Portions of this are going to make up my February 2013 article for Spinsheet.That's the Annapolis-based magazine that gave me my start as a published writer. I haven't written it yet.
But by the time it's published (and read - hopefully), it will be February, and some of what I'm about to write won't exactly make sense.
But now, in the present, it's only a few days after New Year's Eve. That's gotten me thinking New Year's thoughts. The standard and boring resolution-type stuff that everything is probably thinking right now, and which most people won't follow through on. But whatever.
Mia and my Dad are on the other side of the Atlantic, in Las Palmas, about 100 miles off the coast of Morocco, readying Kinship for the return voyage to the Caribbean. For Mia, it will complete the circle that she started last May when we sailed Kinship in ARC Europe to Portugal. She first set out on the same boat from the BVI. My mom died three days after Mia left the house in PA that time. The sail north to Bermuda was under a full moon. I remember standing outside in the driveway that week and watching it rise over the hill behind my parents' house, the horses on the farm silhouetted in the dim light, thinking about Mia out on the ocean somewhere and my mom up in the heavens somewhere and wondering what my Dad was thinking and feeling as he gazed at the same moon. That was one of my mom's favorite things to do, and she never wasted a chance to tell somebody else to have a look at it too. She truly appreciated the beauty. I'm positive my Dad will have a lot of those same reflective thoughts during this upcoming crossing. It will be the longest passage, by more than twice as many miles, of his sailing career.
I changed my process. My writing process. This whole thing started with a blog I kept online when I was at home - usually alone, living on Sojourner in Annapolis - or out traveling. Also alone. I have boxes of handwritten journals in the basement documenting all that stuff. Some of it made it online eventually. Some of it's narrative, some of it my own random thoughts, sometimes goals I wanted to put on paper (weirdly enough, looking back on those goals, almost all of them have come true, even the one's I've forgotten that I ever wrote down. There is power in that, writing things down, even if you don't remember it).
But something changes when you start writing to deadlines, writing on topics someone else has chosen for you. It becomes less about the process for me, more about the result. To the point that I wasn't enjoying it anymore. It was a chore.
The irony of it was that the more 'successful' I got, the less I enjoyed the work. So maybe it's this New Year's thing, or maybe it's just coincidental timing, but I'm changing the way I do this, the way I think about it, and I am going to focus on the process rather than the result.
To that end, I'm writing this in pencil at the kitchen table. I made a fire earlier - the third in as many nights - and I'll pause this process now and then when it needs tending. I have music playing on the stereo - the Smashing Pumpkins Adore album when I first wrote this. David Byrne now, as I type - and my laptop is shut (was shut - I'm typing now). Later (now) I'll type this, edit it down for Spinsheet, match some photos to it and send it off.
I might be one of the few people in Annapolis actually enjoying the winter. I'm looking forward to February, and not because I'm going south (I'm not).
Since meeting a Swede, I've come to appreciate the cold vastly more so than the warmth. I can hardly bare the thought of another Annapolis sumer (part of the reason Arcturus is in Sweden). I've met a lot of sailors from Europe over the past 4 years working for the ARC, and I recommend that they all visit the Chesapeake if they're heading to our coast. Just not in the summertime. Fall and spring are fantastic on the Bay, my favorite place to be those times of the year. Just not in the heat of summer.
My idea of a proper winter - this is the little cabin in Sweden where I asked Mia to marry me.
(Admittedly, my outlook on winter might be slightly skewed. Mia's Swedish friends make the point that the winter is not so fun when it's cold and snowy from October through April and you're in it, for the full seven months. Mia and I don't actually deal with the winter all that much. We just got back from St. Lucia on December 22, having spent two full weeks there, and this only three weeks after having returned from Tortola. Now, we're not choosing to go to those places, but we work there, and that's just where we are. In the warmth. So I do understand that what I'm writing about the wintertime is from a slightly spoiled perspective. At least I'm acknowledging it).
