Sailing to Shambala

As a young boy, I would look over the golden pastures of the farm where I lived out to the dark woods 1/4 mile away and wonder what was on the other side. I wondered how far past those woods was Viet Nam – jet airplanes spraying napalm and marines pot shotting over stone walls. How far from those woods were the glorious peaks of the Tetons – mountain men camped below in rendezvous? How far away was the wide Mississippi at Vicksburg, still wreathed in Civil War smoke? I explored the marsh in the woods with Lewis and Clark. How far past those woods lay the Pacific Ocean and tall ships plying open water? How far away were Lord Jim and his island kingdom? I dreamed of flying a wood and cloth biplane against the Red Baron over the WW1 front line just past the farm next door. I sat next to St Exupery and flew across the Sahara and the Andes. My mental construct of the world beyond the farm lacked scale and relation, but it was full of heroes and villains, adventure, tragedy, magic – and life.

Older, I built an accurate geographic model of the world in my mind. Each person and event became associated with a specific location and time. I ordered places and events in their correct spatial and historical orientation. Viet Nam moved past the Tetons while the bombers moved closer and the mountain men further away. The Civil War slid away, and St Ex crashed into the Mediterranean. I cataloged each new piece of information in its proper place – located it precisely in space and time.

The magic world beyond the woods receded. School reinforced the rational view. My education was functional, vocational – reasonable. Time and history were linear. Space was three-dimensional and full of solid objects. There was no magic. Heroes and villains existed, but their heroism and villainy had rational explanations. Scarcity is our condition, striving and ambition the answer. Work hard, stay strong, be smart and the world will be yours. It all makes perfect sense, said serious people.

I  lived in their serious, reasonable world doing the work it took to survive. Restless and unsatisfied, I moved again and again. I worked their jobs, joined the long grey line of doomed worker-drones. I sucked it up, got tough, thought their thoughts. I discussed politics, news, economics, and money. Always money. I was hungry all the time wanting more, more, more. I ate my fill and then some. I was thirsty and couldn’t slake it. I drank until I couldn’t see straight – and then drank some more. Everything was scarce, everything was expensive, and I needed more. Could I not be satisfied with a sunny day, or a thunderstorm?

Magic would not let me be. Orange-blue sunsets, blinding deep powder snowfields, water, wind, sky and silent vast empty spaces were my solace – filled my void. Wild mountains were home, noisy cities prisons. The rolling ocean called, oblivious to traffic’s cacophony. The deep blue sky of a summer day was miraculous. A bicycle ride along a desert ridge was priceless. Magic called from just beyond the woods. And so, I traveled – always looking for something unknown, never satisfied. Surely – I thought – there was more to life than being reasonable?

I learned to sail, and sailed to escape. Sailing balanced atmosphere, water, and structure to create motion. My reasonable, serious mind knew all the aero and hydrodynamics in play. It knew the sciences of navigation and meteorology. It gathered the resources necessary to obtain a boat, repair it when necessary, and go voyaging. My magical mind appreciated the wind and stars, the boisterous waves, the beautiful islands.

I sailed out into the broad Atlantic, down a perfect set of islands, chased by reasonable doubts.

And then she sailed into the bay.

She came in from the wide, open ocean and worked up the bay close-hauled in a white-hulled wood cutter. She tacked smart on a shift to avoid a muddy shoal and gained a lift on the wind. She wore cut-off shorts and a baggy tee-shirt, her blonde hair tucked under a ball cap. A big, black Newfie stood just abaft the bowsprit, surveying his domain. The boat creamed toward the marina and scant feet from the dock spun away with a jubilant sploosh. The big dog barked, and the girl caught my eye, waved. She rounded the boat into the wind, dropped the main and strolled forward to drop the anchor, the big jib flapped slow over her head. Anchor set, she stowed her gear and furled her sails – the boat was immaculate.

She rowed her wood dinghy – no plastic or inflatable for this captain – past me as I sat in the cockpit of my boat tied to the end of the dock.

“Pure fuckin’ magic.” She said as she rowed past.

(To be continued)





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