Thursday, August 27, 2009

Whiplash LeRoue - A Man of Conviction

My grandfather, Lloyd Joseph LeRoue was born April 17, 1914 in White Swan, Washington. He was the youngest of twelve children. Lloyd was a handsome charmer from the beginning and remained one to the end. In fact, all the LeRoues were colorful and well known in the Yakima Valley. Lloyd married Audrey Braniff, and had three daughters, Darlene aka Doc, my mother Audrey aka Weedy, and Dolly.

In the 1942 Lloyd became a Jehovah's Witness, and remained devout, never wavering, his entire life. His faith led him to be a man of peace, declaring his truth and denouncing the evils of war. There is a picture of my mother, no more than six years old, with her sisters, on the streets of Seattle carrying placards for peace, and handing out Watchtower Magazines. Here they are in a family portrait from a few years later.

Weedy, Doc and Dolly with Lloyd and Audrey LeRoue. (click to enlarge)

Though he worked at times at a sugar beet factory, as a farmer, and ran a hotel for years, LLoyd was enterprising in some unconventional ways. He panned for gold (though I doubt he found much) and was an inventor with a few patents. One was for a hollow telescoping fishing pole with the line running through the center. The pole was an inspiration designed to keep his grand-kids from tangling their darn lines up all the time. He took us girls fishing fairly often, and I dare say he spent more time untangling lines than landing fish. Lloyd always had plenty of ideas and tinkered with many inventions. He also enjoyed hunting for stones and polishing them in a tumbler. And he loved gardening and growing his own food. He had a green thumb and weakness for raw garlic. I remember the twinkle in his eye and that gorgeous smile of his when, a few years ago, he responded to my question as to what kept him so healthy all those years. He claimed it was a combination of raw garlic and his love of god. "Really, my girl, that's all there is to it," he said winking.

He loved spreading the "good news" and traveled to many Jehovah's Witness conventions. He always did a lot of driving and came to be known as "Whiplash LeRoue" among his brothers in the Witness Work, because he was a notoriously bad driver. He'd slam those breaks at the sight of somebody in their yard, then throw it reverse. Traffic be damned if there was a soul to be saved!

I remember riding with him in his big dirty dump truck... me in the middle and my two little cousins, Penny and Thea, on either side. All three of us squeezed into one seat-belt, flying forward at every stop and giggling our heads off. All the grand-kids adored GrampaRoo. He made crépes every single morning and was always in the mood to get something done. And since he never worked for anybody but himself, he could always use the help and company of his grand-kids. He was fun to be with and a great teacher.

Lloyd was not a highly educated man, but that never stopped him from taking on any project. He taught himself anything he wanted to do, by simply doing it himself. After his kids were grown, he built a beautiful house on a hill above the Yakima Valley where he lived until my grandmother, Audrey, passed away. I think the pain of living without Grandma in the home they dreamed about together, was just too much for him. Later he married Olive LeRoue and became a devoted father to her children and grandchildren. And he was a great resource and respected member of his community. Lloyd was always willing help a brother or sister with any project, sharing his knowledge and experience.

Lloyd LeRoue passed away on August on 13, 2009 at the age of 95. He outlived two of his daughters and all of his siblings. He was strong until the very end. Lloyd's loving wife, Olive cared for him at their home in Yakima until the last week or two when he was admitted into a nursing home.

To be honest, I think we all had our difficulties with Whiplash LeRoue at one time or another; he was hard-headed and willing to argue endlessly for our soul's salvation. It seemed a nuisance to always have to hear him preach to us. But ultimately, and deep down, I think we all respected and admired him. I know I did. A man of his convictions who actually lives by them, a man who walks his talk, is a rare man indeed.

There are plenty of stories about Lloyd "Whiplash" LeRoue and if anybody wants to add one, please do in the comments.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Life of Abundance

High summer! Heat and sun. Warm starry nights. The time of abundance. A time of freshly harvested salads with flowers and dungeness crab chased down with a cold cold slug of
amber beer. A time for sailing dinghies and paddling kayaks. It is high summer and whatever one could wish a summer to be, this is the summer we have! I passed the US Sailing Association small boat sailing course with Camano Sail. Woohootie hoo! I learned much and proved once again that every time I am on the water, there are learning opportunities to be advantaged.

