Coming now to the nickels, dimes, and the last dog days of what remains of this 69th August I’ve come to know— I leap like a gazelle, eat like a voracious crocodile as what to make of this corner of creation we find the capitalist system to have worked itself into.
Threading the needle of my adulthood through the eye of my extended youth has been a work in progress. I delude myself imagining the unrequited love I’d found cavorting along the surfs edge with the throng of nubile bikini clad wanton darlings of times gone by. I the gallant gentleman volunteering to swab sunscreen onto their shoulders and backs. Trustable, useful and mesmerized. Infatuation needs to come with a better operator’s manual for the next visit should this reincarnation thing in fact be true.
The rules are the rules. Ignoring the rules will place at risk the chances of losing the whole game. Instead of that romp in the midnight sun along the shores edge you are left to eat alone at an open all-night Denny’s. Here is located the starting line in the race to win the purest love, a love like no other, the one that changes the solitude that has been eating away inside since being separated from my mom the first day of kindergarten .
Landing decks have been fashioned. Ends of fresh cut lumber have been sanded, the planks screwed to the frames, rough edges sanded until they were as smooth as the shoulders in need of sunscreen, then coming back to the task at hand I stood the platform on end to stain the new exterior landing’s then let them dry while I drip with sweat in the late summer sun.
How I had steered the ship of my life into a boatyard to restore a wooden sailboat had to do with the hubris, this was the blunder I allowed to tyrannize any chance of my ever being less ambitious. I entertained a doozy, the one I nailed my future to, brash and confident that the restoration would take maybe 3 months tops when in fact it would turn into a 7-year task.
Right off the bat you need to know the odds of making it to the end was near zero. The project’s sole volunteer hadn’t much woodworking experience. The hull required 2500 screws to be fastened to fresh oak ribs that had been sistered into place alongside the existing worn ribs. Those laminated oak frames were steamed until bendable then buttered up with epoxy and slid quick into place before they stiffened. I’m exhausted just remembering how the project had trapped me, how there was no way out, that giving up when you are so close would be something I could not bare to carry in my heart, this the scar I knew would be a fatal wounding ending my best shot at living my best life. Quitting the project was not an option. It would be like giving up on everything I stood for, every ounce of character I’d earned, every bit of progress I had made, my phantom General’s had got me into a quagmire, and I would have to fight my way out against having underestimated the scale and scope entailed in the restoration of a wooden boat.
There were terrifying nights during the years while I was working on the sloop’s restoration. Tormented by my folly I’d awaken in a flop sweat. An all but impossible to remove rotted fastener on more than one occasion required the entire day to extract. The journeymen boatwrights in the yard knowing that they may not interfere, that if they did intercede and extract the screw that it would ruin any chance of my growing into a self-sufficient craftsman. The only way to learn how to stand on my own two feet would by being brought to my knees fighting tooth and nail against a screw. I prevailed only after failing in every other way I could devise. The shamanic confidence of the most able craftsmen in a boatyard is always the same, it is hard won, the success arrives only after all the failures have had their turn. A capable boatwright’s skills once earned are never lost.
I am still refining my talents. Being a husband welded by vowing then practiced each day not just by use of your best pieces but also by revision of your least workable parts is at least as stubborn a task as extracting a screw from the plank of a wooden boat.
And then there is the ongoing pleasure of loving my daughter-now an adult-but always in my mind the kid. The unconditional nature of childrearing fuels the will to the lifelong task. Doing my best to improve the kid, the wife doing what she can to improve her husband, the journeymen boatwrights not interfering letting the wooden sloop work its will upon the novice craftsman… these are eternal frictions of nature at work. Endeavoring to unlock the mystery of how fixing a thing has the potential to make a well-lived life possible may not be so easy to explain, but it is true. The trial of restoring a wooden boat will render its verdict by etching to memory how you cannot quit a thing until it is complete, and finally when you arrive both boat and man have been forged by the challenge for the better.