26 September, 2004

AT SEWANEE LIBRARY

So amazing to see the old place again.
The sun is setting and I want to make it out to the cross to see the view over the valley.
The journey has begun.....

20 September, 2004

Burwell Manning Dove Hunts

Spent a breezy day out near Heathwood Hall, absorbing the cool wind through my pores. The sky was deep and without cloud - more autumn than summer now. I saw lots of family and got to catch up with a few of them.
The atmosphere always sounds like a battlefield, volleys of gunshots coming from all sides and distances, but the doves still fly like gangbusters, everywhere and all at once. I can see parts of people, mingled about cornstalks, hedgerows and sunflowers, generally in the sparse shade. Dogs pant with great canine smiles, some looking skyward with anticipation.
I love the sunflowers best.
But the rows of pickup trucks and all the men in kaki pants and camo tops, shell bags and ballcaps, most with a little paunch - this is why I love SC. Young and old, family and friends. Most I really hardly know, but the idea of it represents what is "good" about the south. Burwell has been having these shots longer than I can remember. A hundred people sometimes, all excited to come. Arguible some of the best dove hunting anywhere in the south. But still it is mostly family: Kaki, Belton, McLain, Deas, the Boyd's, Walker's - it's all family. What's the difference.

I feel different, like I don't fit in anymore if I ever really did, but something about it is so refreshing, so revitalizing, grounding - I feel like 'I just needed to be there', regardless of any conversation or tangible happening. I love these people. They represent what is real and what is good about my home, my past, and my family. It is something that I know to be real. It is a rock of calm certainty in my sea of constant challenge and change.

17 September, 2004

A Response to my sister, Eliot: "What is your relationship to the Whale?"

--- Spinner
Ahhhh, the whale. (This is impromptu, and I am in the library, so I must be brief, unfortunately.)

The whale is Dante's inferno, Joyce's Ulysses, Eliot's "Wasteland", winter, Mordor; but it is also the Yin, Plato's cave, Freud's subconscious, the Anima, Shakti - my mind runs short. These are not 1:1 correlatives. The whale is "the dark side of the force"; it is the underworld; for a man it is also the feminine.
It is otherness.

For me, for better or worse (sometimes I fear it will be my demise), I enbrace it - both femininity and darkness / Hades. The whale is where I commonly go to gain perspective and insight, often inspiration. I am humbled by it, lifted from the banality of the microcosm and enlarged into the macrocosm of things. Suffering refreshes, revitalizes and reminds me of my innate and present mortality.

Femininity is a risk for men; it is a self-awareness that runs directly counter to our culturally and biologically defined self. The assent to a femine side is analogous to self-annihilation. This is how it can appear: I am a man if....(I fight, I have a large penis, I don't cry, I am stalwart, ect). This is "masculinity. To accept a feminine portion in the masculine self necesitates a total re-imagining of the self, one which is presently culturally absent. And this is challenging and frightening work - with few roadmaps.

Hell is a clear threat. We are taught to avoid fear, suffering and pain. We construct lives for ourselves that are essentially "safe" ones, not necessarily successful ones. They are successful at being safe, but they may not achieve happiness which seems to be most people's supreme metaphysical goal. Yet, literature and history teach that the people we admire and wish to emulate led far different lives - they often suffered immensely. All the great classical heroes journeyed through Hell in their quests - it is part of the archetype of greatness (hero). We see it in microcosm: doctors have to survive the dark depths of med. school, ect. The goal justifies the path. But modern suffering lacks much mortal risk and therefore doesn't teach the same lessons of mortality and existentiality. It is good to know how small we are and how short our time is - it is very relaxing and soothing.

So, Eliot, to me the whale is my shadow, my seasonal home. It is my dialectic. The mythic Jonah, stewing in the belly of the whale, reminds me a bit of the strange comfort I experienced meditating in my bathtub in Missula - I called it "the womb".

I will likely name my sailboat, "Isis" - an idealization of the sacred feminine, but I really wanted to name it either "Ogygia" or "Omphalos" - both mean "naval of the world" (sort of). Ogygia was the name of the island of the goddess (either Calypso or ???) and omphalos is literally naval I think - what Eve didn't have.

My time in the Library has expired - 5 minutes

13 September, 2004

THANKS

I apreciate all the kind thoughts. Nothing quite like a sad or tempermental email to get friends to write. I love it.

