Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight
Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight

I’m determined to squeeze out one more blog this year. It’ll be blog twenty-four, an average of one every two weeks. There’s been an excess of introspection and navel-gazing and I’d love to end this year on a cheery, warm and fuzzy note. Despite the blahs about lack of cash and daylight and warmth there has to something positive and uplifting to share on this dark night at the end of the dock. It’s late, I’m yawning, my toddy mug is empty and I’m reluctant about the inevitable clamber into the large cold empty bunk up front in the boat. Doggy, and his warm snuggly self, stayed in town this week where it’s warm and dry.

My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat gently rocking, dock lines squeaking gently
My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat softly rocking, dock lines squeaking gently

Last Friday I stood in a cashier’s lineup in a Chapters store. A small wide-eyed boy just ahead of me looked up to his mother and asked with deepest longing how many days there were until Christmas. I looked at him and smiled despite being the crotchety old curmudgeon I seem to have become, especially at Christmas. In that brief moment I was the saddest, loneliest man on earth.  How had I become so insensitive to the mysteries and joy and warmth that come at the coldest, darkest time of the year? I had become Scrooge!

Jack Frost2
Jack Frost, the joy of Christmas past

Time swirled back fifty-eight years to the first Christmas I can recall. I was three years old. Suddenly that wide-eyed look was mine, from inside. I won’t burden anyone with fruit cake memories but one of the two things that are indelible above all was the incredible intensity of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s because it began then in Mid-December, instead of August like it seems to now, but here I go again being jaded and cynical. The other thing I recall about Christmas was the wonderful smell of it all. Evergreen fragrance, snow, woodsmoke and kitchen aromas, wet wool mittens, wintery thick car exhaust, the hayloft, the livestock and the barnyard were among all those rich and real and delicious aromas. I remember how slowly time dragged by loaded  with the weight of anticipation. I compare that infinity to the incredible passing blur of this present year and the one ahead which seems a package already open and partially spent.

Of course we know Christmas is about a lot of things among which is innocent child-like wonder and belief in magic. All year-long my blogs have been, essentially, about the energy to set and achieve goals which grow from sheer faith and willpower. It occurs to me that it is the same thing as Christmas in esoteric, adult terms. Believing in something before you can see it, perhaps even in spite of the negatives thrown at you by other people and events, is what sets humans apart from the other critters. We can dream and we can work toward our ambition. We can also convince ourselves of impossibility and so do nothing. But…“Can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing.”

Suddenly, as I write, I recall a fellow salesman back in a time when I sold logging equipment.  Old Tom was in his late seventies then and absolutely loved every aspect of the logging industry. He was always a tough act to follow. One night, (Remember the spotted owl years?) we were in an Oregon tavern entertaining a group of our clients. Tom regaled them with tales of his early days in the woods. As the evening wore on, one smart ass asked him if he could describe the best sex he’d ever had. Without missing a beat, Tom replied, “Dunno, haven’t had it yet!” Tom’s logger humour reflected his approach to life. Every day was a fresh adventure and he had more plans than he could ever achieve in two lifetimes. He inspired everyone who knew him and probably still does. Setbacks were merely challenges to keep things interesting.

‘En Theos’ is ancient Greek for ‘God within’. (My spell checker suggests “In thermos!”)

So that is what I wish for everyone, “Enthusiasm”. May our new year be filled with it as well as joy, peace, confidence, fulfilment. And this time next year, may we all meet in a palm-fringed anchorage where the water is clear and warm, the beer is clear and cold, laughter fills the air while the best will be yet to come.

Holly Flower
Holly Flower

Happy Christmas Everyone.

Polar Express2
Christmas Express, a long way from that tropical lagoon



A reluctant winter dawn
A reluctant winter dawn

I’m writing at the moment entirely for my own sake. Truth be told, that’s why most writers write but that’s another story. Any creative effort is an affirmation of life and hope. Home is where the boat is and tonight I’m aboard without even my beloved dog for company. It’s dark out and it is cold.  It seeps into the boat and into my bones. I wonder if I feel the cold because I’m getting older and arthritic, or if it is a psychological issue and I have a sense of coldness.

Certainly there was a time when cold was nothing to hold me back. I once hitch-hiked around Northern Ontario job-hunting in January. All I owned was in my pocket and in my backpack. That’s the time of year, in that part of the world, when it can warm up to minus forty degrees and then blow a days-long blizzard. I have interesting yarns about that ordeal and how I lived to talk about it. Let’s just say I truly understand being cold, and being hungry, and feeling utterly alone. Thank God for a few kind people.

