Friday, January 30, 2009
It came down like all those sudden, violent, once-in-a-life-time things that you can't shut up about later. A perfect day in the blue, blue Pacific, four miles off the coast of Guam. Fifteen knots of wind with lots of gusts to twenty and slowly picking up to maybe twenty five. The sky was as blue as the water and speckled with those little white popcorn clouds that float high on the breeze and on the horizon was the varied greens of the tropical island's mountains rising up from the sea.
Carpe Diem is a Tayana 43, a powerful little cutter, lithe and nimble, and a joy to sail. We had the full main up and about half the jib rolled out and she seemed well balanced and happy. In fact, we were all happy--if not well balanced. There were four of us on board, the owners, Don and Jan Goldhorn, my wife, Terry, and I. We were having a special reunion, sailing all together again, as we had so many times in the past, after a seven month separation, running up into the breeze on a glorious trade wind day.
Don and Jan had just had some work done on Carpe Diem. The mast had been taken off and a new radar, GPS, and windex wired in. The bottom had been done and all the sea cocks serviced. It had been an expensive project and they were proud and happy and ready to take on the big blue ocean that surrounds this lovely island.
There was no warning, no indication that something was amiss, that somehow the nearly invisible devil-worm of stainless steel corrosion had dug its way into the T-pins at the bottoms of the turnbuckles where the lower shrouds hang on to the chain plates. One of them must have given out first and the others then followed, unable to take the strain. Don, Jan, and Terry were back in the cockpit, I was sitting on the upwind side of the boat, just aft of the mast. Later we all remembered it differently. Terry heard nothing, but said she watched as the mast crumbled, in slow motion, into the sea to leeward. I was looking out toward the island and heard a loud rending of metal and metallic pop just above my head. What I saw when I looked up had nothing to do with slow motion; in an instant the 67-foot mast was gone, the whole rig disappeared.
Carpe Diem, suddenly every bit the great, wing-broken seabird, turned across the wind and hung there, the sails having become a great sea anchor. We, the crew, were dumbfounded but far from speechless. Epithets of shock and awe filled the air as we played for time and found our senses. In the end, we were all calm and got down to the business of sorting things out. No one was hurt, the seas, here in the lee of the island, were moderate, and we were not taking on water. After forty-five minutes of trying to get the broken mast lined up with the boat and secured so we could motor home, we decided the better part of valor was to call for assistance. Keeping this blog short, four hours later, Carpe Diem was safely back in her slip. The mail sail was cut away and set adrift, bits of the mast and the brand-new roller furling rig, now hopelessly bent and twisted, had been dragged to the nearest marina, hauled out of the water, and deposited in a parking lot for later consideration/stripping.
We are all fine. We are all wiser and, for what its worth, we are all better sailors.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
(Photo by Martha Updike)
Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from John Updike. I've got at least thirteen of his books, mostly dog-eared paperbacks, on my bookshelf. I probably read and lost or gave away that many more--and he wrote a whole lot more than that. I started reading him early and fast and I can say that in that special sense--the writer-to-reader-conversation sense--I've known him all of my adult life. In that sense, we were pals, John Updike and I.
He was bright beyond my capacity to understand intelligence, worldly in the strange, provincial way bookish people often are and great writers have to be, and yet able to communicate absolutely vital information about life to me, the farm boy from the Berkshire hills of New England. His writing was wise, profoundly titillating (literary sex? He got bad marks from the critics for that), and he had a wonderful grasp of how tragically funny people are when they descend into the murky wallow that is their humanity. Once I had read Updike, I understood my parents wisdom in fleeing suburbia when they did.
I saw him and heard him speak once. He was the speaker at my daughter's graduation from The University of Massachusetts back in, let's see, was it '89? It was hard to see him from way, way back where I was standing, on my tip-toes. All I could see was the shock of unruly gray hair as his stuttering delivery echoed over the heads of the milling, singing, happy mob. I wish I could say that I came away with a great pearl of Updike wisdom, but no, there was too much going on, too may distractions to follow the gist of his message.
From the endless reviews and essays and short stories to the novels about desperate housewives to the great ones about Rabbit Angstrom to the wonderful volume he called Selfconscousness, he covered it all--the true man of letters. How many are there of you left out there now, John?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Here is the traveler, just new in Tokyo, jet-lagged, imposed upon, lost, gagging on the truth of his duality. Referring quickly to a copy of the Teaching of Buddha he found in his hotel on top of the Gideon Bible, the agonizing pilgrim finds the Dhammapada: A fool who thinks he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man. The fool who thinks that he is a wise man is called a fool indeed. And then, below that, our foolish-indeed traveler reads: Hard is birth as man, Hard is the life of mortals, Hard is the hearing of the Sublime Truth, Hard is the appearance of a Buddha.
Sensing a step toward enlightenment, the weary castaway reads on: Not to do any evil, To cultivate good, To purify one's mind,--this is the advice of the Buddhas.
But where to find the Buddhas? In the bright lights and big city that is Tokyo?
No, the sublimely foolish wandered finds the Buddhas in the temple. Lots of them. And then, later, in the company of fine friendships, takes another step toward---what? If it is the things we cling to that make us suffer, the traveler releases his jet lag, willingly, but clings to his friends a bit longer.
The cause of human suffering is undoubtedly found in the thirsts of the physical body and in the illusions of worldly passion. If these thirsts and illusions are traced to their source, they are found to be rooted in the intense desires of physical instincts.....
Monday, January 12, 2009
Tomorrow we fly to Tokyo and then next Monday, back to Guam for some book research and FEA business and some sailing and fishing, too, and a lot of partying, I'm certain. Right here on this seawall, the scene of a decade of great living.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
This is a picture of a draft of the cover for Book II of the Eye of the Stallion trilogy. I've been communicating with my publisher and, after a year and a half of sitting on the manuscript, they are going to bring it out this spring. Book II is a continuation of Book I--sort of. Continuation when you consider that the Space-Time Continuum proceeds in circles and my characters have been around a few times--okay, more than a few times. Sonoria and Dag-gar are together, again and finally, and find themselves fighting an intransigent evil unleashed on the world by their own inability to get along. Shame on them--but discord in the circle of love inevitably leads to discord in the Circle of Time and they are small gods after all. They should know better. And Scraps comes back as a funky wizard-type guy and the Ancient Boy is there, too.
Weather? I'm enjoying the mild challenges of winter on the Eastern Shore--cold one day, spring-like the next. It's a taste of winter without the evil bite we got in New England. We had a little snow yesterday--just a flurry and that was just enough.
My siblings and I just inherited our parents house. I'll need to drive to New England next month and help sort things out. Looks like I'll get to experience a Massachusetts winter after all.