(Self portrait while constructing the raised beds.)

I have been out on the water frolicking quite a lot in sun and wind this past month; I'm fast becoming a darker shade of white girl. And we've had a few close brushes with disaster too. On the water, a fun outing can quickly become problematic if the winds turn on you, or kick up above 25 knots. I'll address this a bit further down.

With the garden in full force, outdoor grilling, a recent buddy boat trip with our pals George and Celeste on Nereid, a rambunctious young pup at my side, it seems life is good again. All this has me thinking about abundance and scarcity. How do these concepts shape my experience and perception of reality? One thing I sometimes feel is a scarcity of time. I seem too often to be hurrying around in an attempt to "git 'er done," making preparations for the next outing, or cleaning up after the last one. But there is enough time to do everything if I just slow down and do it. The slower I go the more time I seem to have. What irony!

Take the twinkling of an iridium satellite flare that Steve pointed out one clear night. It required attention and patience to catch the shining little sky act. I was busy doing chores below when Steve interrupted and called me up on the deck for a show. He directed me to gaze, "about 50 degrees up and to the north... now watch... any minute now... keep watching... right there... any second..." I was about to lose interest when it happened, a star-like light appeared, brightened, traveled for a few seconds across the night and disappeared again to continue its orbit around the earth. It is amazing that we can know just where and when to catch the glint of sun off the solar panels of an orbiting satellite. It may be science and math that allow these satellites to be launched and to calculate their paths, but it is pure magic to see one appear in the night from the bow of a sailboat! Logic and romance touch for a moment in the still of night. In my rush, I barely savored the experience, but in retrospect I appreciate just how special that was. There is always time for moments like these. Take them when you can. There is an abundance of time... and infinity of it... eternity is the flip-side of linear time, and here is a tip from the mystics: it can be found deep within now.

(Image from

Abundance is only a state of mind, a certain framing of reality that colors our experience. She leaves contentment, generosity and camaraderie in her wake. Abundance is everywhere we bother to look. There is truly no reason any human should go hungry on this earth. When I see what 100 square feet of garden can grow, I know that this earth can provide an abundance for us all!

Around election time I posted an entry on Victory Gardens, and this spring I put my muscles into building one. Specifically, we spent $200 constructing and filling two 50 sq. ft. raised beds with organic soil, compost and seed. We put up deer fencing, and planted a few starts. I don't think we have gotten our $200 back in produce yet, but there are more greens than we can eat and most of the cost will be spread out over the next few years. We have three varieties of lettuce, spinach, radish, beet, cucumber, beans, peas, tomatoes, dill, fennel, bok choi, cabbage, celery (yep!) carrots, garlic, Italian parsley, basil, peppers, rhubarb, zucchini, and yellow squash. Later we'll have winter spaghetti squash and brussels sprouts.

(My garden in June)

Scarcity, the ugly stepchild of Abundance, begets deceit, mistrust, desperation and hoarding. The scarcity mentality is what makes us afraid to share, and afraid that others will take what we have. Scarcity mentality says there is not enough for all so get what you can, any way you can, and guard it from those without. Of course, we can all think of times when food or other necessities were in demand and scarce; it seemed there was not enough to go round. But if we were to zoom out a little and see a larger picture, there is always enough if only the "haves" will share with the "have nots." We can't give to everybody in need, but we can give to somebody in need--even if only a little. Like manic squirrels we stash away money and food, worrying that we will go hungry in the winter of our life, but disaster can strike at any point along the path and on any scale. Our reserves can be destroyed (from stock market plunges to power outages that cause freezers to fail) and leave us with little to nothing.

It is just my humble opinion, but I do not trust that money will continue to hold its value, while friendship and good will can span even generations.
A lot of friends will serve one better than a savings account. As some body's grandma used to say, "You can't eat money, honey." Understanding abundance means trusting that there is an ebb and flow to resources and trying to freeze the process doesn't help in the big picture, in the long run, in truth. Letting go keeps resources flowing. When we get rid of what we don't need we make room for what we do.

