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March 2016

What Are You Reading?

IMG_4631We have purchased few books in the past five years, fewer still in the past two. We’ve relied on book sharing with other cruisers, which tends to be both limiting and surprising. I love reading books on  my Kindle but pretty much abhor paying the full hard-cover price for an e-book. This had been a Facebook discussion among writers a couple of years ago—a discussion I didn’t have the data time for doing much other than putting in my two-cents, so I don’t know if they came to a consensus.

Consequently, while we have never run out of reading material, the majority of our options tend to be genre books enjoyed by other cruisers. That’s OK. We like genre books though we like to supplement them with non-fiction, biographies, and (especially EW) historical non-fiction. Thus, we discovered Lee Child. He became our new Robert Parker. (Back in Maine, with successful careers, we bought the new, hard-cover Spencer for Hire books because we just couldn’t wait for the paperback version.)

Since early Jack Reacher books are frequently on sale or offered at reasonable prices on Amazon, and since “Santa” purchased a couple of the newer books as e-books, we are nearly caught up with the series. A couple of weeks ago, I perused the lending library in the Marina lounge and found the hard-cover of  “Make Me”, which had been published in September of 2015. Score!

I immediately began reading it while the laundry was tumbling in the dryer.  Shortly afterward, a distinguished looking cruiser came into the lounge and also looked over the offered books, picking one to read. He saw what I was reading and asked, “Did you just get that from here?” I tried not to crow as I answered in the affirmative, and offered to make sure he got it next. “You going to be here a few days? Both my husband and I will have to read it before I pass it on.”

He slumped. They were heading south tomorrow, but would return in a month or two. “No worries. I will save it for you.” We exchanged boat cards just before his wife walked into the room. “Oh! Is that the new Jack Reacher?” Her husband and I laughed as he related what had been discussed moments before.

The next morning, I opened an email from them, saying they had put another Jack Reacher novel on the lending shelves. Since EW and I had read that one, we left if for the next person, though I checked when we went ashore to find that it had been snatched up. While we try not to keep many books and few hard-cover ones on board, “Make Me” has a temporary place of honor in the main salon, with the boat card from M/V Erban Renewal taped inside. It will be waiting for you, Julia and Steve.

IMG_4634As for my next book, I was delighted to find a paperback copy of “Wild”. Even cruisers who’ve been somewhat out of touch know about this book and the subsequent movie. Or at least, I did. I’ve been reading it slowly,stopping to savor, do something else, and enjoy later. This bitingly honest book resonates with me. I don’t know whether I would have liked Cheryl Strayed when she was in her 20’s, and certainly wouldn’t have approved of many of her choices, but her struggles were not my struggles, and her lessons are not my lessons. I am awed by her decision to walk a huge section of the Pacific Coast Trail in the 90’s --- alone. And I see parallels with some cruisers I’ve met and read about who also survived and succeeded despite a lack of knowledge, insufficient preparation, and incorrect gear.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to undertake a cruise, a hike, or another feat without more understanding of what is needed. Still, this seems to have been the right choice—and perhaps the saving grace— for Cheryl and most of those sailors I mentioned. I am struck once again by the knowledge that I am not the person who would have set sail in my 20’s, with little or no technology. And I am once again in awe of those who preceded me, showed me the way, and fed my dream.

And perhaps I was wrong about the difference between what Cheryl and I needed to learn. As Cheryl said at the end of the book:

“That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…That it was everything. It was my life—like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close. so very present, so very belonging to me.”

What are you reading?

 

P.S. Note that in the link at Amazon, an e-book copy of “Wild is   $0.81 MORE than a new paperback copy. That is just wrong.


Lonesome Socks

Many of the memes that show up in social media were themes of cartoons, writers, and essayists long before Facebook came on the scene. Take the mystery of lost socks, dryer eating socks, lonesome singles socks, etc.

PinterestFor the past five years, we didn’t have that problem. You don’t lose what stays safely folded in the drawer and we rarely wore socks. When we did, it would be for a day’s hike, so laundry day would include exactly four socks. You can’t lose one of four socks as easily as you can lose one of 14 socks. (It’s also more difficult to lose socks when you wash a few clothes in a bucket, wring them dry by hand, and hang them on the line. Evidently losing socks is also a first world problem.)

