jan. 22: OUTDOOR ICE SKATING. What could be better family fun than ice skating under the glow of holiday light on a winter night. Go to Piedmont Winter Fest for hours and details.
  • GIVE SOMETHING BACK: 'Tis the season to share the bounty. Donate or volunteer at the Guilford County Food Bank, 202 Franklin Blvd., or at the Greensboro Urban Ministry. Whether you volunteer to serve meals or stock shelves, or donate non perishable food items or cash, you can rest with a warm heart knowing there will be fewer empty stomachs this season. 
     There are endless other ways to enjoy the spirit of the season. Check you newspaper for more events, enjoy holiday music at church services around the city. If you are alone this year, invite a friend to join you at one of the many restaurants serving a holiday menu. If you make the effort the rewards come back in flurries.

Happy Holidays to All!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Year I Skipped Christmas.

"Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem." 
- Linus

     We have all experience a bad year at one time or another. Each of us has commiserated with the forever-depressed character of Charlie Brown, and have carried the weight of the holidays around like a sack of coal, boo-hoo-hoo-ing when we should been fa-la-la-ing instead. The year I was "grinched" was not that long ago. It might have been the year of two thousand six, if I remember correctly, although I have tried hard to put it behind me. 

     Traditionally, I have always loved the winter holidays, starting with my favorite Thanksgiving Day feast with family. Then decorating with lights and glittery ornaments for Christmas and serving the annual roast beast to friends. Finally ending the season with a New Years Day brunch of ham, greens and black eyed peas, symbolizing abundance, money and luck. Unfortunately that particular year (in fact there were several years in a row) I felt my luck had run out, there was no money, and not a smidgen of abundance. I had lost my job after only one year and completely relocating my life. My sweet dog Bear died of kidney failure, and my seventeen year old cat passed away of old age. My horse went down with collic, and had to spend a very expensive week at the veterinary hospital in Raleigh. On top of that I had serious health issues of my own and no health insurance to cover the rising expenses. I was in debt up to my eyeballs from all the moving and medical bills. Even more devastating, I wouldn't get to see my son, daughter-in-law or grandkids during the holidays. Talk about a grouch. I didn't want to be around anyone, and I felt certain they wouldn't want to be around me. It was easy to convince myself to skip the entire six weeks, and burrow into my cave to hibernate until spring.

     Passing up Thanksgiving wasn't too difficult, as long as I stayed away from the grocery store and television. Seeing all those pecan and pumpkin pies in the bakery, and the plump turkeys who gave their all for this national celebration was hard to ignore. Imagining the mounds of mashed potatoes and stuffing, steaming rolls and butter, the succulent aromas in every kitchen across the country was agonizing. It seemed every commercial on TV was about food, every program about a family reunion. It was more than the average grinch can tolerate.  Still I did my best. I rented lots of sad movies, and passed on watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or the National Dog Show. I said no to invitations from friends, and skipped seeing nearby relatives. In the end, I was extremely lonely, and very thankful that K&W Cafeteria was open and serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal for a packed house of grumpy folks like me. One can only resist so long.

    I vowed to do better with Christmas. No decorations, no lights on the shrubbery. Not even a tree. Could there be anything more depressing? It is relatively easy in this computer age to avoid the stores and the decorations. While I did give gifts to family and friends (I wasn't so mean that I wanted others to feel my pain), I did all my shopping on-line, sending the gifts directly to the recipients. Admittedly, I missed wrapping presents and packing them into shipping boxes, with little surprises tucked in between. Buying gifts on the computer, and sending them without first wrapping them in festive paper and ribbon, or writing personal notes for each is a very hollow process. It left me feeling cold inside. Coming home at night to a dark house without a single glittery light or ornament was even more chilling. Still, I was determined to play this joyless Christmas through without a single hint of happiness. 

    I didn't send Christmas cards, and felt guilty when I received them. I put the box of homemade cookies my daughter-in-law always sends straight into the freezer, knowing full well nibbling on Christmas cookies is my favorite holiday pastime. I sent my regrets to every invitation, and even bah-humbugged the Salvation Army Buckets at the entrance to every commercial building. 

    It was the longest, coldest, most miserable holiday I can remember.My mission was accomplished.
"The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?" - The Grinch   

    I will never try a stunt like that again.