I was the guy who always tried to prove he was tougher, be it about cold, or heat, or endurance of long hours, moving heavy objects on my own and generally taking unnecessary chances to prove how manly I was. I should have been dead at least ten times before I was twenty-five… that I’m willing to remember. I didn’t expect or want to live into senior years. Others were too wise to attempt similar feats of stupidity and quietly went about managing their lives and their finances so they could enjoy an easier life time in later years. Of course, I finally understand that I was merely demonstrating a monstrous insecurity. I am now suffering physically and financially for all that younger recklessness. That empathy does not relieve the price I continue to pay for those days. Sadly, those who have loved me have had to share my misery. I will always carry a guilt above those whom I have hurt.

I’ve declared at times that I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living. To paraphrase some lines from a movie I recently saw, the protagonist said that there’s a place somewhere between living and dying where some folks get stuck and it’s not a happy place to be.

I know what he means. I’ve also said that the greatest distance any sailor can travel is the six inches between one ear and the other. Tonight I wonder if I have actually made that crossing.

Other quotes have to do with how living one day as a lion is better than spending a thousand as a sheep and how the moment is all we have. Keeping your “Pecker up’, as the British say, is the key to surviving but damn!  It’s hard some days. Bad attitude brings bad luck which inspires more gloom until one very quickly finds themselves in a deadly spiral.

I know many other people have bouts of melancholy and regret, especially in winter. I wish I could offer magic words which could be an instant anecdote and at least bring contentment during the dark tunnels of life’s journey. All I can say at this point in my life, when I have more years behind me than ahead, that nothing is forever. This gig we call life leaves the station and constantly accelerates toward an inevitable wreck. The journey becomes a blur. Suddenly events of a half-century ago seem like mere weeks past. One day, somewhere, a clerk asks if you qualify for a senior’s discount. Shocked and horrified you go home and spend a long time peering at the wrinkled physog in the mirror. What a dark epiphany!

Then soon, you resolve that time and tide do not wait. You begin to capitalize by asking for senior’s discounts. Sadly no one asks to see ID. You really DO look that old! But, if you don’t like the look of things today, try missing a few. Sadly one absolute realization that comes with getting older is the value of seizing the moment. Friends and acquaintances start to fall ill and die ever more frequently. Time is of the essence.

I’ve spent the last year with my head down doggedly determined that I will realize my dream…..now. I haven’t yet, but things are a lot closer than if I’d done nothing and yet it has never looked bleaker. One wisdom of becoming an older bull is that you understand how often things look the most impossible just before they begin to fall into place. Sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground.

"Could you spare some sugar?"
“Could you spare some sugar?”

I don’t need a bucket list; I have the same ambitions now that I have held for the past thirty years. Nothing has changed there.  I know I’m missing too many joys of the moment for the hope of delayed gratification. Then I think about the utter waste of abandoning several decades of denial and singular focus. It’s a frustrating balance of perspectives and I wonder if I’ve learned anything.

I had a buddy with whom I learned to fly when we were in our teens. We would regularly try to twist the wings from whatever we were flying, as happy to be inverted as right-side up. Once we returned to the rental base with a two-foot piece of tree-top stuck in the fork of the nose wheel. When I last saw him I was recovering from heart surgery and lamenting about how I’d squandered my life flitting from one adventure to another. He had enjoyed an illustrious career as an airline pilot and had then become a successful businessman. Yet he said he’d trade histories in a minute. It’s the ubiquitous tale of far-away pastures looking greener. He’d had decades of boredom and thought I was the one who’d had all the fun. Go figure! 

Winter Harbour
Winter Harbour

Well I’m now finishing up this blog on the morning of December 1st. Time is going by so fast I’d best confirm what year it is! Work on the boat progresses according to the weather. A set of folding steps is slowly rising toward the masthead. I go up and dangle in my bosun’s chair whenever it is not raining and two or three more steps appear. I’m almost to the spreaders. It’s a job I’ve been avoiding since I bought the boat and once finally done will be the last of the major projects

The interior in the little Cheoy Lee is beginning to take shape and my teardrop trailer will soon be ready for me to head south. So like the thin light and warmth of a winter dawn, the dream burns on. Best wishes and bright dreams to all.

Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas
Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas