Sunday, December 20, 2015

The waves of Christmas

Forgive me blogger for I have sinned. It’s been 52 days since my last post.
I’ve been caught up. We’ve been relaunched – set free from the confines of a dusty boatyard and allowed to sail along a waterway that offers up town and city, each becoming warmer as we head further and further south. 
Our amazing friends in St Augustine have set us free, cut the cord. The farewells were part of our nomadic reality.

We’ve been hugging a coastline and clinging to it’s landlubber luxuries. Getting caught up in it’s busy motorway reality…
Seasons have changed. Holidays have come and gone. To some, it’s now winter.

Enjoying the lights and sand Christmas tree in West Palm Beach

Accosted by perfume wielding retail warriors, shoving by glossy displays of patent leather footwear, obese flesh in motorized lazy chairs, shrill echoes of the kids swooshing by below the adult faces, sneezes, sniffles, we wind our way through the mayhem of pre Christmas in a shopping mall.
Dry air and jolly carols pumped through the vents above, tinsel, trees, BOGO signs, we are drawn along with the crowds in a cinnamon scented coma.
On days like these I remember 20 years ago where this was the norm. When I headed into that, armed with gift lists. When my family lived close by. When I was part of it all. Days of stocking stuffers, huge turkey in the oven all day, a fresh new Christmas outfit for when the relatives arrived.
Nowadays, after 17 years worlds away in Ghana, I find myself nearly 4 years living on a boat. A boat that takes me to remote islands, that has taken me to the feet of the Statue of Liberty. A boat that now sits anchored outside a touristy little enclave south of Miami called Coconut Grove.
Here, the people go to malls with gift lists. They buy turkeys, they drag 8 foot tall Christmas trees home and decorate them.
It’s easy to forget that we are here in the mall to check the weather online. That the impending cold front is due to bring in high winds and choppy seas. That we may have to re-anchor the boat or at least let out more chain so we don’t drag into a pole and have a hole in the hull for Christmas.
It’s easy to forget, when in the mall, that for us there is no pine tree or even a turkey. That my galley oven can barely fit a small chicken. That there is no family close by and that the Christmas outfit will be flip flops and shorts. Maybe I’ll wear my new novelty light up Christmas earrings to the cruiser’s potluck on the 25th.
For now we head out of the mall as darkness closes in. We need to take two buses to get back to the dinghies and get across to the boats before it’s too late. Others in the mall are thinking of supper, of the weekend ahead. Of all the plans for Christmas. Me, I’m thinking this: We don’t have regulation navigation lights on the dinghy, just a flashlight and the Florida boat patrol police do not approve. We’ve heard they pull  little dinghies over and they hand out harsh fines. We need to get back before it’s too dark.

My new pants are tacky with dried salt water from the ride into shore earlier. My waterproof backpack is sealed up and ready. We arrive back at the dock and climb like awkward spiders across the dinghies in the watery parking lot. Flashlight on, and we’re off.
And since then two days have passed. Days where my view of shore bounces by 4 feet every two seconds. I hold on to everything I can as I bump my bruised hips along from one side of the boat to the other. The wind is blowing 25 knots and gusting to 32 knots. Shore life is a far off concept. Our dinghy bounces and flails wildly at the back of Shiloh, drenched with salt water, thrown by waves and tugged back violently by it’s ‘leash’. Heading toward land would mean a full salt water shower. Probably closer to a bath.
Days like this I can barely remember what it was like to live in a house where weather is something separated from your life. Where the winds don’t play a role in your plans for the day. Where the floor of your house isn’t moving 4 feet up and down and the view out your window is stationary.
Mantras about travel and expanding horizons run through my head over and over. They try hard to drown out any naysayers up there in my mind who may wonder what the hell I’m doing out here a mile from shore being thrown around for days at a time. 

But there is one little voice that remains strong and steady. It is strongest at Christmas. It’s the voice that makes me wish the world was small. Where I could see the faces of my niece and nephew on Christmas morning, begging to open their stockings, excited that Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk, tearing open presents, while the adults sit blurry eyed clinging to coffee cups, looking for strength to face this hectic day.
It’s those moments that travel can never replace. For us, home is where the anchor drops and that is a glorious indescribable freedom. But for a big part of my heart, it comes in waves of emotion: home is where that family is on Christmas morning by the tree.