(I recycled this painting to decorate my garden gate.)

Then there is Excess, the Dionysian cousin to Abundance, so arrogant and belligerent, who can be dangerous and harmful. We had a taste of this last Saturday when we were leaving our anchorage off the west side of Camano Island for the weekend and were surprised by an excess of wind. We planned a little over-nighter to Hope Island with our friends Suzanne and Bonnie aboard.
Our trouble started with our efforts to get everybody, four people and two doggies, and all the gear dinghied out to Nomadness in the 15+ knots. I did the rowing for the three trips in ever increasing whitecaps and wind. Steve got knocked down by a cresting wave while trying to get in the dinghy--Bonnie got her foot caught doing the same and we nearly crashed into the bulkhead! Once we were all safely aboard, I slipped out of my soaking clothes and into a dry miniskirt and tank top. Finally the ordeal was over and we could take a breath before weighing anchor and sailing away. Wrong! Steve noticed the mooring buoys seemed to be getting nearer. Isn't the tide ebbing? Holy moly we might be dragging anchor toward the lee shore! I rushed to topsides so we could weigh anchor and get underway immediately. There would be time to collect myself and finish dressing once away from the shore.

Wrong again! The wind quickly built to a steady 25 knots with upward gusts. Waves were crashing over bow and stern. Steve got about half of the 120' of chain up when the windlass brake failed and all 300' of chain paid out in noisy rush! Now we were in a serious situation. We were on a lee shore surrounded by small boats and buoys on a falling tide in less than 30' of water with winds increasing! The anchor chain was knotted and jammed in the locker so we couldn't even cut ourselves free if we wanted to. For the next half an hour or more we danced a delicate and scary waltz as we managed to get the anchor hauled in without getting tangled in the mooring field, stepping on any other boats, or going aground. I handled the helm while Steve wrestled the chain back in with the help of a bridle he cleated on deck to keep more chain from slipping out! Little by little he got it in. I should have known something would turn bad when Suzanne was nonchalantly whistling the theme to Gilligan's Island on the way to the boat. "A three hour tour. A three hour tour..."

(Last fall in Saratoga Passage. We had hoped for another day like this.)

We powered across Saratoga Passage toward Whidbey to get in the wind shadow and calmer waters to discuss our plans. The prediction was for south winds to 20, but we had west winds gusting over 30 knots which ruled out anchoring at Hope Island which lies just east of Deception Pass. After weighing all our options we ended up going into Oak Harbor with which we were familiar. We would be docking in 25+ gusts, but we had no other choice. With the windlass brake failing,
anchoring anywhere was out of the question. Steve radioed the marina and was advised to avoid the harbor which was white-capped and busy. We revisited the alternatives and decided OH was our only option. He called the marina repeatedly for help on the dock but nobody answered. Apparently everybody was busy, but Steve insisted we had to go for it. Docking proved to be a tougher than usual ordeal. Steve managed to stay calm and pulled it off with some help from a favorable headwind and five magically appearing dock angels to muscle the 18 tonnes to a rest.

What a day! What an education. I think we both gained some valuable confidence and trust in each other too. If you had asked me beforehand I never would have believed that I had the skills to pull that anchor dance off. I would have said I lacked experience. I would have had a scarcity mentality in regards to my abilities. But we did pull it off, we had enough knowledge and cool between us to do the right thing and avoid disaster. Steve proved to be a competent and calm skipper, and I did my job as crew (with nary a thought to my bare bottom flashing the houses on shore as my miniskirt flapped in the wind--whoopsy. I wish I had picture of that to post-hee hee!). So we drank wine and ate a delicious meal of corn on the cob, salad from my garden and crabcakes courtesy of Bonnie and her neighbor's gift of eight fresh crab. Summer abundance. We ended up sharing the crab and greens with a trio of brothers on neighboring, Mirador, our dock angels. Perfect.

