The Little Now
Diminutives and living in the moment
This is Clouds Form Over Land, weekly writing about resilience, imperfectionism, and our relationship to the earth.
In Spanish, tossing “ito” or “ita” on the end of any noun will transform it into a smaller version. Gato into gatito and cat becomes little cat. Mosquito - little fly. Burrito - little donkey.
Ahora means now, and ahorita translates to “right now”. There’s a softness as it rolls off the tongue that the English version lacks and this extends to the definition.
The internet says the term is used all over Latin America, but we picked it up in Panama from our friend Ester. Spanish has the formal you (usted) and informal you (tu), similar to being on a first-name basis, with a bit more nuance. This additional mechanism for indicating relations and respect enables the thrill of dropping into the “tu” form for the first time with an acquaintance. For most of the journey from San Francisco, we played the role of transactional tourists. Here, a slower pace and improved language skills combined to deliver the comfortable urgency that comes with hanging out with a friend.
Our days mostly run outside the lines of Google Calendar and activities arrive along the endless conveyor belt of the little now. Ahorita drops in for swimming and hiking, leaving on the water taxi, drawing with 6-year-old Abigail, and assisting or being assisted.
We live outside of the climate-controlled fortresses that are standard today and rain or heat can make activities unpleasant or impossible. Match the movement of larger weather systems to make a sailing passage and it’s tempting to toss your hands in the air when aiming to align a what with a when. However, once in the groove, the skills of strategy and action shine with greater frequency.
There are countless movies of protagonists escaping harrowing circumstances, infiltrating the enemy camp, and vaulting obstacles seen and unseen. They are living in the world of the littlest now, course-correcting by the second rather than scheduling the next quarter. This is thrilling TV as our heroes and antiheroes reach new heights, and it looks downright exhausting to live life on the swivel. No one would call these folks planners, but the skills aren’t so different.
My urge to plan comes from a desire for certainty, to exert my will on a notebook and have my schemes unfold. The last many years have tossed curveballs and pointed out interconnections that are more powerful than penmarks made months prior. In the little now I can look around and see the weather, who is here, what needs doing, how I feel and act from that place. This compounds into the direction of our lives.
My friend Gillian recommended Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mere Mortals by Oliver Burkeman, and it may just be the last book I read on the topic.
“Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.” Oliver Burkeman
Deciding to sail around (through?) a continent is the furthest I’ve tilted towards one choice. Life seems to flow better when living in the little now and taking note of what losses to gain later when circumstances change once again. I’m unsure where I will be next week or next month and have come to think of plans as trajectories.
After learning about the little now and living it for a season, we are invited to Abigail’s quinceañera nine years from now. This is one of very few calendar events, and one I hope to keep.
Ships Log: slowly sailing from San Francisco to the Chesapeake Bay on S/V Azimuth.
We spent the past week docked in Nombre de Dios, Panama and the week prior sailing along Gulfo de Mosquitos and across the Caribbean entrance to the canal zone. We experienced big swells and squalls.
Turtle Cay Marina is far from large populations and the support has scaled to make it one of our favorite stops. There is a pickup truck that arrives Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays filled with fruit, veg, shrimp, and any miscellaneous items requested via WhatsApp. Laundry is self-service from 6 AM - 9 PM and some futbol players hanging around after practice were happy to exchange quarters (Panama runs on the US dollar but calls them Balboas). The owner delivers orders from a Costco-like store thrice weekly and we are delighting in familar snacks, a set of socket wrenchs, and a new yoga mat. We have unlimited power and water and can stay for $15 a day, walking along beaches, diving the reef, taking the cat for a stroll, and building sand castles.
Onward soon, but for now life is good and easy.
Give your closet a seasonal refresh. Haul everything out, group like items, stow the unseasonals, tailor or mend or swap what isn’t working.
Watch this quick explainer on the the electric grid from friends Henry and Katie!
Meet the needs of your usual routine in a new way. Travel a different route, shop a new grocery store, send a card instead of a message. Consider the needs that seem like they can only be met in one way.
Next Wednesday is a new moon. Clear away some tasks, clutter, and obligations to make space for starting fresh.
Written in the spirit of not letting what we can’t do get in the way of what we can.
Did you try any of these? I’d love to hear about it
Another beautiful post, or rather dispatch from The Little Now. I love your perspective. You have found your voice. Write on.
I find your writing style and cross-cultural insights while sailing very interesting and pleasing to read. Please keep writing.