The warm and freshening breeze blowing across the lake brought memories flowing as swiftly as the breeze itself. Most were as warm as the wind driving them. The ones that weren’t were forced away by the bright sunshine.
According to the sign the trail we walk is 1.25 miles. I don’t believe the distance is accurate, but the lake it surrounds is much too small for me to be thinking about sailing. Yet I was.
Ordinarily my bride would have had me talking or listening to her prattles, pointing out strangely shaped mushrooms or having me wait impatiently as she took pictures of the waterfall she has taken pictures of for the past three hundred and sixty-five days. Instead, she was quiet, as deeply into her own thoughts as I was in mine. I did not know her thoughts, scary I’ll admit, but I knew mine.
As I watched the wind driven ripples race across the lake, I thought of a twenty-two-foot sloop with a Bermuda rig from a time far, far distant. Mostly I thought of the people who crewed the boat…some gone but not forgotten.
The warm for November breeze stiffened in my face as I thought, “This would be a great day to be sailing,” or for partying with friends while sailing.
In my mind’s eye I saw the white sailboat on a close haul, mainsail and jib pulled in tight, the sails singing as the wind’s pressure heeled the boat, the gunnels dipping perilously toward the water. I see us scurrying to the high side to keep from being capsized. The high side of life?
Battling the tiller for control of the rudder as the speed and water pressure builds. Could this be a metaphor for life…my life? Where did my runaway thoughts come from and why did I quit sailing?
The little boat, narrow of beam with a swing keel, was quick and nimble with her racing rigged main and jib. I’m surprised I remember any nautical terms; it has been nearly forty years since I gripped the tiller with an unsteady hand.
“Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be. Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.” Damn, Christopher Cross is playing in my head…can “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash without Young be far behind. “So we cheated and we lied and we tested, and we never failed to fail it was the easiest thing to do. You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you…
And the southern cross.”
It was in the late Seventies when I was invited to my first of many sailing weekends. “Bring a date, spend the weekend. You’ll love it.” I did. Bill, Koon, Bobbi, Sybil, myself and a date. There were a few others who sailed in and out on occasion.
Six of us on a small sailboat on a large inland lake in South Carolina. Coolers filled with adult beverages or the mixers for a liquor drink. The alcohol loosened our tongues and greased our laughter. Bill, our captain, always managed to sail us back to our home port, sometimes in the dead of night.
Too much liquor, well grilled steaks, great friends sitting around a wood fire, and a plus one…whomever she might have been at the time, there were not that many. ..or there were too many. Laughter was abundant. Good times.
Any good time you survive should qualify as a great time. Great times. Somehow, we survived our youthful foolishness. I remember nothing but clear, bright sunshine and fair winds…am I dreaming? No, I don’t think so.
Taking the tiller for the first time, I might well have been at the wheel of the Queen Anne’s Revenge awaiting Blackbeard’s next order. “Arrr, let them eat steel maties”…or have another mixed drink.
Manning the tiller may be a metaphor for my life. Sometimes it is hard to stay on course. Life, like tacking against the wind, tends to be made in zigs and zags. Some zigs are short, some zags exceptionally long…or seem that way. Coming about into the wind can have painful outcomes if you aren’t paying attention.
For some reason my sailing days came to an end. The storms of depression left me dead in the water. It was my actions I’m sure. There were bad times, dark times. Depressed times.
Times improved with understanding and a little wisp of a girl who calmed the winds and seas…except when our own hurricanes blew up. Our foundation must have been built upon the rock of understanding…we are still here and still together. Our breezes are mostly warm and caressing like today but for some reason I never got back to sailing.
I purged those ill winds from my mind to keep from being driven crazy upon the rocks of life. I keep them locked tightly away until a fresh, warm breeze hits me in the face allowing only the good memories to flow.
In my depression I cut myself off from people who didn’t deserve to be cut off. That was a failure on my part…I demasted myself and lost my rudder to boot. Like a solitary sailor, I battled my storm tossed seas alone…until my North Star became my guide.
I choose to remember the fair winds. A bow cleaving the water. Great sailing in bright sunshine. Sybil sitting on the bow, her legs straddling the bowsprit mocking a figurehead on an ancient sailing ship. Koon’s big laugh and smile with a liquor drink in her hand. “Now let me tell you one thing….” Blowing off steam in the sun and the wind on a small sailboat. Sharing the joy and laughter with friends.
Sybil and Koon are silent now as is one of my plus ones. Silent in the physical world. Quite alive in the memories on a close haul through my mind.
I couldn’t help but smile as the warm breeze caressed the lake’s shoreline and my face. I miss them but see them sailing across the firmament at dusk. A small sailboat sailing close to the solar winds, white sails glowing red in the sunset.
Fair winds and following seas my friends. May warm breezes caress you. You are missed.
The image is from https://www.yacht-rent.com/talking-the-talk-basic-nautical-terms
Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3BYeO7eRpFl647KXrqSJD31DxD_NP-u4TMGa1hRS_EpP7vZ-4xQ06JjvM