"Become who you are" - Pindar ( and then Nietzsche)
"I am that I am" - Yahwah to Moses in Exodus
Et Tat Tvam (sp.) - Sanskrit (from the Vedas) "I am that I am" (well, sort of)

12 September, 2004

Teddy Roosevelt

"The credit belongs to those people who are actually in the arena. . . who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions to a worth cause; who at best know triumph of high achievement, and, who at worst, fail while daring greatly. . . So that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
The Wayward Treatise


All those little whispering I've had for years are finally taking shape. I have an idea, a rudimentary plan and I'm gong to wage everything (most everything) I have on it. This treatise is not a description of that plan - that has been written elsewhere and is still liquid - but a defense of it.


I love to travel, climb, sail, write, and teach. I'm trying to incorporate all of these into a lifestyle, a sustainable living that I can carry with me. This week I took the first step.
Tuesday morning I bought a cheap sloop. It is strong but unfinished. It is a boat that can grow with me and my plan. In a week or so I am moving to live in it in Port Townsend, WA. Port Townsend is an amazing old maritime town. The people I’ve met there have been very supporting and beneficent. Several folks have offered to help me (teach me to) rebuild the engine, rewire, ect. There is a lot to do and I’m stoked for each rung on the ladder. There are a few classes I want to take at the tech school and I will get whatever day work I can find around the boatyard.

I have no cell phone, but access to a pay phone. Right now, my address will be General Delivery, Port Townsend - but soon I will have a PO box. I reckon I will be there at least through mid Dec. I hope to spend a last Christmas at home before being away for some time. January, or perhaps later, I am going down to San Francisco to pick up my friend Brian who is going to be my travel partnerfor the next three + years. Our goal is a circumnavigation by sail.

It all starts here. I feel somewhat electric. This challenge dwarfs anything I have ever accomplished, tried, or conceived. Nothing I have ever fought through, endured, suffered, will compare to what I may find in the next few years. We may sink our ship - but if we do, I’ll come back, start working and saving money again - and do it all over. This is what I want, and I am willing to give everything for it.

I’ll never be a rich successful businessman; I can only hope to sustain. And it will take some serious creativity and certain good fortune. I can teach; I hope to write. I am going to learn mechanics; in time I will gain my captains liceanse; I've thought about charity work and expeditioning. There are so many ways - if only I can make enought of them to work so I can maintain and continue.

What I sacrifice is my closeness and connection to those I love. Indeed it has already long started. It hurts. I’ve been home weeks and no old friend has called (except Shannon, of course - thanks). Everyone leads different lives. I don’t fit in anywhere anymore not Missoula, not Columbia. It has been too long here. Amazing how fast some in Missoula have let go. Is friendship no more than utility? I hope not. I chose it; I left - but I still feel the loss, the disconnection to many whom I care for deeply.

Of course love should, and does, supercede utility. We can love spirit. Sometimes it doesn't feel so. Perhaps some relationships aren't true friendships - and I haven't distinguished. This point is not the issue to be pursued and I am not in such a cynical mood as all of that. It is that I feel my friendships (relationships) pulling back and I don't think it is entirely because of my absense. I feel, and fear, that no one understands. They think: He is exercising the romantic notions of privilege. He's na├»ve and does’t know what he's doing. He's avoiding responsibility and work. I could go on.

I don’t deny that much of this, except the last, is true. I am extraordinarily fortunate - I know it - everyone knows it. Bootsie raised me! So isn’t it my inherited responsibility to use what gifts I have, not squander them or fail to recognize them? There is a romantic tinge to the idea of “sailing around the world.” But this “idea” is mostly an idealization. True sailing is being alone, being isolated, being vulnerable; it is having nothing other than your own wit and cunning to stave off the inevitable dangers of the sea. In my experience, most who come from privilege are not nearly so willing to risk their mortality, their comforts, and aren’t nearly so accustomed to the daily simplicity and suffrage. It isn't that those criticisms aren't true, but they aren't the heart of the matter. I feel that people write me off because of my inherited privilege, disavowing the effort and vigor with which I live my life.

If I sound defensive - I am. I mourn being misunderstood. “Avoiding responsibility” - Lark! What I am attempting, for me, is the epitome of responsibility and effort. This is my highest good, the ultimate pathway and expression of who I am and what I have to offer. I would be selling out myself, and all of those who wished for the opportunities and privileges I have seen, if I were not to use them, or worse, deny - and worst of all, be ignorant of them. If you think I aim toward the hedonistic triumphs and experiences that lay along the path of travel - you entirely miss my point. (Not that these aren't great things!!! "Hedonism is the first step in becoming a mystic" - Hesse) I live for Blonny; she, not happiness, drives me - and all those who have supported me and NOT had my opportunities.

