This is Clouds Form Over Land, weekly writing about life at sea and going ashore.
Once a season, I spruce up the scraps in my drafts folder and share them with paid subscribers. Thank you for supporting my work, in whatever way you can!
Much of what I seem to be figuring out on the back half of this journey is how I prefer to go about things, and with what regularity to cycle tasks back around. These orbits become the scaffolding that habits and creations can rest and grow atop.
Synthesizing my thoughts into an essay each week for this newsletter has become a practice, and pouring out the drafts every season seems to keep things fresh.
Here’s what remained at the end of winter:
I found some notes from when we were preparing to leave San Francisco Bay, including measurements for new sails, diagrams for the watermaker wiring and windless key, fastener fastening for a sewing project, a little poem about leaving the Bay, and lessons from my Nana — shared at her wake over Zoom in March 2021.
Leaving On Friday
Feelings are stored in the body
Bagels are stored in the stomach
Our blood knows what to do
Thoughts are stored in the body
Wine is stored in the bilge
Our bones know what to do
Memories are stored in the body
Fabric is stored in the closet
Our hands know what to do
Desires are stored in the body
Sails are stored in the lazerette
Our hearts know what to do
Lessons from Nana
Add sweetness to every day: chocolate bar, French Silk ice cream, holding hands, kind words.
Swim as often as you can. Optional: tread water and keep your bob haircut dry.
Press on past small talk, as quickly as etiquette will allow.
Grow and tend friendships.
Devour books and stay up for the 11pm news.
Lend a hand to meet the needs of others.
Have faith in reuninos, here and hereafter.
One great joy of this wandering has been making friends along the way. One Saturday, a friend invited me to tag along for his son’s soccer game. He picked me up from the marina and we drove through dense dirt road neighborhoods and past a flock of goats. His wife, son, and nephew hopped in and we carried on to the game. The crowd settled in on a log under a giant mango tree. We ate fresh arepas and sucked blackberry juice from plastic bags knotted in the bottom so as not to spill. Once the game got going, the moms hollered “vamos, vamos” and called each of the kids by name. There was a new boy that week and his name quickly entered the chorus. My friend coached from the sidelines and distributed water as the kids subbed in and out. It struck me how this scene might look like poverty from the outside, and that living it had such richness. My friends have such dexterity in their environment — knowing everyone, expertly timing snacks, and being beacons of positivity and encouragement for the kids.
The game itself was controlled chaos. There were twelve or so on each team running around the dirt field, all around that age when kids’ sizes vary considerably with the arrival of puberty. I was struck by how much of the gameplay was spent getting the ball sort of in the right direction. At this age, most of the kids don’t have the foot control to properly pass, much less receive, but they are delighted and stretching their skills by moving ahead imperfectly. The dusty lot was perhaps the opposite of the many hot, humid indoor swimming pools my parents carted me to beginning in elementary school and continuing on through college, and yet the cammeraderie and practice at working as a team and with one’s body was the same.
Calling All My Energy Back
This season was filled with the treasures of time together with many loved friends and family. People traversed thousands of miles to see us outside of their comfort zone — some serious love in action. I wrote about fun things we did in Cartagena in this post. Our last visitor tagged on a trip to Medellin and Scott went along with him. I stayed aboard with Cypress the cat for some solitude and passage preparation ahead of our 1000-mile sail. This was perhaps the most alone time I’ve had since 2019. The first day was a flurry and I stayed up too late to really feel the complete freedom of my time. On day two I made the place messier on the way to making it cleaner. By day three I was casting a wide net of reconnection for the job search and dancing around. On day four I began sewing a coat to celebrate Scott’s captain’s license that began in 2021. I was humming, firing on all cylinders. I love to anticipate the needs of others and smooth out the transitions and turmoil of travel. And, I love calling all that energy back too.
Another highlight of the season was three weeks of Spanish class. My classmates and I covered past tense verb conjugations and prepositions. Some prepositions feel like I’m really gaining ground as a natural speaker, while others confound. The verb for dreaming delights me. Soñar is always paired with the preposition con, meaning with. In English, we dream about things. In Spanish, we dream with them.
Caring for a sailboat means coming a little closer to the reality of entropy. The motion of the ocean will wiggle most things loose given enough time, and underwater creatures create habitats on the hull. We have hosted colonies of barnacles and unnamed scum that then enticed the tiniest crabs and fish. Even saltwater itself encourages things to fall apart. The briny solution acts just like the electrolyte in a battery and will carry charge to metals of different voltages. As the electrons move from one piece of hardware to another, it corrodes the former.
Destiny has no beeper
David Foster Wallace said: '“Almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of ‘psst’ that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.”
Sea travel requires striving intensely toward a desired course, and complete openness to the whims of the unexpected. There are estimated times of arrival, but no highway exits or reststops. The key plot points of our journey thus far couldn’t have been predicted, and many came from going slowly or openly enough to hear that “psst”. As we come closer to the close of this journey and start of the next, there is much interplay between what we think will happen and the not-knowingness we’ve come to expect.
Thank you for supporting my writing with your time and resources. Recovering this love for words and building confidence to share outside my journal has been a huge boon of deciding to leave the dock. Your thumbs up means more than you know!
Wise well beyond your years! I love your insights, perspective and hat tip to lessons from Nana. No doubt she is very proud of you, and her red pen wouldn't be of much use. 😍