    One thing I learned is that no matter how low you feel, no matter how disappointing your year has gone, it is simply not a good idea to sidestep the winter holidays. Besides the fact that it can't actually be done unless you live in a hole in the ground, it is punishment enough that the winter days are short and the nights long and dark, holidays or not. It is also a reality that despite your own sour-grapes attitude, the celebrations will go on without you. You can't avoid what has been happening with regularity for centuries, be it Christmas, Hanukah, the Winter Solstice, or Festivus (although that particular celebration began just a decade or two ago, when George's dad made it so). 

    My best advice for surviving the season: Reach out and embrace what cannot be ignored.

   Deck the halls and trim the tree. Wrap the gifts, be they large or small. Prepare the goose and share the feast. Sing, celebrate and spread good cheer. Put a penny or a dollar in the donation box, serve meals to the needy or help a neighbor with a chore. Gather your family and friends, and be generous with  the warmth of sharing. I guarantee that your winter blues will melt away, your season will be merry, and the New Year bright. 

Toast to the season, this year and every year. The spirit of the holidays will brighten your mood, and bring happiness to your life. While it may not get you a new job, fill your bank account, or solve your problems, it will definitely improve your attitude and your ability to cope with everyday challenges in the coming year.
Season's greetings, joy, happiness and light to you and yours!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Winds They Are A Changin'...

"Any fool can carry on, but a wise man knows how to shorten sail in time." - Joseph Conrad

Day Four - With the morning comes a change in the wind and a change in the pace of the race.

     Sleeping in a tiny bunk below deck on a moving ship seems like sleeping under water. With the sounds of waves lapping against the hull next to my head, the gurgling of bubbles rolling up as the keel cuts through the water, muffled voices from the crew above shouting out signals to one another, I feel a bit like a fish in an aquarium. Combined with the gentle rocking as the boat tilts and rolls with the waves, the effect brings on a tranquil twilight sleep, not deep but comforting and restful. More like a nap in the sun than a night of solid rest.

    When I finally surface to greet the day, I note a decided difference in the energy on deck. The sky is still cloudless, the wind blows steady from the North, and the sails are taught and straining. We are moving at a good clip, and white caps dot the bay. I can feel the chop and am reminded of Captain's instruction to keep one hand on the ship and one hand free to grip. Walking about takes a bit more balance and attention. Passengers are asked to keep the isles along the rails clear for the crew to move about freely. Their work is more demanding today, keeping sails adjusted and secure to take best advantage of the wind. This will a more exciting day of sailing without a doubt.

     We are more alone today. The other schooners have spread out in every direction. Just specks on the horizon. We're not the last boat in the race, but there are definitely more ahead of us than behind. The smaller vessels are completely out of sight. The new winds are giving them real advantage, and greater challenge. Our own movement is steady and mostly even, simply due to size and weight. It occurs to me that if I am to try the open Atlantic for my next sailing adventure, I may want to choose an even larger vessel, perhaps with three or four masts. While this ship feels very safe, we are only experiencing chop, and not serious ocean swells, yet our rolls and tilts are still significant. I believe the larger the body of water, the larger the ship would be a good rule of thumb. I remember crossing the Pacific as a child on our way to Japan, watching the port hole in our cabin as it framed sky and then sea for hours on end in rough seas. What would boat the size of the Liberty Clipper, or smaller be subject to in a storm?  Little did I know I was about to find out.

     As the day moves on, the wind increases as does the chop. When the crew must tack the sails, passengers are asked to go below or aft. The task takes all hands, and no interruption. The beam swings fast and hard with a pop, lines fly, snap and strain. Anyone standing too near or in just the wrong spot could easily receive a fatal blow. I'm impressed with the efficiency and focus of the crew. They work as one, quick and responsive. Hearing the zing and bang of the mast as it swings wide, and seeing the power of the wind strain against the sails, feeling the force of our new direction and speed, I am even more respectful of the captain and his young crew. They know what they are doing, and do their jobs well. It's easy to understand why when on board a ship, the captain is the commander, and the crew and passengers never question his commands. There is no time, and no room for argument, discussion or hesitation. The relationship between a captain and his crew must be one of trust, respect and dedication. Captain depends on his crew to take his orders and do their job without fail, and they in turn rely on his expertise, reflexs and steadfast resolve to make the right choices. There are no opportunities for second opinions, experimentation, or do-overs. Every action must be quickly calculated, systematic and precise. Anything less could easily mean disaster.