Now that it’s warmer in St. Augustine, where the spring weather apparently goes from 90 to 60 in a 24 hour period, I have begun to prepare to launder all the wearable fleece and warm blankets prior to storing them under our bed for the next (fingers crossed) nine months. Over the past three months, I have frequently returned home from the laundry with one or more lonesome socks.

Let me be the first to say, that part of this may be a result of a new storage method I am trying. Instead of rolling socks into a ball and folding one over the other, I am letting them truly rest, to thank them for warming and protecting our feet. I fold them into little bundles and store them upright in plastic containers, a la Marie Kondo, author of The Kon-Marie Method, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Unfortunately, while our socks may be better rested, they don’t stick together as well. I suspect that sometimes (often) we will pull one sock from two pairs, wear them, and find after washing that we don’t have mates when we match them up for their relaxing bundles.

The other week, EW asked me how long he should hold on to his bereft, lonesome socks. “It’s not giving me great joy to have them in my drawer.” Joy is another of Marie Kondo’s words, or that is the word her translator used to describe her technique. EW does not utter the word, “Joy”, with actual joy in this context. In fact, it was “said sarcastic”, as they say in Maine.

IMG_4636I recently did a monster load of laundry and decided to pull out our sock bins as I stored the freshly washed and appropriately folded clothes. Guess what? Every sock now has a mate and has been repatriated to its appropriate sock bin, folded gently with his or her buddy.

I also found my long-lost yoga pants. Clearly I have not yet mastered the Japanese art of tidying, but my socks have great joy and are no longer lonesome. EW is thrilled. (And that’s a very soft, lower-case thrilled, with some mild satisfaction but no real joy.)

And for you inquiring minds out there, now you know: Briefs.


House Concert 101

IMG_4436Social Media can be a beautiful tool. Last week, EW and I were tagged in a Facebook post from our dear friend and former cruiser, Peter Bonta. Peter is EW’s guitar guru. We met him and LeeAnn during our first season in Grenada, nearly five years ago, and found new friends-for-life. IMG_4433

They sold their boat and are now living in Italy. (How cool is that?) Due to the miracle that is Facebook, Peter forwarded a post by a musician friend of his, David Watt Besley, announcing a private home concert in St. Augustine. And, due to the magic that is synchronicity, EW knew the host of the concert: Scott Sweet, a musician and luthier who had fixed EW’s guitar pick-up. (This is not a truck that looks like a guitar but a port to allow his guitar to be amplified.)

IMG_4425IMG_4424EW called Scott, got the particulars on the concert, and invited a few of our friends to join us. Kirsten, who had attended the Flager guitar class with EW, and Don and Betty-Ann, former cruisers who are now very interesting CLODS here on the river, all jumped at the chance for this limited seating event. Don and Betty-Ann kindly invited the three of us to dingy to their dock and ride to the show with them. (EW repeatedly assured them that they were invited because he knew they liked hearing new music,not because he was angling for a ride. Betty-Ann smiled, winked, and said, “Oh, suuure,” a phrase only a southern lady can pull off with the right inflection and timing.)

IMG_4483-001What an amazing evening. Scott had made chili, moved out most of the living room furniture, and set up chairs for 30 or so folks. We all brought snacks to share and our own libation—just like a boat party—and then we were enthralled by three songwriters performing in turn for three hours. St. Augustine is an amazing town. As Don said, after talking with Barry, an outstanding local artist who attended, “You just never know where you will meet someone with incredible talent, here in St. Augustine.” (That’s especially rich when you know that Don is a phenomenal architect.) I nodded sagely at his words, thinking, “Um, you  are an incredible talent.” IMG_4463

David Watt Besley, formerly from Virginia where he knew Peter, now lives here in St. Augustine, with his wife Theresa. He performs regularly in town on and on Anastasia Island.  Check out “Hopeless Romantic” on YouTube. (I couldn’t get it to link here.) It’s a beautiful song and one he performed that night.

David had invited two songwriter friends from Georgia, Jefferson Ross and Levi Lowery, to join him for this home concert and a public event later in the week. They enthralled us in turn with excellent, surprising, touching, witty, and highly intelligent songs—none of which we’d ever heard. It was a magical evening. We listened to some of their music the following morning (as they had sold CDs at the show) and suggest you check them out. Levi Lowrey has a strong website with four or five music videos allowing you to sample his songs. Jefferson Ross has a great website, too, and is currently offering :The Dogwood Cats” as a sample song. IMG_4450

IMG_4448When we introduced ourselves to David, he was delighted to hear that Peter had sent us, and edified Peter during the show. Now, I’ve friended David on Facebook, so important information doesn’t have to travel through Italy to reach us back here.

