My eyebrows need a good tweezing, my hair is a tangled mess of curls, and I haven’t even thought about makeup. I’ve been wearing the same shorts for the past four days. I haven’t been to the gym. Every morning I wake up in a big, overwhelming fog. And I haven’t been reading.
Sound like a case of depression? I understand if it does. To my landlubbing friends, my vacation- sailing the coast of Maine, with only my husband for company- might put them over the (l)edge. But actually, I couldn’t be happier.
There are over 4,000 islands that dot the shores of Maine, and Mike and I have been discovering just a small fraction of them. We are living the remoteness, the beauty and yes, the excitement, of Maine’s northern Bold Coast, Acadia and Pennobscot Bay.
“Wow, you must get a lot of reading done,” a friend of mine commented as I described our sailing vacations, how we sail for hours and hours at a time.
“Actually, I don’t,“ I told her honestly, but I felt my face reddening. I realized I was ashamed- very embarrassed to admit that I do not read much on my sailing vacations, when I have so much down time.
“Well what do you do for hours at a time while you’re on the boat?” she asked.
I stared at her blankly. I had no idea. I decided to pay attention this year.
The obvious things, putting the sails out and in, trimming them, watching the course, talking about the micros and macros of our worlds, the wind, the current, where we are going and what we are going to eat next (a major topic of conversation) – those things don’t take up too much time. There are still hours and hours at sea and at anchor…when I don’t take out a book.
Sometimes, I’m just too busy. The fog has come in thick. The winds are fierce. Lobster pots are everywhere ready to be caught in the prop. Something drops down below, or breaks, or I’m holding on at an uncomfortable angle- difficult to to pee (I do that a lot), let alone read.
Sometimes, it’s too hot and sunny and I can’t find both my sunglasses AND my reading glasses. Or it’s so cold I have to cuddle under a big soft blanket, and I have no hands left to hold a book.
Sometimes it’s a classic case of FOMO. Look down at my book, and I might miss the life in the water that shouldn’t be missed: the whale, the porpoises, the harbor seal pups poking their little heads out of the water, or the nude bather (ha ha, not a chance in these frigid waters…)
But more often than not, the real reason I’m not reading is because I am just Being…. Being and Thinking…
And that is something that I don’t often do.
Like most of us, I am generally not very comfortable with my own thoughts. A New York Times article recently described a University of Virginia experiment where 64% of men and 15% of women began self administering electric shocks when left alone in a room to just think. That’s how far people will go to avoid introspection.
And I don’t generally let my mind wander. I am one of those women at the check out counter line at Shaws, reading my emails on my cell. I’m the woman you have to beep at when the red light turns green because I’m texting an “urgent” response. If I have a free moment at home, I pick up a book, run an errand, do work, go for a run with headphones blaring music so I don’t have to think. Perhaps that is why I wake up at 4AM on most nights …not being able to stop thinking. Perhaps that is why I have some of my best ideas for blogs during a leisurely shower.
But on the boat, I look out at the sea and let my mind wander. I ponder the cloud formations. That one- over there- looks like a heart, doesn’t it, Mike? I was just thinking about my dad…is that a coincidence?
I wonder about the lives of the lobstermen on the boats, and the seagulls that follow them, the people who live in the beautiful houses along the shore. I stare at the lone bird sitting silently on a far away bell buoy.
I picture what these great islands of granite and spruce must look like in the winter. I marvel at the brilliant colors of thousands of lobster traps, and notice how the sun shimmers like diamonds on the ocean between them. I feel the thick, wet fog as it creeps in the harbor and into my bones, or watch as the setting sun reflects wave patterns onto the hulls of other boats. I listen to the water lap under the boat, and imagine the life going on under our keel.
I pour a glass of wine, and watch and think and ponder some more. And I think a lot about how lucky I am.
Soon enough, I’ll be back to self-grooming, checking my emails in the supermarket checkout line, and no doubt I will have some excellent book suggestions for my friends. Hopefully, my sense of sarcasm about daily life will also return.
But for now, just Being is enough.