     By four o'clock in the afternoon, winds are blowing at gale force (34-47 knots, or 39 to 54 miles per hour). Behind us black clouds spread across the horizon as the sun begins its descent. The tone on deck is more intense, and voices are hushed. Saltwater sprays across the deck as the bow rises and plunges over rising swells. Some guests move in to the salon for warmth as the temperature is dropping fast, and for cocktails to calm fluttering nerves. Others go below to their cabins for dry clothing. My brother and I, along with a few others find perches aft, where we are out of the way of the crew and the sea spray but can still watch the activities and hear the captain, as well as radio communications with other ships.
"Only fools and passengers drink at sea."- Allan Villiers

     Close to five o'clock an urgent message comes over the radio that there is a boat in trouble ahead of us. There is a man overboard. The Coast Guard is on its way. The Cuchulain, a 44 foot schooner a little less than half the size of the Liberty Clipper, had a boom crack, then strike a crew member when it broke, knocking him into the water. He was not wearing a life vest. Fortunately his windbreaker filled with air and kept him afloat. Crew members went in after him, but had great difficulty in the rough sea getting him safely back on board. It wasn't until much later in the evening that we heard the sad conclusion to this crisis. When the Coast Guard arrive the crewman was unconscious, and despite the airborne rescue and resuscitation attempts they were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital.

     Captain asked us all to go below. The dinner bell rang soon after, and while we all welcomed the comfort of a hearty meatloaf and mashed potato meal, we ate mostly in silence, contemplating this frightening event and confronting our own, until now, dormant fears. It wasn't long after eating that the mood in the salon began to shift as full bellies, wine and cocktails began to work their magic. Soon there were songs being sung and laughter filling the room. Spirits, like the wind, can change so quickly when there are few other alternatives, transforming fear into revelry and cheer in an instant. What a wonderful human survival instinct, that turns worry into smiles at least temporarily. 

     For me however, the rolling of the ship, along with the stuffy warm air of the salon were the wrong combination. My stomach began to reel with the waves, and my rapidly greening skin tone cleared a wide path through the raucous passengers. Cook handed me a bucket as I leaped up the ladder to the galley and fresh air. None too soon. So much for a hearty dinner. I remained gripping the galley doorway and my bucket for the next hour as we rolled and pitched in the darkness. My sweet brother came up to check on me several times, once bringing me lemon slices to suck on to settle my lurching stomach, and later some ginger ale. He was beginning to look a little green around the gills himself.

     Out on deck, I heard Captain giving orders to drop and secure sails. Crew scurried back and forth, shouting orders to each other, coiling ropes, and tying off lines. Waves splashed over the deck and the wind howled. Our ship jerked and listed first to one side, then the other. There was much pitching and rolling. My knuckles were white where my fingers held fast to the doorway. Soon the engines came on, and with them the boat leveled off and calmed. The First Mate came in and announce that with regret, the captain had lowered all sails and turned on the engines. This disqualified us from the race, but the safety of all on board was more important than the race. He also announced the details of the accident on the Cuchulain. 

     It seemed the winds began to calm then, as did the waves. It was safe to return on deck, although most passengers retreated to their cabins for an early night. I went down below only long enough to grab my Dramamine tablets, wash my face and brush my teeth. I knew fresh air would be better for my stomach that a stuffy cabin. Along with a few other, including my brother, we returned to our places near the stern to let the cool wind wash over us as the sky cleared and stars began to fill the sky. It is amazing how quickly weather on the water can change from one extreme to another. We remained on deck for several hours watching the light show above our heads, quiet with our individual thoughts. It was a moonless night, but a million stars were visible so far from the interfering lights of civilization. We saw satellites and constellation, even a giant meteor burning its way through the atmosphere. It was truly spectacular. Sometime after midnight, we began to see lights on the distant horizon, and knew we were not far from our final destination. It was time to sleep while we could. One by one we ambled below to leave the crew and captain to their thoughts and some much needed rest. We pulled into Portsmouth around four-thirty in the morning. Once moored, all was quiet until dawn.
     The morning dawned as a cloudless, crisp fall day, with almost no wind at all. It was hard to believe the events of the previous day were real, and not some nightmare imaginings. I will continue to be amazed by the quick transitions of the weather and the wind, and the tragedy left in their wake.

     It was a good feeling to leave the Liberty Clipper, now safely docked in a permanent slip for the day. We were a laughable sight trying to steady our sea legs and regain our equilibrium on dry land. The swaying in my head would last for several more day, and I now understand why sailor newly in port always stumble about looking just a bit tipsy.  The motion of the sea leaves lasting impressions in so many ways.
None the less, Jim and I ventured into Portsmouth to see what the historic colonial port had to offer. If we had a dollar for every cobblestone and crack we tripped over along the way, we would have had a pocket full of bills!