It looks like one way or another Steve and I are gaining the rapport that we will need to respond to the various situations nature throws at us out there. I wished for opportunities to learn lessons on the water, and I am getting them. Oh boy. Nomadness may still be only a couple miles from the homestead, but we are steadily on our way. Besides, what's the hurry? We have an abundance of time, a garden full of vegetables to enjoy, and starry nights punctuated with glistening satellites to marvel at as they tumble through our little slice of heaven.

Now for those of you who would like to read a grittier, longer and much more detailed account of the lee shore emergency, please see Steve's exhilarating post!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Time on Water

With all the long and ever more complex lists of things to do on Nomadness, around the homestead (an upcoming blog on the garden project is in the works), for Camano Sail, and trying to keep an eye on the precision chewer/speed digger Zuben, I find myself overwhelmed. I stand around staring blankly at the dishes, the yard, the boat, the lab, and into my sweetie's eyes asking, "uh... what are we going to do today?" Thankfully, we have friends who are more sensible and invite us out for fun on the water on these long warm days of late spring.

Last month, we tried to get Nomadness from Oak Harbor over to Camano for a potluck with friends and to share the water with Adventuress but alas we didn't make it due to extensive biological growth on the hull. We did get it cleaned off by some spry young divers, and made a little venture around Saratoga Passage the following day.

And we have gone out kayaking off the west side of Camano in the past couple of weeks too. Steve and Bonnie were in the pedal powered Hobie kayaks, so they left me in their wake quite rapidly. But I enjoyed paddling around slowly, carefully, taking in the sights and sounds of gulls and gently breaking waves on the beach. It was a gorgeous day to expose Zuby to the kayak. He even got to swim for the first time. He isn't crazy about it yet, but I'm not giving up on making him a water dog! He sure looks cute in his PFD (which he is rapidly outgrowing)!

Awww....this and the previous photo by Steven Roberts.

I also spent a day with Lawrence and Bonnie moving She Oughter from the west to the east side of Camano Island. Lawrence had a three day charter by a company testing some new submersible robots. He needed to set a buoy so he would not have to relaunch each day. We spent the entire day getting the cars set for transport logistics, launching at the busy Camano Island State Park, setting two danforth anchors with the right orientation and depth in the uneven bottom of Port Susan, and hanging the buoy off them. It was quite an elaborate process, but it turned out to be a wonderful day on the water. And as is usual with working for Camano Sail, I learned a lot.

I am not a big fan of motor boats, but I had blast zipping around in this thing. Zuby didn't like the sound of motor when revved up to high RPMs and whined. Bonnie suggested that supersonic sounds might be hurting his ears, so we slowed down a bit and everybody was happy. This boat can be beached, and with the cool landing craft bow, you can step ashore like a princess and never wet your feet! Gotta love that! As far a motor boats go, this little boat is really quite cool. Made by Ottercraft of Kingston, Washington, it is rugged and functional. They are sturdy workboats used by the coast guard, tribal police, shell fish companies and more.

Captain Baum on She Oughter.

The main thing for me right now is to just get out on the water more. It is too easy to get sidetracked with all the "projects" and let the sunny days pass without getting a taste of why we're doing all this work in the first place!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wicked Winch of the West

Spring has sprung and things are moving faster now. The days are warmer, longer, and filled with more activity than we've seen in these parts for the past few months. Of course having a rambunctious pup around brings a lot of life to the Camano Homestead ("noise" is what Steve calls it) but on top of that we've been on a serious property search. Having exhausted the possibilities in the South Sound (or at least what is available on the real estate market at this time), we are turning our sites to the Port Townsend area. We recently took a trip to Port Hadlock to check out the marina, and dare I say, we both fell in love. The community is sweet, welcoming, dog loving, boat-centric and wonderfully down-home feeling. The area is rural without being redneck, and the proximity to Port Townsend, which is full of travelers, artists, eccentrics, and world-class boat builders, makes it a perfect area for our relocation. Now we just have to sell the Camano Homestead and find a place to land.