I am stepping into the black. It is true I don’t know what I am doing, specifically, in that I am hardly a sailor, hardly a mechanic or an electrician. But I do know that I must learn. I know exactly what I have to do. I know how to travel. Is learning mechanics beyond my capability, learning currents, gps, maritime law, trade? I’ve been working toward this my whole life. Everything I have ever done is a step nearer the center of a spiral (which has no center or end).
So, now I realize that this has become a treatise in defense of my path, my ideals, and myself. I love you all very, very much and am so thankful for all of the small gifts I have gleaned from your smiles, criticisms, and cheers. But I’ve never felt quite as alone as I do today. I am not sure why I write that - honesty, confession, full disclosure - Wendy would know! Perhaps I feel that my vulnerability will make this more real for you, as it does for me. I am really going away. I have kinda gone away many times before, many short excursions into darkness, but perhaps they were all preparatory. I have bought a home, a boat (for less than many/most new cars). My journal remains. The story of how I discovered and bought the boat is on there, but it will be behind this letter; it is titled, Port Townsend. My journal will perhaps be my only regular form of communication and connection. Please write a note for me in the “Comment” boxes above the entries if you ever do go to the site. (Thanks Megs.) But I am not going to have access, as far as I can tell, on my boat for a while.

I’ll cut off now. I am still in SC with my family. Give me a call. I’ll be packing and heading west in a week or so. Probably will head through Missoula if I can. I miss you all. I wish you my best.

Namaste

10 September, 2004


PORT TOWNSEND

Tuesday I had a beautiful story in my mind of the last week. Granted, it was 2:30 in the am on a plane to Chicago - always the time for lucid stories. But now I am back home and the euphoria of the last week has slowly leeched out of veins.
Wow!
In Columbia, as ever, I have felt out of place. No one ever calls me. I feel as though I have gone too long. I have lost what place, or no one keeps up the facade that I had one. ( I think it is likely my insecurity that has crreated this reality.) ((I am a little down on Cola.)) I have been a hermit and not called a sole. I have been questioned and doubted. I don't think anyone believes me or in me.
So when I arrived in Bellingham, there to look at a beautiful schooner, I was warmed and pleased to be taken in so kindly, first by my friend Megan and her boyfriend Mica, a stranger until then, and their roommate Nate - a good mountain man. they made me feel so welcome in there house and went out of their way time and time again. bellingham was beautiful. But the greatest surprise came from the sailors on the docks. Everyday I went down and walked the docks. It was refreshing to be out again - I remembered Palma and Antigua - places where I had been so close to my dream. Bellingham smelled like a sea port: salt and musk; the gulls laughed and the waves gently lapped against the wharves. It seemed to me that I was greated as a prince by every stranger along the way. Everyone had a story or a tip for me, and always their encouragement: "just get a ship and go son, trust me, just go; you'll learn along the way." A man working on his jib sail saw me slowing easing up the dock staring at each boat along the way. "What boat are you looking for?" he asked. "My dream boat," I replied. He called me over and explained how he had seen a family of four living well enough in a thirty-footer like that one across the slipe from us. "You can do it."
I was looking at a steel replica of the Spray, the first boat to make a solo circumnavigations. A man came up and asked me if I were buying or selling. Somewhere in between, I said. He was a shipwright living on a boat next door. He told me all he new about the ship, a lot more than I had been told, and a great deal I didn't know about steel hulls in general. He asked me to come aboard his boat when I was finished up.
We talked for several hours. He explained how he had bought his boat and built it up, the genius of the various systems he used - all as he prepared a mixed salad to take to a yacht club pot luck. This sort of thing became my standard day while I was in Bellingham.
Eventually, all the boats I was interested in fell through: prices too high, not the right boat, or what I was learning day to day newly shaped the idea of what I wanted to sail. Now I wanted a strong fiberglass sloop. But it looked like me boat shopping was about through, and I planned to go with Megan and Mica up to Squamish to climb a classic line called "the Grand Wall," a seven to seventeen pitch route, but supposedly spectacular (one of the fifty classic climbs).
Sitting at home alone, ever dillegent, I picked up the brand new 48 North magazine and started looking for 34" sloops for under thirty grand. I was again starting from scratch. After half an hour I had a good list and realized that more than a couple were quite nearby. Hey, it's worth a try.
I got out the calling card and went back to work. Too much renivation. Wooden hull. No answer. No answer. Then I got Jim in Port Townsend. A real salesmen this one, but a hell of a nice guy. He was a shipwright, young, engauged, wants to buy some land. We laughed alot and he gave me intricate info on his sloop. What I couldn't understand was why he was dropping it so cheap. He said it had significant electrical issues - old basically - needing a complete refit, and that it still was unfinished in spots - but totally sailable as is.
Port Townsed wasn't far off. Robin told me I had to go there - I hadn't. But I was going climbing the next day. But that was for fun; this is business. It was Sunday afternoon and I was flying out Tuesday night. Maybe I would run to the bus, bus to another bus, hitchh-hike to the ferry, and ferry to Port Townsend. I'd see the boat, not be sure, talk to Jim some more, then hope on the afternoon ferry back toward Bellingham and hopefully be back in time to climb.