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The next morning, as EW and I talked about the event, the word “magic” was uttered by one of us. Regular readers and anyone foolish enough to ask about our favorite harbor will know that we frequently refer to the Azores as magical.  Perhaps the magic has followed us here or has been with us all along. Perhaps we just have to make sure we pay attention, opt to try the unknown, and expect to find talented people and magical moments here in St. Augustine….or anywhere we drop the hook.


Back in the U. S. of A. with Technology, Hair Salons, and Snakes

It has not been a quiet week in St. Augustine. In fact, this place is as social as our first year in Grenada—and we are trying to earn money, pay bills, and fix the boat. I’ve had to decline invitations to kayak in order to write. Plus, despite reaching our third month anniversary of moving here, we are not acclimated to being back in the U.S. Of A:  this new state, new technology, daily news, old technology we hadn’t mastered, seeking a job, snakes, weather, any technology, snakes, getting haircuts in salons, and more.

Land dwellers we meet here worry about how we get groceries and do laundry. After five years of cruising among many island communities, we are old hands at dinghying, busing, and walking. We have a cart and aren’t afraid to use it. I drive the dinghy as well as EW, and will go anywhere he would go with it. We can dinghy to one dock near a Win Dixie and one near a Publix. Getting to the stores isn’t the problem, buying too much, stocking junk food, and finding the best deals and best produce: these are my first world problems for weekly provisioning. (We had to ask someone what a “BOGO” was—”Buy One and Get One (Free)”. It’s up to us to find out whether that is really a deal or not.)

technology and snakesTechnology, as you may have surmised from the second paragraph, has been a challenge. We are so ignorant and there are so many choices that we really messed it up. (Mostly I messed it up. EW just went along for the ride.) Seriously, it seemed that every week we were spending at least half of one day, researching, traveling to the stores, and purchasing a phone or a data plan. After a bit of backing and filling and one restocking fee, EW and I purchased cheap ZTE AT&T Android phones that do everything your $500.00 phones do, though with less clarity. We can live with that. Heck, we were in Panama for 6 months; clarity has not been a option for us for a long time. We have bundled everything (two phones and the I-pad) into an AT&T account with 15 gigs of data each month. We have unlimited talk and text in the U.S. of A., Mexico, and Canada, and very limited data.

Did I mention snakes? I’m sure I did. When Cathy and I went to Naples to visit Kathy (a dear Maine friend), Kathy with a K (obviously) made sure to always park where we could get out of the car without stepping in the grass. Because.. snakes. I remembered that but didn’t internalize it. Fast forward to going on a walk with Kirsten, a member of our cruising posse here in St. Augustine. Kirsten is from Anchorage, but spent time with their boat at Green Cove Springs last year and got introduced to snakes and their ways. Walking along AIA  where there was no sidewalk, she suggested we opt for the bike path walking towards traffic so we could avoid any snakes in the grass. There it was again. “Snakes in the grass.”

In the Caribbean, I got my hair cut on shore at various salons, and by (former) cruiser, Lee Ann, aboard “Two Much Fun”. My last haircut by Lee Ann was in May of 2015. From then until November, EW cut my hair and I cut his. Let me just say, we both made the right decision years ago when neither of us considered hair styling as a career. I had a professional cut by a so-so stylist in Key West who didn’t have much to work with in terms of starting with even lengths. And I had another cut here in St. Augustine in January by a very nice stylist who said it would take a couple of cuts to get it right. She is located a good 45 minute walk from the marina, and finding time to get there, get a cut, and get back was a problem, so I sought and found a reasonably priced stylist closer to the boat.

(Trust me, this all comes together like a Garrison Keeler story.)

Ashley is my new Darlene in Maine. (I’m sorry Darlene, you are still my favorite of all time.) Ashley has blue hair (this week) is an artist who paints with acrylics, and does great hair. Before I know how successful this would turn out, I was torn about changing from the more distantly located stylist (with whom I’d booked an appointment) to Ashley, so I phoned another member of our posse, Jody, from S/V Tarentella. Jody and Jim and their two dogs tootle up and down the coast from New Bern to Florida and the Bahamas. This year, they’ve hung around because St. Augustine is too much fun. Jody has a great laugh and burst out with it when I told her why I was calling (on my new, AT & T phone) while I walked around in the neighborhood of the then potential new stylist’s shop. Jodi convinced me to change stylists. (Most men and many women are snoring. Get over it. This was an issue for me.)

