Life on Boat

Boat life is drawing to a close. I’m scheduled for only two more nights on her and that’s if everything goes well – another 4 degree night is sure to find us calling friends again, taking people up on their offers to house us in case of boat-life-saturation.

Overall the experiment has been a raving success in the same way my experiment on the birth control pill this past spring was. ‘They’d’ wanted me to go onto this chemical concoction with the intention it would be of benefit to me and my diagnosis. I carefully weighed the options and thought sure, I’ll try it. Yeah, I may be completely against the allopathic medical system’s preponderance towards prescription medication ‘solving problems’ while completely ignoring what actually causes illness, but sure, I’m at a place now where I can maintain an open mind. Sometimes allopathic medicine can be helpful. That experiment lead me to understand I will certainly not be putting myself through that again.

It’s not as though I’m saying I’ll never live on a boat again. I’m just saying I’ll probably never live on a boat with these exact set of circumstances again. I’ll know more what I’m getting into. I’ll understand that I’ll need to quickly dismiss any romantic notions of an at home daily yoga asana practice. I’ll simplify. Simplify everything.

Yesterday we made some amazing pasta sauce with the masses of tomatoes we’d previously been gifted by some lovely friends, which were going to go bad (two nights in a row away at friend’s places will do that). There were at least five ingredients in the sauce alone. This is after I’d made the decision to simplify meals as much as possible. Pasta sauce comes out of a jar. It does not need to be recreated homemade in gourmet style on a boat. The only reason I was able to rescind my previous assertion of no gourmet meals was that, other than rowing home in the morning, it was the main activity of the day. Ah the simple life. Yeah – it should be exactly that: simple.

I’ll simplify my clothes, both storage and items. I’ll simplify my mornings and my self-care routines. Simplifying my practice was one of the first things I did. It’s hard to maintain the space and time necessary for single-pointedness the way spiritual practice requires. Constant shifting of my weight to maintain equilibrium is a wonderful metaphor for yoga’s ability to encourage peace and contentment in the ups and downs of life, but it is not the environment I want for my at-home meditation practice.

And so the experiment is deemed a success: I’m alive and breathing and I made it through living on a boat for a summer. The experiment has the added factor of a basically new (does long-distance really count the same way?) relationship having its maiden voyage on the same waters. The verdict? Check. Another success.

All in all it’s been a wonderful summer. Who can really say no to being rocked to sleep every night by deep ocean waters, blue herons as neighbours, and ocean sunrises? I’ve loved the row into and out of town and the hilariousness of not tying the dinghy onto the boat and needing to swim out to get her. Most of all I’ve loved the simplicity. It’s something I’m looking forward to embodying in my life in these new ways I’ve now discovered.

We didn’t quite get all the way through Moby Dick, but we sailed through our summer on a boat.


People Watching

I really enjoy my time volunteering at the visitor’s centre of Aldermere Farm. It’s a tiny little place about six by fifteen feet tucked into the corner of the mechanic shop building of the farm. Right off Russell Avenue it’s a relatively trafficked lane for a meandering tree-lined road between Camden and Rockport. Bikers and runners are almost as common as the cars of tourists that pass through. When I arrive and pull out the giant “Open” banner to hang above the Black-Eyed Susans outside the door it’s easy for people to take notice. That and there are usually a sampling of the cattle easily seen through the wooden farm fence (made with trees felled on the farm. Yup, it’s a pretty sustainable operation). Photo on 2013-08-28 at 3.42 PM #3

Here’s a bunch o’ Belties

And so begins my day of people watching. Ok, ok, I’m actually here to impart information about the farm and the organization that runs it as well as ring through a few retail transactions of the tourist supplies printed with the black and white striped creatures. Really though, what I like to do is people watch.

Some come in and head straight for the corner by the door: a beautifully crafted wooden display unit that turns on its base offering a view of all the different styles of t-shirts available. Adult unisex? We’ve got ’em. How about a ladies fit? Want to get a whole slew for the grandkids? Our smallest size fits up to a two-year-old. For them, it’s about shopping. Later I’ll go refold the shirts that have been upturned and discarded in the barrage.

For others it begins with questions. How long has the farm been around? Is this the only place with these unique type of cattle? Or, another common question, how do I get to Rockport/the Children’s Chapel/Calderwood Lane? Then I get to utilize my ability to read and regurgitate information. I know that Aldermere is celebrating its 60th year, that there are about 8000 head of the cattle in the country including the 100-120 that are here, and that if you head down Russell Avenue a little further you’ll run into either the turnoff to Calderwood, which will take you to the Children’s Chapel, or straight into the heart of Rockport.

For some the creatures themselves are enough of a draw. It is for them that I hope every Wednesday that the 4-H kids have remembered to bring some up to the visitor’s centre pen. Sometimes it’s empty and I have to contend with unsatisfied passersby. Truth be told I get a little fed up with that crew. As if the existence of the farm presupposes their ability to get exactly what they want when they want it: a view of the oreo cookie cows. It’s that kind of entitlement I’m trying to banish from my own life in an attempt to be more accepting of what it is that I em encountering. The really frustrating thing is when there are a whole herd of them grazing somewhere in the pasture across the street. Ok, so you can’t see them up close, but can you be happy you’re seeing them at all.

Those times are when I know there are areas of my life that I’m taking for granted and yet still wanting more. I get rocked to sleep by the ocean every night. My neighbours are the cutest little buffleheads you ever did see. The stars offer themselves as my mural to gaze at every (clear) night. Yet I want a more comfortable bed. I want no rent and oodles of room to keep dry when it rains. I want to be able to get exercise and be in town right when I want without the 20 minute row to shore.

I am learning to accept these contradictions. I am learning to accept what I have created in my life without expecting more. And what I’m learning most of all is to take stock. Something I loved to do at the Ashram in this masochistic sort of way was take the yearly inventory in the bookstore. Somehow in my years there I was involved in it four times. By the time I was running it I increased the amount of days we closed the store so that we could finish the process in a relaxed way rather than at 7:00 o’clock at night. There’s something deliciously symbolic about being able to take stock of what it is that one has available. I relished in the opportunity for this kind of symbolism: counting the pieces of what I had in the store, knowing where I was at. Of course I expand this to looking more in-depth at my life.

A couple of weeks ago Amy came in with a familiar check-list and a request. Could I count the t-shirts? They were doing inventory and needed to match up the numbers the computer had with what was on the shelves. I was happy to spend a few moments counting the pieces of fabric on that crafted wooden unit.

What do I have in my life? Where can I gain clarity? I know that I am learning. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Really we’re all learning in every single moment. We’re learning how we respond and react to what we’re being presented with. To know that I’m learning is wonderful. Not only that but sometimes, when I’m really quiet and take the time, I know just what it is that I’m learning. I feel pretty blessed to know that I can ask myself questions like how do I learn? Where am I? What are the obstacles? What is being revealed? I feel pretty blessed to be able to take stock.

Like the people that pass through this little visitor’s centre, I watch the different parts of me that come forward in interactions and circumstances of life. Some of them just want to see what they can get, some are filled with questions, and some want even more. If I combine these parts together I’m bound to create a life that’s pretty wonderful. And best of all I’ll never stop asking questions.