Oh, but no; this isn't how it would be. It was here that things went totally out of control, when fate, destiny, inevitability - take over and you just follow and try to keep up.
It was 4:10 (I thought). I had an hour to catch the bus which was at least 3 miles away. I would have to run. I packed only a light pack and switched my flip-flops for sneakers. I started running through the neighborhoods with my thumb out. It didn't take long to catch a ride. "It looked like you were in a hurry," the girl said. The bus stop wasn't far out of her way. She said she would take me there. Yea, I'll be early (I thought). In the back of her car I saw two sets of extending tele poles. "Are you a tele skier?" I asked. "No, I don't even know whose those are. I went up to Whistler once....yadda, yadda.....You can have them if you want." I've skied with bent and mangled poles for years (though I just bought a good pair, these were far nicer, $80-90). "Yeah I'll take um." Holy Shit!
So now I am at the bus stop with a backpack and two compacted ski poles. Instead of being forty-five minutes early, I am fifteen minutes late. Don't know how. It was 5:15, not 4:15. There would be another bus.
I caught it. Then another. I was the only passenger. The driver and I talked about Kerry and Bush, his personal experience in Vietnam - it was the first in depth conversation I've ever had with a vet of Vietnam. What he saw was moving and terrible. He knew I still had fifteen miles to go past the last stop and that I would have to hitch or get a cab. Insteed he said he was getting off and he lived that way and wouldn't mind giving me a lift to the ferry. It was against policy, of course, but he didn't mind. The conversation continued late. I was just going to catch the 10:15 ferry, the last.
Nope. The last was at 9:15. the terminal was dark and deserted. What now? There was a hotel and bar a few miles back. Jon, the driver, said there was a free bus to the terminal in the morning. He dropped me at he hotel and wished me well.
To the bar.
Rooms were $78. Just a hair out of my pricerange. I was thinking $35. Wishful dreaming. I guess I will have yet another urban bivoac. I figured on closing the bar down then huddling up in the woods until dawn.
If I was gonna sit in the bar and shoot pool, I might as well have one drink. A white russian. I lost my pool game, damnit. Open very well, lost it down the stretch. Oh well. But the atmostphere was hilarious. I felt like a cultural anthropologist. This was the middle of nowhere. I made friends. Laughed. Some guy offered me his couch. I checked him out. I was armed with a knife and two ski poles. He lived only a few miles from here.
His house was a royal shithole. A dirty bachelor (sp), but a nice guy. Doesn't drink. I looked around for any possible threats, moved a giant pair of scizzors, and kept a weapon in hand under my blanket. The humid night air was cold, low fifties; I was glad for the blanket. I slept for a few hours until five, put on my shoes in the dark, and headed for the door.
It was still dark and cold. It was a good thing I was stone sober last night so I could follow the directions we came so I could get back.
Of course it didn't work anyhow.
I did well for a little while. I walked through the dark. I couldn't read my watch and decided to run again. I didn't want to miss the first ferry and I didn't know what time it was anymore. Maybe it was six? When the sky started to show color, I knew I needed to take a left. i thought it was the first one, which I took. I felt great. The air was still cool, but I was running and felt the cool air in my lungs. Until the road came to a dead end.
So maybe it was the second left (or the third); I was a little hazy there. Bold as ever, as I backtracked east, there was a left turn, north, that I thought would be a short cut; it would take me up to the next road with out all the backtracking. So what. It looked like a pretty road.
The sun was coming up in earnest. The chickens were going off. The hills and cut fields were lovely, no cars or noise, only a bit far off.
I ran for miles, never really hitting the road I needed, but I felt that I was heading right all the same.
And then I could see it, I thought. There it was, on the point, I had been there the night before. Another half mile and there was the road, no the road I had been trying to get on, but the next road after that, the last road, the ferry road. My short cut had taken me straight there. Normally my shortcuts take me to some beautiful, however unrelated and distant place, where something profoundly strange happens. But this wasn't the case this time. I had about 35 minutes to wait for the ferry.

