You’ve been waiting. Waiting by your warm hearths sipping an extra strong egg nog. You’ve posted your last holiday cards and only two remaining items are on your “to do” list. You have to figure out who is going to get the re-gift this year. But, what you’re really waiting for is the next chapter in the Tale of the Old Man and the Sea, the Ancient Mariner saga that has your friends and relatives making late-night phone calls and flooding your email accounts.
What happened to him? Did he finish the sailing course in Fort Myers? Or, did he give in to his insecurities and bail out in favor of scoring early tickets to Star Wars?
He’s resting now, but I just spoke with him and he gave me permission to announce the news we have all been awaiting. His stomach was fluttery last night as he went through his stack of 3 x 5 index cards in a desperate attempt to make sense of the alien language of the sea. Jibe. Jib. Cleat. Luff and Tack (which has three different meanings).
He was sore in places he hasn’t felt soreness since 1964. Should he take a Valium to help him sleep? (He did).
The fourth day was to be a brief two-hour sail and then the written test!
He has been a teacher for over thirty years. Now, he was expected to be the student. He had to study. He had to pass a test. He had to make the monetary investment pay off. What would his future be like if he walked away…a failure? He’d spent too many years thinking of himself as a failure. Was this going to end up with the girl leaving him in the parking lot of life beside a cheap after-hours bar? Was he going to lose another election and chance to be the King of the Dance Classes (like he did in 1963)?
Was another manuscript going to come back from Random House with a sweet note of rejection?
He desperately needed to remember that port is left when you’re on a boat.
So, here’s your Holiday present, my friends! [I’ve switched to the First Person just now. It’s me talking.]
I passed the test! The one question I missed was the one that I debated over and went with my second choice. Now, I have a nice certificate and a classy logbook. When I get back home in April, there will be a stamp from the U. S. Sailboating Association (or whatever the name is, I don’t have the paper in front of me). I will place this stamp in my logbook.
I will be officially certified as a person able to take out a sailboat up to thirty feet in length.
The logbook? What will the future entries contain? A trip out of a port in the British Virgin Islands? A voyage into the Gulf of Mexico out of Key West?
There is a story that is yet to be written in this little book. This story will be a record of where I go from here. Will I file the book away and think no more about the salty air and the beam reach and the tacking?
I don’t think so. I was thinking about the dynamics of sailing on Day 2 of my classes, around the time I wrote The Old Man and the Sea blog. I can’t tell you the history of how the Phoenicians first used the sea beyond the sight of land, I can’t tell you of the ancient Greek fishermen. I can’t speak to the spectacular technical achievement of Columbus, Magellan, and Cook.
But, I can tell you that it is truly humbling to hear such stories. To be in a boat, upon the limitless sea, beyond landmarks, beyond the sight of your home port…out where the curvature of the earth can be seen. To do this and use the stars to find your way back to the arms of your family, is a very intense and awesome concept to comprehend.
To sail into the wind is a contradiction in terms. But, you can do it. It’s always puzzled me how this can happen. Now I know.
It’s a profound idea and now it is something I can do.
Like my passport, I intend to have entries in my logbook that say something about me.
That I tried to see as much of the world as I could. It’s really a wonderful and a small world that we have been given.
And, it’s a Wonderful Life.
Sweet holiday wishes to all my friends and family….