Early in the conversation, I had walked out of a parking lot to the sidewalk and into a neighboring parking lot, where I paced while talking with Jody. As we neared the conclusion of our conversation, I headed back to the new salon to make an appointment with Ashley. I was focused on laughing and talking with Jody and not the fact that I am now in Florida, when I innocently stepped off the parking lot onto a five-foot swath of lawn between lots, to see a snake slither from beneath my raised foot to the safety of a near-by bush. Poor Jody. She is hard of hearing in one ear and I wasn’t kind to her good ear when I shrieked “SNAKE!” “SNAKE!” before saying, “Oh. Sorry Jody.” Once she stopped laughing she assured me that her ear was fine.

Snakes and TechnologyOf course everyone has asked what kind of snake it was. I have no idea. It was covered in scales and had no legs. That’s enough for me. But then I thought about it and decided that it was time to put on my big girl pants and learn about the reptilian fauna in my new home state. DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE OVER 100 DIFFERENT TYPE OF SNAKES IN FLORIDA? (There are only 10 in Maine and none of them are poisonous—assuming New Hampshire’s timber rattlers stay on their side of the border.) This is when snowing in Maine for Easter doesn’t sound so bad to me. Ten non-poisonous snakes vs. over hundred, some deadly, snakes seems like a no brainer.

And there you have it: technology, hair-cuts, and snakes. Three of my most difficult transitions, all tied together. 

And for those of you who care, I love my haircut. Since the hair cut/snake incident happened on St. Patrick's Day, we were easily enticed to join Jim and Jody, and Rocky and Kirsten at Scarlet O’Hara’s. There, we discussed snakes and hair cuts among other things. I had fun showing how my hair fell back into place after shaking my head, and was asked to “perform” for Rocky when he joined us. After watching the shake and fall, he was asked whether he liked my new hair cut,

“Well it sure is active, he replied.”

And finally, yes, the amphibian in the above photo is not a snake. I don’t like snakes, and didn’t want to put one on my blog. Fortunately, the photos on this very nice Florida website change every few seconds. I just waited for a non-snake before taking the screen shot.


That Standing on a Stage Dream.

I’ve been having vivid dreams lately. A few nights ago I dreamt that I had to sing a particular song on stage. I knew it was a dream for two reasons: first, those in charge gave me a new outfit that magically made me 20 pounds lighter and twenty years younger; and secondly, I was sure I’d nail the song and wasn’t at all worried about singing alone on stage.

A dream like that will stick with you in strange ways—I need to find a store that sells that outfit, but I have no desire to sing on stage—and I’m stuck with an earworm. In case, like EW, you are unfamiliar with that term, it’s a song that keeps playing in your head, over and over and over again. A well-known and very annoying earworm is “It’s a Small World After All”. Got it? Sorry about that.

That is not my song, and I can absolutely understand why I’m singing my new song. First of all, we are moored in the Matanzas River. (This can mean “Bloody” River, “Slaughter” River, or “Massacre” River, depending upon to whom you speak.) But history has nothing to do with my dream or song. We can blame it on the neighborhood.

To wit: Nola and Jerry from Alaska,

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Zach from St. Augustine,

 

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and these three boats,

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and finally, let’s not forget our own floating castle (from a photo taken on the hard in Maine.*

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So, what was I singing? Not :”It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moondance”, though EW has been known to hum a verse or two as we pass her by. Nope. I stood on that stage and proudly crooned, “Moon River”.

“Old dream maker, you heartbreaker. Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”

I’m as young as I’ll ever be, and I’ll never be a singer, but I keep thinking about losing 20 pounds and EW and I often dream of our next sailing adventures.

*For those of your wondering about why I didn’t take a photo of La Luna moored in the river—I did. But EW didn’t want me to use it because he hadn’t cleaned the transom. Men.IMG_3980

IMG_3971A final note about the theme. The other names from the cosmos in the neighborhood include Juno (wife of Jupiter), Night Music, and Star Gazer. It’s that kind of crowd.

 

 

In the meantime, “Two drifters, off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same, rainbow’s end; my huckleberry friend, Moon River (and EW) and meeeee.”