Meanwhile, I have taken a part time job with Camano Sail and Power where I am job sharing with my good friend Bonnie for Captain Lawrence Baum.

That's me in the Geek Cruises Sweatshirt--I know what you ex's are thinking!

My work so far has consisted of sanding and preparing a J24 and a Hobie 33 for launch in May. I am happy to be gaining hands-on time working on these two swift little boats and can't wait for the day we finally splash them. The Hobie will be in the water by May 9th. Come on down to the Cama State Park and get a free ride on the historic schooner Adventuress or even on Samurai, as we participate in the Annual Center for Wooden Boats' Mother's Day Saturday Sail at Cama Beach.

Lil Samurai. J24 just before the final buff.

Hobie 33 with lift keel.

Samurai with freshly painted stripe and new vinyl lettering. Sharp!

This job is perfect for me, because it requires no long-term commitment, offers new skills, and pays for the pup's vet, chow and bone bills. Sigh. If we move, no worries. If we stay a bit longer, Lawrence will make me an assistant sail instructor for his dinghy sailing classes, and crew for any charters. In addition, if I stick around long enough, I might even get my Keel Boat Skipper Certification as well. So no matter what the future dishes out, I am sure to be spending lots of time on the water this year.

One of the most exciting things I've been taught is how to overhaul winches. This sounds scary, especially for a girly girl like me
(yeah, right!) who doesn't usually do so well with things mechanical (the honest truth). Yet, in the past few days, Bonnie and I have overhauled a couple Barient two speed winches, two single speed Barients and five Lewmars. I found it incredibly satisfying to see how these things work.

Winches, as every sailor knows, are one of the most crucial pieces of equipment on a sailboat. Plus, somebody's life could rely on the use of a winch to pull an overboard sailor onto deck or to hoist a crew member up the mast. So learning how they work, how to disassemble, clean, grease (minimally please!) and reassemble them feels like a great skill to have under my belt. Sensing the difference between a grimy, sluggish, or over greased winch and a clean, smooth running winch, feels really good.

Now, for my readers who are sailors, bear with me as I explain the process. Or just skip to the end. Many of my readers know me from my other lives as a writer, theatre artist, or librarian (with a small "L") and know very little about sailing. Here we go.

To take most winches apart one needs only a strong fingernail, or perhaps a screwdriver if you don't want to "break a nail." Make sure you have a can or box or something to put all the parts into as you take them off; you don't want something rolling overboard for God's sake! First you remove the circlip, a little ring that coils around the top of the winch where the handle goes in. Lift off the the stainless top cap (the part with the manufacturer's name).

Next, you remove the black outer drum, which easily lifts right off, to reveal the inside of the winch and its working parts. The drum will have two pawls (shaped like "P's") with springs in it as well as a bearing or two. This winch had two roller bearings.

The pawl on the left is missing its spring. Roller bearings just visible inside.

The inside of the Lewmar 30 Two Speed Winch after the drum was removed.

Then you can pull out the gear spindle and remove the two ratchet gears. The gear spindle has an odd shaped head and is visible in the lower center of the above picture with a droplet of water on it. (The Barient winches had a gear spindle with a cotter pin--which requires a screw driver or other tool to remove and then must be bent to replace--an inferior design IMHO.)

Ratchet Gears with spindle removed.

Here you can clearly see two pawls, which only come in only a couple of sizes (small or large) and are interchangeable with the pawls on the inside of the drum, so there is no need to worry about getting them mixed up. Just take care when removing them not to let the little springs go flying!
The gears separate and the top one fits into a little groove on the bottom one. It is possible to put them back together upside down, but not likely if you actually look at it closely.

Now you are left with the center stem and spindle which lifts out after removing a small plastic crescent-shaped part. I am not sure what the correct term for this is, but again a fingernail or a small screwdriver
will do to pry it loose from either end. This is the only plastic part, and care should be taken not to clean it with a solvent that could damage it.

The white plastic part is right in the middle.