    Portsmouth is a quaint seaport town that was first settled as a plantation community in 1620, and was developed into a bustling port and shipbuilding town by Colonel William Crawford around 1760. Now the city has a population of around ninety-five thousand, and is home to the Norfolk Naval Station.  The historical downtown district showcases beautifully restored colonial homes of various styles. Many grand churches of all denominations, and numerous civic buildings and a nautical museum. The waterfront area has some charming shops and restaurants. You can also enjoy a local Farmer's Market open on Saturdays, with baked goods, crafts and local produce. Colonel Crawford himself strolls around the old courthouse, ready to share the towns colorful history and stories of its eccentric characters. Its a delightful place to spend a weekend soaking in the sea air and colonial port city culture.

     Finally the time has come to share one
more meal with our captain and crew, as well
as all the other Chesapeake Bay Schooner
Race race friends and crews. Roasted bay
oysters, barbeque, beer and music create a
festive atmosphere. This is followed by the
official award ceremony and a moment of
silence and prayer for the tragic loss of fellow
sailor and longtime friend of many in this
close knit community. I was proud to be a
part of it for a few days, and will cherish the
experience and memories for years to come.
    The Liberty Clipper will head out on
Monday with a few additions to the crew and
new passengers sailing on to Charleston, then

 off to the Bahamas for the summer. 
Ahoy and safe sailing,
 and many thanks to all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Winds They Do Blow... First From The South, And Then From The North

" One ship sails east and another sails west
With the self-same winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sail and not the gale
Which determines the way they go.
As the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As we voyage along through life,
Tis the act of the soul that determines the goal, 
And not the calm or the strife.
 -Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Journey Continues...
Day 3 - Rise early and make way for the starting line. 

     Finally, race day is here. It seems we've already had an adventure of sorts with our train trip and tour of Baltimore, but today begins the true purpose of our journey.

    There is an excitement in the air as we Boomer passengers stumble our way on deck, 
                                         stretching out the kinks and creeks. Our crew 
scurries about with focused intensity making ready to set sail. The wonderful scent of brewing coffee and frying bacon wafts up from the galley. The sky is cloudless, the winds from the south and gentle.  Conversation is soft, if there is any at all, as we each commune with our thoughts and the one hundred thirty miles of water that await. I am surprised to see such quick-footed movement from these young sailors who yesterday moved as if under water, the same crew who shuffled aboard in the wee-hours muffling their giggles and chatter. They are here to work now and they are serious, despite throbbing heads and thick tongues from their night of revelry and merriment. Youth is their best defense against the weariness, the crisp morning air and glistening sunlight just the jolt to brighten spirits and charge the body. For the next forty-eight hours their skills and training, endurance and expertise, even their patience, will be tested. This is why they are here, and why I am here to be part of it.                       

     Other tall ships are beginning to stir, other crews bustling about making ready, as thirty seven other boats begin moving slowly out of the marina. The muffled sounds of engines purring, diesel fumes on the breeze. We will motor out of Baltimore Harbor and into the open channels of the Chesapeake Bay before hoisting sails. With winds from the south as they are, I doubt we will cut the engine until we cross the official start line - when it is mandatory. We will race under sails only. Until then, we're going to need whatever boost we can manage to reach the start in reasonable time.

It's a pretty good sign that when the paddle boarders are keeping pace with the sailing vessels that you will be going no where fast on this day. Four hours into ours trip and we have only just reached the starting line. Time for lunch and a nap in the sun. I'll admit to feeling a bit of disappointed with the wind, but any good sailor knows it's best to enjoy
the calm while it lasts, because it will change, and the change will no doubt be extreme.

      The afternoon rolls by as slowly as the waves against the hull and the gentle flapping of the sails. I can't say I have any complaints. The sun was warm, the conversation relaxed, and my guilt for not having touched my writing project or the book I brought along seems meaningless. We all feel very spoiled and very rich on this glorious day. Around four o'clock there is a brief flurry of activity as we approached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and open water beyond. Cook brings out a tray of dips and crackers, and the bar  officially opens. What a delightfully lazy day. While I know the crew is working hard, tacking often, and trimming sails to catch whatever breeze they can, I for one simply enjoy the salt air and sunshine, and sharing memories with my brother about the times our father took us out fishing in our little sixteen foot Grady White in these same waters. Then we were tossed about like a bath toy, but today the sea was easy.

"At sea, I have learned how little a person needs, not how much."  Robin Lee Graham

Day 4 - Another glorious day, and the winds they are a changin'...                  To Be Continued...