Yesterday, a Kingfisher landed on our boat. It must have soared on a breeze which had carried it out to sea. When it spotted us 30 nautical miles out into the ocean, it had to make several attempts before it found a semi-comfortable spot to sit. For a bird used to riding smooth drafts of wind, being on a bouncy boat must have been like riding on old wooden roller coaster. It sat there, shivering, holding on tightly, refusing food. The poor little thing looked exhausted. Two hours later, about 10 nm from the harbor, the soft warm land-air suddenly touched us, and within a few minutes, our welcome little guest had departed.
Can you imagine the story our Kingfisher could be telling? Being caught out toward the open ocean, finding this big white bird to rest on, being carried back to a familiar scent? What an adventure this must have been for our little visitor.
I remember standing in the kitchen of a mountain home one holiday weekend. Three friends sharing why they married their husbands – one word only. Answers: “sensitivity”, “stability”, and “adventure”. Any guesses which was mine?
Marrying Scott (after having been together for barely 6 weeks over a 2 year time period) and moving to the US was my first big step towards adventure. Of course, every day of our life can be experienced as “full of adventure”. As a mother, I certainly found that naming yet another episode in which your child tests your limits “an adventure” put a different spin on the situation and made it easier to deal with. The same applies to marriage, or any other social or other situation. I do however also think that “true adventure” is the kind that gives the real thrill when being confronted with a totally new and unfamiliar situation, the kind that makes you assess your situation, makes you reassess your knowledge, tests your limits, necessitates new learning, and puts you in touch with a sense of awe at the overwhelming beauty of it all.
This trip of ours is giving us new and exciting adventures every day, and sometimes more than once a day. Most of it I love. Finding the right spot to anchor, trying to get a mooring so you don't have to anchor. Snorkeling, letting the kids and Scott snorkel and reading a book myself in peace and quiet. Finding the things you like in yet another strange supermarket, exploring a new town. Walking everywhere, renting a car and saving your feet. Looking at the Star Wars DVD for the millionth time, visiting the local museums. Having a curious little fish following you along while snorkeling, loosing a big hungry fish off the fishing line.
Sailing along happily in perfect conditions, fighting the wind and waves ... ?
No, not that one. I'm still trying to come to terms with large waves and strong winds. Both of them combined create an immense struggle inside me to fight all the primitive and irrational fears that life deep inside. This leaves me physically exhausted, questioning if I can go through with this trip. Of course, I understand that is what sailing is about. I know there will be days like that. But what is going on and how to change what I feel, what I fear? I have know from the first hatching of our idea to go cruising that what lies at the heart of this issue is what motivated me to pursue this change in life style in the first place.
It has everything to do with the struggle between body/mind AND spirit/soul/heart.
One side of me revels in making a nest and enjoying the comforts of the relatively easy and quiet life that living in middle class Western society affords. But there is a different ME inside also. Deep inside my heart I've always wanted to become a doctor, abandon life as I've known, go off to a tropical jungle or scorching desert to help people. I wanted to find out what LIFE is really about. My soul wanted to “safe the world”, wanted to help in taking “evil” out of life. I was very fortunate receive a deeply loving and nurtured upbringing, which kept the possibility of reaching those ideals alive, but somehow I could not muster the courage to take that step yet.
Taking the step to go on my first big adventure started opening a door. Growing older and meeting the people I met along the way kept the process going. My desire to find knowledge and understanding became stronger and stronger. The need to explore the rest of the world and try to make some sense of my purpose on this planet grew and grew. I've always felt a "world citizen". I've believed for a long time that the only way to live in harmony with our beautiful planet and all the creatures on it, and in the process stop destroying it all, is to experience life beyond the confines of place and time we all life within. Even though I do believe that peace certainly needs to start with yourself and those around you, it needs to then keep on developing, to include ALL. Like most of us, I've always felt very uncomfortable with inequality, power-hungriness, shortsightedness and evil predominating in the world. I have never been able to accept that this is a condition one just has to accept, that fundamentally this is what life is. If we claim to be on the top of the pyramid, it is our responsibility to give the right example in the quest for a cooperative, loving, compassionate, selfless world.
it is possible to create that kind of world. I once read the
“On perception: This was written to give individuals glimpses into the alternate patterns of reality. It was meant to serve as a map that would lead, not into another objectified universe per se, but into inner roads of consciousness. These inner roads or strands of consciousness bring elements into play so that it becomes possible to realize that the content of a given objectified universe may actually be perceived quite differently. You are part of what you perceive. When you alter the focus of your perception, you automatically change the objectified world. It is not simply that you perceive it differently while it remains the same, regardless of your experience. THE ACT OF PERCEPTION ITSELF HELPS FORM THE PERCEIVED EVENT AND IS PART OF IT.”