Now comes the grubby part of cleaning all the parts with diesel or kerosene and a toothbrush and/or wire brush. Wear appropriate gloves (not latex which will bag out something awful), and be sure to dry the parts well before lubricating lightly with winch grease. Do not grease the pawls or gear teeth as it could cause them to stick, but do apply a very light coating to all the smooth surfaces that will make contact.

Here are the parts after a cleaning. Note the one pawl spring is missing, which we replaced. Also I forgot to put the roller bearings in this picture. Oopsy. Click on the image to see it larger.

When reassembling, never force anything. The parts should go together easily. If they don't, you probably have them put together wrong. So that is what I have been learning. Need your winches cleaned? Call the Wicked Winch of the West, and I'll fix you up.

If you want to do it yourself, kits are available at most marine supply stores, and Amazon has them, which you can purchase by clicking on the ads above. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Crew! Meet Zuby!

Puppy Love cures all. Well, maybe not all, but a heck of a lot. I couldn't get used to living without Lily. I missed having my little sidekick around. As my dear friend Molly put it, "Sky, you just need a familiar." She is right. I do need a familiar. As a woman who has chosen not to have children, I seem to need to find some outlet for my nurturing and mothering instincts. But, I not only missed my corgi companion, I missed the window she gave me into another world, the animal world. To see the world through the eyes of a pet is truly a wondrous thing that can bring us to place outside our busy thinking apparatus and inside the present moment.

My pets have always been amazing animals with developed personalities and complex relationships.
Critters, if fed, cared for, and loved, can overcome their instincts and live peacefully with other species (more than we humans can do within our own species). This is the power of love. And the love grown between a human and a pet is a special manifestation, unlike any other.

So, in short, I just couldn't go on without another canine pal. Enter Zubenelgenubi (zoo-BEN-el-jeh-NOO-bee) a Miniature Australian Shepherd that we recently adopted from Underdawgz Rescue in Olympia.

He is named after one of the 57 stars used for celestial navigation which is something I someday wish to know more about. Zubenelgenubi is actually a binary star system in the constellation Libra. We've got some star charts and on the clear nights have tried to spot it, but haven't located it yet. We will.

Zuby, as we call him, is just a tiny little guy, the result of irresponsible breeding. At four months he just hit ten pounds. Breeders began selectively breeding smaller Aussies in the 1960's and 70's resulting in compact little shepherds under 18" tall. In recent years the Mini Aussie has become so popular that some folks have started making "designer Aussies" they call Toys. These tiny little dogs probably have other breeds mixed in to get them under 15 lbs. Since they could hardly do the job Aussies were meant to do - herd - they aren't really Aussies at all. Little Zuby is most likely the result of somebody breeding for small size over health, temperament, or purpose. Personally, I do not approve of this practice, but once the pups are here, they need love like the rest of us. We're hoping he'll grow up a bit, but will love him at any size.

There have been a lot of puppy mill busts here in Washington, and the horror of it would turn your stomach and break your heart. So please, I urge those of you looking for a new pet, go to a rescue, a shelter, or find a reputable breeder. Never buy from pet stores or online kennels that will ship you a pup, as there is no way to know the conditions from which the pup came. Most reputable breeders are very selective about the homes they send their pups to and would not allow their pups to end up in a store.

For those of you who don't know the breed, Australian Shepherds are some of the most intelligent, hardest working dogs out there. Bred for endurance, communication and herding both sheep and cattle, they have energy, brains, chutzpah, and stamina. This little fellow has the smarts for sure. He's already halfway through "Dog Logic: Companion Obedience" by Joel McMains. This book takes the standard, pack mentality approach to training. McMains loves and respects dogs, and it comes through on every page. Like any training manual, it is imperfect, but worth a read if you're new to dog training. And although Zuby cannot read, of course, he takes in a lot from the excellent illustrations.

Another wonderful book about human dog communication and the many misunderstandings that arise from our different use of body language and gesture, is Patricia McConnell's, "The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs." McConnell, PhD., has some great insight into the different interpretations of gestures between canine and humans.

At times, we also refer to our little pal as Dr. Genubi because he has the ability to cure my blues. His silly puppy antics are enough to mend any heart. Just look at that little pink tongue!