I'm probably expected to write about sailing in this space - I've written several times about winter cruises on the Bay. Once single-handing up the Severn, when it snowed overnight and I awoke at anchor with half an inch of snow on the deck. Another time, on another New Year's Day actually, when Mia and I took a four-day cruise to Oxford, and the temperature never rose above freezing. We had ice in the cockpit for the duration.
But I'll argue this time that winter shouldn't be about sailing (ironically, I think one of my previous Spinsheet articles was actually titledWinters are for sailing). It's instead about a break from it, especially when you work around it so much (which, contrary to how it might sound, I am forever grateful for). Mia asked me if I was jealous that I wasn't coming along on this Atlantic crossing (it will be her 3rd in just two years). Honestly, I said, I'm not (okay, maybe a little, but only because she'll now have one more than me now and won't let me forget it).
Collecting firewood in Sweden. Like my overalls!?
No, I'm happy to be in the countryside, surrounded by snowy hills and forests, not ocean. Happy to sit by the fire and enjoy - yes enjoy - the fact that it gets dark at 5pm. I'm hibernating.
But I still crave adventure. Tomorrow me and the dogs are setting out on a trek to Blue Marsh. It will be the first opportunity to use the tent that my sister Kate and her boyfriend Kevin gave us for our wedding. I have an ambitious plan to hike right the way round the lake - some 30 miles on marked trails - but I'm not sure I have the time. I need to be back by 9am Monday morning (one of the downsides of having a regular income now with World Cruising Club. I'll take the upsides though). And to feed Buddy the Goat and his new pal Pidge the Pigeon (I'm not making that up).
The only other time the tent was used…in the living room.
I did a podcast with Andreas Hanakamp in December in St. Lucia. He's an Austrian sailor, at the top of the sport. He sailed the 49er class in the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games, and skippered Team Russia in the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race. I'd become friends with him at last year's ARC, after he'd sailed onVaquita, a Class 40 (which is actually for sale now). They won the Racing Division then, and repeated this year, adding Line Honors to boot. Anyway, at dinner one night in St. Lucia, Andreas spoke about this change of scenery idea. It applied to him just as well.
"There's just too many things to do in life," he said. "Sail all summer. Hike in the fall. Do some ski mountaineering in the wintertime, maybe some whitewater kayaking in the spring, some rock climbing. Then it's back to sailing again in the summer."
His point was that he needed a break from sailing. People know Andreas as a sailor, but that's just a portion of the man. He's an adventurer who happens to make a living as a sailor (and in media in fact. He was in charge of the media portion of the Volvo Ocean Race in the 2000/01 race). I said something about the 'opportunity cost' of choosing one sport over another. He disagreed.
"Yeah, but it's not really opportunity cost if you're always doing something you love," he said, in his enjoyable Austrian lilt. I'd never considered it that way before, but he's absolutely right.
"To do an Olympic campaign requires a minimum 250 days a year on the water," he said. "I did that twice, and am happy I did. But I need breaks, everyone does. I need to pursue other things, things strictly for me and my own enjoyment, having nothing to do with work."
Somebody's gotta make the firewood, right?
For my part, I'm happily taking his advice this winter. I think deep down I would have anyway. I've had this feeling that my writing process needed to change for a while now. And guess what? This is my first time doing it in a while, but it's working. I just threw another log on the fire, shook out my achy hand (it's not used to this pencil stuff), and am back scribbling on the paper now with added energy.
(As an aside, I'm cherishing being alone. Man might be a social creature, but just as I need a break from sailing, I need a break from humans. I know I will regret writing that about three weeks from now when Mia is still at sea, and I'm home alone - I will admit the nights are lonely here - but so far, this alone time has done more than anything to rejuvenate me. It's fantastic).
So looking further into 2013? For me it's about goal setting - two more marathons before I turn 30, maybe a book published in there, and start saving money for a house - and enjoying the process of everything I do, not just the writing. That's the point, isn't it? Keep looking forward and there won't be anything worth looking back on.