Hallie and I used to live in a cohousing community, where we built a house and did most of our child-rearing — a beautiful place and delightful people (www.two-echo.org). And I had a boat-building project in the basement. When we moved out 3+ years ago, I decided to keep building the boat (ever so slowly) in the basement, while we rented out the rest of the house. But when the round-the-world plan took hold, the house needed to be sold and I needed to start letting go.
My boatbuilding project went to long term storage in a barn. The house I had designed, that I loved, was passed to a new owner. My ties with the community receded. Then two months ago our beloved cat Edward didn’t come home, and a search turned up his remains in the woods. Then I sold my old boat, that my father and I had purchased jointly a few years before he died. Last weekend I sold my car, which had served me unfailingly for four years of zipping between my home in Maine and my office in Massachusetts. And yesterday was one of the biggest “letting go” events — turning in my laptop, surrendering my business email address, cleaning out my office, saying goodbye to my coworkers and walking away from my job (and my income!) that has been an all-important aspect of my life for the past 28+ years.
It’s a lot of changes. I want to curl up into a ball and just try to breathe for a couple days. But no time for that. I have a day and a half to pack, and organize as best I can what I’m leaving behind, before Hallie drives me to the boat. And that’s the easy part. The hard part is there is more letting go to be done. It’s time to let go of the comforts of home. Sitting on the sofa watching a favorite TV show, eating dinner that is easily prepared in a kitchen that isn’t moving, with fresh food readily available a few minutes away… Nearly unlimited hot water for a shower anytime. Gathering with friends. Meeting with my mens team. Being with Hallie. Sleeping with no worries about the wind shifting and the anchor dragging. Yikes, is it too late to turn back!?
Onward. No regrets.
The Blue Planet Odyssey is more than a collection of boats sailing around the world. As the web site (www.blueplanetodyssey.com) states, it also aims to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change and the most urgent issues facing our ocean. There is an educational component, and participants are encouraged to reach out to local schools and connect with students and teachers.
When the BPO suggested going to local schools, I dreaded the idea. What do I know about the health of our oceans, and passing this along to others!? With schools having rigid curricula and schedules, why would they take time for me? And what could I say to students that would make any difference?
It helped that my cousin is the superintendent of the nearby Lewiston Public Schools. I could at least talk with him about it. He connected me via email to Mrs. Weber in the middle school, and she and I arranged a face-to-face meeting. My first question: “Is this something you actually are interested in pursuing, or were you ordered to meet with me!?” She and her team were interested. I came away thinking, “OMG, what have I gotten myself into?” They planned to work my voyage into their curriculum; I would provide updates along the way; students could post questions on the blog or via email, and I would respond; we might try connecting via Skype from some far-away place; through the BPO we might connect the Lewiston students with other students around the world. And we scheduled a date for me to come introduce myself and tell the 100+ seventh-graders about the trip.
Despite my initial reservations, it was a blast! I don’t need to be an expert on climate change to share stories about the impact of sea level rise on small islands, and island cultures. And I don’t need to be an expert on education to get kids interested in a voyage around the world! The students were engaged and asked a wide range of questions.
Is there such a thing as a two-headed shark? Are sharks scary? Have you ever seen a great white?
Will you have a translator aboard?
Do you carry bottled water?
How do you take a shower?
How does the bathroom thing work?
What if you fall overboard?
Do you need a license to sail the boat?
Will you see a Galapagos Tortoise?
Are you concerned about the Ebola virus?
Why is the climate change stuff happening?
You’re going to be sailing for HOW LONG!?!?
I think our connection worked, on two fronts. I got their interest in the upcoming voyage. And I think they understood my fundamental message: the oceans are all interconnected, and they have a profound impact on our little planet. One ocean…one planet…one future.
An abdominal pain didn’t go away, and I arrived in the emergency department about the same time that my appendix perforated. A couple hours later it was gone, and I’m working on getting back up to speed. One can’t help but ask, “What if it had happened at sea…?” Recovering from surgery is no fun, but this one does have a silver lining. Preparation carried to the extreme…?
While in my hospital bed on narcotics I had vivid dreams of being visited by individuals embodying Good and Evil. In my altered state I was acutely aware of the enormity of the pain in the world, and of the heroic people who bear witness and offer compassion. In my little way, in my limited capacity, I choose to stand with them — on the side of Good and peace and compassion. I don’t know if this experience changes anything. Perhaps it is a reminder that as long as I still have a working body, I have choices to make, big and small, and to choose like they make a difference.