So for now at least there will be no need for antidepressants thanks to our new crew member. He's already adapted to the PFD (puppy flotation device) and getting good and wet. Soon we'll have him sailing. And in this household, we are ready to get back onto the water. Onward we go, Captain Steve, Number One, and Zuby-crew!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


To stay in touch. To be in touch. To get in touch with. To be touched. On the physical level, as sensation, touch distinguishes the lover from the fighter. We need to be touched one way or the other. Human touch, especially affection, feeds us deep down, through our skin, muscle, blood and bone. Without touch something inside withers.

Then there is the "tuned in" sense of being in touch with something. This is a particular mental state, one of receptivity and connection, and one, I would argue, that is every bit as essential to human well-being and overall health as physical touch. This is a mental state that I have seen very little of these last few months. After the loss of my pal, Lily, I fell into a bit of a depression, in the sense that I have not been able to make things happen. I am not getting things done. I am not taking those precious incremental steps toward the sea and the voyage of a lifetime that awaits me out there. I had, to some degree, lost sight of my aim, and lost touch with the part of me that manifests dreams. I have felt unconnected and vulnerable to negative emotional states. And my peeps are not here to slap me around in that loving way that can get me moving again in some direction or other.

(Penning my first play. Age 22)

I am, thankfully, coming around. Reawakening. Getting in touch with what brought me here. Steve and I have been toying with the problems of living in the woods with Nomadness hours away, and my friends, family, and vibrant community even further. The sense of community that feeds my soul is something I remember, but in which I no longer participate. Having an online community is wonderful, but having a face to face, hugging, laughing, bullshit calling, group of comrades to puzzle over problems with and be in touch with is something all together different.

We've come to a conclusion that while we prepare ourselves and our vessel for the journey we dream of, we have to stay in touch with the day to day pleasures of living. We have to create a community. Steve has his vision of the Flotilla, and I have mine. They overlap in our heads, but to manifest them, we need to touch others in a way that sparks up a firestorm of enthusiasm and forges something none of us,
individually, could have envisioned. So the short of it is that we are looking to sell the Camano Island House and purchase something on the water and nearer to my community in Olympia. The logistics of boat installations and the lack of communal excitement can both be alleviated with a move.

It sounds like a huge distraction from our goal of moving onto a boat and voyaging forth, but in fact, it is not. We are in one of those places where we keep bumping into the same obstacles, turning from them for awhile, and later returning to bump again. The boat projects (solar installations, water works, geeky talking-ship nodes of information, comfort inducing cabin alterations, etc.) are getting planned, developed, and discussed, but not installed. Things are moving, but sometimes very slowly.

We both know we can be far more productive, both
individually and together, than we currently are. Why? Well, when we talk about the best times of our lives, the most creative, productive, and satisfying, we both return to times when we had a community around us. I had my theatre, and Steve had his geeky interns helping him develop Behemoth (his over-the-top bicycle) and the Microship (the sweet home-built trimaran in the lab that awaits the next adventure). Basically, as I see it, we have lost touch with the energy of community. The thrill of the brainstorm, the all nighters that produce art (and engineering) amidst the sound of laughter, coffee percolating at 3am, huge pots of soup to feed the workers, and that blessed shout of "I got it!"

We need this kind of touch to do our best work. To
be our best. We need to be in touch with other minds and in love with the process. When we are in love with our work, our work is always better. So, although it seems crazy, we are probably going to move. And although it will mean that this summer will be another summer of cruising the islands (poor us!), not blue water, world voyaging, I believe it is a step in the right direction. And if being in a community can reawaken the playful, anything is possible, attitude that is requisite to ingenuity, any delay or hassles moving brings, will most certainly be worth it. Perhaps a few more hugs, and few more late night brainstorming sessions with sailors and artists and adventurers will put us back in touch with the parts of ourselves that will "git busy and git 'er done!" One can only hope.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Our Legacy

With the recent passing of my canine pal and a life-threatening infection in my aging father's hip, I have a had a lot of emotional activity to observe in myself lately. To put it simply, I've been about as much of a wreck as I can be. To any outsider, I am equanimously handling each challenge with a modicum of grace, but internally... oh boy! I observe myself struggling to keep a rational perspective while tsunamis of emotion crash on my inner shores. It is fascinating to watch how quickly my thinker starts churning up fearful thoughts and negativity.

