I’m the first one to wake up every morning. I emerge from our nest of blankets and sleeping bags, all piled high, five sleepy people snuggled in one room at the close of each day. The dawn awakens me. It’s cold so I slip my socks back on my feet and peek out one of the port windows surrounding our cabin. The water beckons.
The water ripples, glistens. It is perfect in reflecting the beauty of the morning. Sun slowly breaks over the horizon, gently calls forth the new day in colors of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows. God calls to me at the ushering of the day, every day, wooing me to his side and I open my Bible to hear what he would say to me. I stop, I listen, I thank him for another day. If I dare, I brave the cold morning wind and slide back the hatch to sit topside with my Bible, journal and pen. I find refuge under the bimini in the cockpit; as soon as I peek out from its cover, the cold bites through me. But I long to find an unobstructed view of the sunrise. The marina brims with boats. Side by side, each dock is nearly full. I see the glory of the sun through another mast, another bow, another stern. But I see it. Beauty that fills up the soul, glory that heals the spirit. Sitting on this boat, something is healing within me.
Eventually, little feet emerge from the cabin, looking for breakfast, looking for me. I put my Bible away, and start a pot of water steaming. Oatmeal will fill bowls and tummies, brown sugar sprinkles received with delight. My feet find their place in the corner where sink and stove meet and where I can look out my favorite window. The kitchen window. For now I happily watch the neighboring marina, their lights at night, the way the sun lights up the ripples in the water during the day, but soon, through my little kitchen window, I will see long stretches of beaches, forested shore lines; mysterious new places my eyes have never seen.
The marina gives us a particular flavor of boat living. People come and go, boats get hauled out and put back in the water, the boat yard bustles with older men smoking cigarettes, machines grinding, docks empty and fill again. Like the tide coming in and going out, never ending, so is life at the marina. And one day soon, we will go out too, and another boat will fill the emptiness we will leave behind.
Our children love the marina; they love boat life. Their youth softens the crustiness of the boat yard. Around scruffy bearded men with calloused hands they run around, saying hi to all. As we walk around the rocky yard, they exclaim in delight at the boats on the hard. That one is so beautiful mommy, they say, especially towards the ones that are not beautiful at all. Paint chipped, demasted, barnacle bottomed, neglected by their owners, but to a child, a wonderland.
Most days you will find me washing something. Soft bellied babies, last night’s dinner plates, yesterday’s clothes in a five gallon bucket. It seems, my daily life is in keeping this clan clean. And it’s not as easy as it used to be. Pressing a button, turning a knob, flipping a switch- that’s the modern way. Here, I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and I know the day is ready to dry my towels on the stern. Here, I feel the bitter chill on windy days and know my hands will likely freeze while I rinse off dishes in cold water from the sink. Here, the sun and moon are not mere ornaments in the sky, something pretty to nod at now and then, they are tools and guides by which we live. Sailing at night? Best to do it on a full moon. Anchoring before sun down? Better leave early, that winter sun begins to set late afternoon. Rain on the way? Time to put away the baby clothes drying on the deck.
This is a place where if you long to be insulated from the elements around you, you will be miserable. On the sail here, it was quite rolly. The seas were boisterous, the salty spray splashed in my face as I sat fixed on the beam, gazing into the horizon, trying to steady my queasy stomach. I loved it. I’ve lived my life in fear, I’ve lived clamoring to insulate myself from all the things that might make me uncomfortable. Not anymore.
There is so much beauty here. Not just in sunsets and moon rises, not just in Night Herons splashing for fish or Buffleheads bobbing up and down, and not just in the kind smiles and conversation from boat neighbors, but there is so much beauty growing within me. I am learning who I am. Barefoot, free, on the deck, wind in my hair- beauty.