Sunday, May 24, 2015

Somewhere Near the Outer Margins of the Grid

I doubt it's possible in this age of technology to achieve life completely off of the grid... You know, somewhere just short of an uncharted island with a volleyball named Wilson.

Living in the marina of a medium-sized town, we don't even come close to that degree of disconnection. However, we do try our best much of the time and comparatively, we're better off than six years ago when we occupied a 4,000 sq. foot house with three cars and a whole lot of stuff.

For those who've read my latest book, you're no doubt familiar with the reasons why we sought life on the margins. For those who are not familiar with our story, just know that we had good reason. (you can find out more by clicking this Goodreads link). 

Suffice to say that in 2009, we sold our Seattle house, downsized onto a 63-ft, 92-year-old boat and began a much different kind of existence. And here I write 'began' as it is an unfinished, continuous process--one that is fluid with victories and defeats that occur simultaneously.  Nevertheless, it is a process--a journey and that is what I value the most.

It is true that I occasionally miss the busy-ness of my former lifestyle. As a natural-born entrepreneur and chronic multi-tasker, I really did enjoy running my small business while establishing a non-profit and building up a board of directors. I had five children at home with countless friends and schoolmates in and out of the doors at all hours for many years.  I chatted and counseled daily with dozens of pregnant women and new mothers--over 5,000 families by the time I closed my business. And once we moved away from the frenetic city, I satisfied my craving for organizing and creating things by becoming the mate on a tall ship charter boat spending several years marketing, training crew, helping the captain to run operations ashore and onboard the Zodiac.

By contrast, we now live quite a slow-paced existence on our own little vessel. I spend quiet days writing and working on wooden boats. All but one of my children are grown and leading their lives in other towns and states with the youngest preparing to move away for college next year. Days go by before I realize I've not stepped foot on terra firma (as long as I don't count our floating docks). Our lives are made even more simple and removed from the affairs of land and I am becoming increasingly receptive to the lure of open water, the solitude, immediacy and simplicity of cruising offshore.

I began to ponder about this way of life earlier in the week, when one of our neighboring fishermen gave us several tuna and a Mahi Mahi (a way of thanking Jeffery for some carpentry work he'd recently completed on their boat). I garnished the fish with several Meyer's lemons we received as a gift from our cruising liveaboard dockmates. The planters of herbs I keep on our boat deck provided plenty of seasoning for our meal.  It dawned on me, how much I appreciate the way I cook now and the manner in which we obtain it. (I am baking sourdough bread as I write this post and plan to walk it down to our Alaska-bound friends on the Debra D to take north with them).

Sure, these occurrences are certainly no different from any land-based community, I admit. Yet it is the zen-ness of life on the dock, the transitory nature of all things boat related that makes them seem so special. Jeff once remarked that he loved the sailing lifestyle and enjoyed crewing on the Zodiac because one has the opportunity to meet so many new and interesting people and there's so much fascinating stuff to talk about and share, and then you pull your anchor or toss up your lines right before you've stayed too long. I think he summed it up best by saying, "I get to know people just enough to appreciate them but not long enough to get to really dislike any of them." To that I would add, that you're fully aware you'll be separating soon enough, so you actively look for those things in others that you're able to enjoy and don't bother with the things that don't really matter.

 As Bilbo Baggins is wont to say, "It's no bad thing celebrating a simple life."

Dramatic change it seems, has a way of following our family, always looking to get it's foot in the door. One of the universities to which our youngest has applied is the U. of Otago, on the southern island of New Zealand. As we draw closer to the time when she'll learn if she'll be heading to the southern hemisphere, that old familiar urge to disconnect is growing stronger once again. We've always wanted to move to New Zealand and Jeffery and I have often talked about sailing to the south Pacific. Our conversations evolve into downsizing yet again, to that of refitting Sugaree for open water cruising... to wrapping up our commitments on land... to starting another adventure, inching off that damn grid just a wee bit more each time we do.

I've got some trepidation about my ability to be completely alone without the distractions that I say I loathe but sometimes crave. I'm eager to unplug and yet anxious about the degrees of our disconnection.

Who knows what's in store for us, but it is the myriad of possibilities out there that keep me going.

~ Chris


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