On arrival I stopped in a dinner, ordered a pancake and called Jim. I hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday and, unfortunately for me, Jim was already in his truck and "would be there in just a minute." He arrived at the same time as my pancake. Oh well, the oj was good.
What a guy. Hilarious. Drives a sixty-seven (I think) Chevy pickup. Thirty five years old. We weren't all that different.
And there it was.
The hull glowed navy. It was up on blocks in the boat yard, surrounded by giant old schooners and junk - a little of anything and everything. People worked and hustled everywhere, sanding, painting, hammering, moving boats to and from the water. I was like a kid staring a "moo-cows in the lard" (family joke, sorry).
Everything was right. A fiberglass sloop, built in '68 before they really trusted fiberglass, so they layed it thick. It was thick enough when a .45 cal pistol wouldn't penetrate. Much of the rig was new, and strong. Jim himself was a shipwright and had put $8000 in hardware alone into the boat in the last year, not counting his labor. Yet there was still plenty to be done. the cabin was still unfinished enough that I would have the freedom to design and build it to my own specifications.
I looked for a way out. I looked for a flaw. Half of me, the rational, or trained half, thought that I should weigh - look at fifty boats before you buy. But the stronger part of myself, my intuitive half, knew that one looks at fifty boats only to learn what to look for, and the goal was only to know it when you see it. There is no guarentee to whether it will be the second boat, fifty-first boat, or no boat thereafter. If you want a good deal, a good boat - you have to act immediately when that time comes - just like everything else in life. Take your oportunities now. Again, I looked for a flaw, weaknesses, problems. They were all manageable. What was more, was the situation in which I would find myself in Port Townsend. Everyone I met supported me, taught me, and wanted to teach me more. Everyone was behind me. If I bought this boat in Charleston or elsewhere the deal wouldn't have been so sweet. Port Townsend has everything I need.
That night I stayed with Jim and his fiance, Nicole. We suped and talked thinks over and over. He took me to his shop; I met his partner and talked with him a long while. Jim gathered a bunch of tools he had bought newer models of and gave them to me. He offered me his boat-builders discount at the marine supply store for a month or so. And he wants to help me get started. He loves the boat and had just refused to sell it to a man because he was basically an asshole.
Jim had numerous appointments that coming weekend. Port Townsend was having their annual Wooden Boat Festival. Jim had just put his boat up a week ago and the calls were coming in. I new it. I knew it was a steal. I took it.
The next day we went to the bank and finalized everything. I talked to Bob, a diesel mechanic, about teaching me engines while rebuilding it. He said he wouldn't have it any other way. Jim knw Eric, a friend of Robin's, and had already shown him the electric work that needs to be done. That would be my next task.
The list goes on.

In short, I bought a boat and I am moving into the shipyard in Port Townsend. I am going to rebuild the boat and learn that process before launching it and learning how to sail her. I promised Jim and Nicole a sail to the San Juan Island's between here and Victoria.
Nicole drove me to the ferry that would take me to Seatle. I called Megan and Mica and asked them to please stow the rest of my gear in Bellingham until I got back, probably about a month. They said the climbing trip didn't go all that great. Nagging injuries.
Now I'm back, after an all night flight to Charlotte. Need to see the eye doctor and get in order, pack the Dancer and drive west once again. I always think it is the last time. I'm always wrong.
This one, at least, should be a great deal more powerful than all but the first.
The land ends at Port Townsend.

02 September, 2004

BELLINGHAM

Hard to explain how good it feels to be out walking the docks again. Everyone talks to me like a friend. I have learned so much from strangers, and treated so kindly.

I came to look at a boat, a beautiful, strong schooner. It didn't work out but it doesn't matter. I have climbed with old friends and seen lots of great boats. I've learned tons. Wednesday I head back to S. C. with a lot more than I left with. The search for a boat will continue. My research will continue. I hope to see some friends and catch up - a point that has been a bit sad for me up till now. Where are my friends? Has so much time faded the meaning of of memories together? I feel invisible in Columbia. Perhaps that is the way it has to be and will be. I chose it for myself and now complain about the results.

Again it makes me question the nature of human relationship, like I did after Bootsie died. This line of curiousity will have to wait for my next writing - the library is closing.

In Bellingham, visiting my friend Megan Polk, I have been treated with incredible kindness. It warms the heart.