This may qualify as "navel gazing" to some, but now and then, when things get very intense, it enables me to step further back and look at myself and humanity from some distant stance beyond my own life. One of the observations that keeps popping up, is how very wrongly we live in respect to animals. I see how acutely I suffered the loss of my doggy, and I know that many many people feel as deeply toward their own pets. Yet, in spite of this indisputable bond we make with our pets, many of us go on munching bacon, fishing out the oceans, harassing marine mammals, enslaving elephants, chasing down wolves from helicopters, and so on. I personally do not participate in all of these activities, but we humans do. We are all part of the human family that has become shamefully dysfunctional in relation to coexisting with other species. In the same way we feel deeply for our own family or friends and protect them fiercely, we feel for our pets, yet dismiss and disregard the well being of other animals and peoples.

I am no history expert, but I think most historians would agree that the domestication of animals was a major leap in human social evolution. It started with partnerships. Wolves and humans competed for the same prey and teaming up was mutually beneficial. Later nomads started keeping herds of sheep and goats, which insured against starvation of the clan. Eventually plants and food source animals became domesticated by humans and were an important part of the fundamental shift to settled communities and the rise of civilizations. With this change in basic human behavior came change of diet, the introduction of infectious diseases, and a wide range of other biological shifts in human evolution. In short, when our relation to other species changed, we changed. I am, of course, drastically simplifying a very complex topic, but the point being, that the human relationships to animals has been a major factor in our development both socially and biologically. A decent article on domestication of animals and plants is posted here, and there are dozens of books on the subject.

Domestication of wolves began 13,000 years ago, but, where are we today? The way we raise much of our food is a shameful abomination. In truth it is so horrific that few can bear to honestly acknowledge where their food actually comes from. How did we go from partnerships with animals to the enslavement and torture of so many creatures?

I have a suspicion that there is another huge step in human/animal interaction that is already underway. Many of the beliefs we have held about animals are now being examined more closely and some even proven false. Assumptions that animals do not have memory, cannot plan, do not feel emotions, have inferior systems of communication, do not use/make tools, or sophisticated social contracts are all being scrutinized by scientists. The results are astounding, and to me, the seeds of a revolution. Birds can learn our language and actually communicate their desires to us. Crows make tools and use them to harvest food. Whales develop complex languages and communicate across oceans to set up meetings and share information. Elephants recognize and respond to skulls and ivory from their own species and are reported to show signs of extended grieving for lost family members.
Moved by music, camels weep. Dogs smell disease in humans. Primates exercise self control and plan ahead. I could go on and on...

Of course folks will say that these achievements are a drop in the bucket compared to human achievement, but we must remember that we are also measuring these critters by human standards. If we were to measure humans by animal standards we would quickly see that we are inferior in many, many ways not the least of which is sensory perception.

See this film if you have not already!

I sometimes try to imagine how aliens would see humanity as a whole. Gurdjieff did this brilliantly in "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" and points out the absurdity of what he terms "process of reciprocal destruction." But what about the destruction of other species? I believe the effort to understand the intelligence of other species is a frontier that will yield nothing short of a huge evolutionary leap. So many of our technologies are weak efforts to do what animals do naturally and expertly: navigation, long distance communication, disease detection, architecture, flight, sonar, and the list goes on... if we have figured out how to do something with technology there is likely a counterpart in nature that has the ability built in.

What would our world be like if we truly cooperated with other species, letting each do what it has evolved to do? I for one, believe it would be far superior world. What arrogance has implanted itself in our hugely complex thinking apparatus that convinces us that we are superior to other creatures? Or more fundamentally, that we are separate? It is my wish to live to see the day we treat humans as humans and elevate animals to their rightful place of respect in our world.

Diamond Lily

Chimp Grin by Amp26