Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life is What Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, wrote that it is impossible to live in the "now" because even when you say the word, it is already in the past.
I ponder on that statement quite a lot.

Our year progresses and the usual signs point to the beginning of the  PNW cruising season. Preparations of both sailors and their vessels can be witnessed at the marina and in the local marine stores. The amount of energy and expense bent on the singular purpose of "getting out there" is highly impressive.

As Jeff and I race to replace some leaky deck planks on Kwaietek and block out a few of our upcoming weekends to repair Sugaree's mainsail and anchor-chain roller, I feel the anticipation with every sunny forecast that scrolls across my phone's weather app. So many chores to finish... so many plans to make... so many expectations about what this season will be like.

This morning I woke to heavy rainfall. The percussion off our plastic winter cover accentuated the rain's brittle patter. I caught myself listening to the quality of the drips that made it through the holes in our diminished cover. A gust of wind could be heard rushing past the masts, it built in intensity and then blew itself out somewhere over the old refinery. Kwaietek rolled back and forth noncommittally, she'd weathered bigger gusts this winter. Somewhere over on D-dock I could hear the sound of a fishboat's generator. Our bilge-pump ran for a few seconds and then clicked off with the familiar gurgle of remaining seawater that failed to make it overboard.

I crawled out of the blankets--annoying Lucky Jack who'd been perched atop my stomach since Jeff and Juliet had departed over half an hour ago. He blinked and then tilted his head toward the bag of 'Whisker Lickins' as if to say, Well, you're up now, make yourself useful. Upon downing his morning snack, he settled into the top shelf of my closet to wait out the storm. 
                                                                 .  .  .  .  .  . 

 I'm thinking again now about Heidegger's statement while I sip my coffee. These past five years of living on the water have changed us greatly. Perhaps it is because of the sudden clamor to finish projects and the super-charged atmosphere of expectancy in the marina... but I'm very aware of how differently we look at life nowadays. It is a good way to live--possibly the closest to being in the Now that we have ever been.

The sounds and smells, the colors and various temperatures of the world around us are so elemental to our waking selves--an integration of the senses that we've adapted as we moved onto the water that make up this change. For practical purposes, it is our very survival that depends on this change. Everything from watching our water intake and output to how the dock lines sound at any given moment. These are just some of the necessities of boat life. Yet the unforeseen benefits are the many nuances and instinctual knowing of our world.

When I am on a boat and away from shore, there is little effort that is required to live immediately. The patterns of ripples on the water ahead are of ultimate importance to me... the formations of clouds and the color of the sky--consciousness occurs innately. Even now, I can imagine the sounds I hear when we are on the water; the brief whispers that occur split seconds before a killer whale surfaces, the pre-dawn splashes of seals hunting, the rapids-like chatter of a rip-tide, our anchor chain grinding against the rocky seabed and the absolute lack of sound during a night-watch on a starry night.

I recognize this reordering of my priorities and try to be as present as often as possible. However, even as live-aboards we get distracted all too many times. I look forward to tossing off our docklines and disconnecting; no more Facebooking, no more political blogs or blaring music from neighboring boats. If there was only a way to bottle the tranquility one obtains from sailing in order to save for the rest of the year... well, Heidegger would be pleased indeed.

The difference between Being and just being can be found in those moments--the ones in between what we have done or thought and what we are about to do or think. Right now, I'm grateful that we have our boat-life and our cruising time to remind me of this. Someday I may evolve enough so that I can live that way no matter where I am... or maybe not. I suppose that's why I read Heidegger.

... Hear that? The rain has stopped. 


  1. Chris, I am envious of the enlightened immediacy of your life. I've only lived one week in such a way (aboard the Lady Washington), but your words sound so familiar to me. Thank you for such a wonderful composition. I shall be thinking much on it today.

  2. This post is awesome as this is motivated people to live every single day and moment of your life. we should try to live a life like you suggested in this blog for our relaxation.