This is one of my great life lessons to learn. If I can believe and make this happen in our sailing travels, if I can conquer my fears of the unknown, if I can take it day by day, if I can focus on feeling the ever present delight in meeting new people, in discovering new places, in trusting in the Universe, in trusting that it will all be all right in the end ... Trusting that it will be all right. Believing in a co-operative, loving, compassionate world ... what promises that could bring! However hard it is, and however easy to forget, it has to be possible.
The sailing community so far has already brought us in contact with people from around the world. People ready to visit and chat, share experiences, give advise, lend a helping hand. We've met Australians (one would be hard pressed to avoid meeting those outgoing and easy-going folks), Dutch, Danish, Austrians, Germans, Americans, Singaporean, Brazilians ... of all ages and walks of life. All of them have a story to tell. Some just charted a boat for the first time, some have been cruising up and down the coast of Australia, some have sailed to far away and isolated places, some have sailed around the world (or more than once). There is a sense of shared adventures, a sense of a world community. That's been heartwarming.
Meagan and Dwight taught us how to play Cricket on the beach at Turtle Bay in the Whitsundays, and as they had just moved to our favorite town of Noosa, we made an immediate connection. Irene and Jim (who grew up in Noosa!) were so sweet to help me to try to figure out our SSB radio and made for many a good conversation. Linda and Jock let us borrow their daughter Shayla so Nikki would have a little friend to hang around with, organized dock-parties, made pancakes with our kids,and let them watch the Simpsons on their “telly”. Lars had lots of boat related advice, and a funny sense of Danish humor. His Brazilian girlfriend Michelle gave us in a quiet way another look at family life and at choices one makes. Seventy year old Fritz (an Austrian who had been a ski-instructor in his younger years and had once broken off his relationship with one of the Vanderbilt girls. He felt he was too young to get married at 21 - can you imagine?), had recently returned from his cruising trip to Antarctica and made us see that there are a lot more years left to live this kind of life. Joop and Annelies brought some Dutch “gezelligheid” and straightforward cruising attitude. Len and his Cheryl (you won't believe this, but she is also from Noosa!) were wonderful neighbors and Len even sailed with Scott for a day, testing out the new autopilot, while I was visiting our friend Dianna in Noosa (yes, really) for a long weekend.
Now that you've heard enough of Noosa and how that place keeps on popping up in our lives ... another great incident of coincidence took place in Townsville this past week. In the laundry room at the marina one evening, I noticed a piece of paper advertising a book called “Pacific High. Australien - Alaska und zuruck.” You can imagine my surprise and subsequent determination to locate this book: a book in German about a family that sailed from Australia to Alaska! The next day at the Chart store, there it was, on the shelf. Opening it up revealed a map following almost exactly the route Scott and I have been staring at all this time: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Japan, Alaska, Western American coastline, and back to Australia. This was just too much, and I decided to call them to see if I could talk with them a bit about their experiences. Well, they were so friendly to invite us over for dinner, and we had a most delightful evening. Torsten and Silke Hartmann sailed with their 17 year old son Klaas and 11 year old daughter Britta. They absolutely loved those years, and had many stories to tell and information to impart. Japan and Alaska are especially favorites. Both Torsten and Silka are inspired writers, the book going back and forth between their journals, interlaced with recipes and with poems or journal entries by the kids. We're planning on putting links on each other's website. How small the world is!
How small the world is! How we CAN all connect, from whatever background or walk of life. There is so much to share and learn and enjoy and love together.
So off we go in a few days. Leaving the shoreline behind and sailing the open ocean. Now the adventure really starts. Now we'll be leaving all kinds of things familiar behind. Getting to Papua New Guinea will take us between 4 and 7 days, depending on the strength and direction of the wind. We'll let you know how it went. Keep in touch also! (We love getting email, it's like a little party to read to each other news from the several home fronts. )