The Peace of Wild Things | Road to VB

As you can see from the title of this blog post, I’ve decided to start over on my “Road to V-grade” journey. I’m doing this in part because of my recent injury, and in part because of my recent injury. There is still so much stiffness, so much lateral instability, but the good news is that the tenderness around the lateral cruciate ligament (LCL) is almost gone. I attribute this to time, ibuprofen, and the sound of the rain falling softly on my boat.

I woke up this morning and did not engage in my regular routine. My regular routine is to check Shake Shack’s stock, then Sea Limited, then Aurora Cannabis, and then to do a plethora of other things on the internet ranging from checking my email to checking the news to googling the words “coronavirus stats.” Instead, this morning I woke up and just lay there for awhile. Then I started reading a book by “Dr.” Joe Dispenza. Then I started reading a book by Dan Richards. Then I got up, un-made my bed, and sat there looking at the raindrops on the window. Then I put the kettle on.

At some point I also lit a candle and checked the status of my plants (the succulent is doing better than ever and I’m going to transplant it to a bigger pot. The green queen is still slowly dying, though I’ve started a watering schedule).

I tend to get down on living on a boat while others tend to be excited about it. I know deep down the boat isn’t the problem; if I lived in an apartment I’d find other problems to complain about. Seattle would still be rainy and gray and gloomy and the sun would still be setting at 4:33pm. If I lived in an apartment maybe I’d have too much space, maybe I’d just accumulate clutter, I’d have higher bills to pay and my rent would be much higher. I could have noisy neighbors! Here on the boat I never have to worry about people playing loud music or talking loudly or walking loudly on the floor above me. I share walls with no one. The only sounds I hear in the night are the sounds of the wind, the rain, and the occasional passing train. On rare occasions I’m awakened by some kind of animal splashing around outside the boat. It could be anything: a duck, an otter, a muskrat, a beaver — even a seal that’s transgressed the barrier of the locks in search of salmon or other easy pickings (though now that the kings are gone this happens less and less). At night when I wake up there’s only silence. My neighbors are all asleep. The city is too far removed from this place to cause any problems. Other people live in the heart of the city but can’t hear the heart beating because of the all the other noise, the traffic, the people, the stress. Here you can hear the heart beating in the distance, the slow, throbbing pulse. But here it’s like living in a park. It’s like living in a place the city has forgotten. It’s not Seattle. It’s not Ballard. It’s not Magnolia. It’s a tiny dock jutting out into the water, often frequented by ducks, sometimes frequented by my neighbors, and in the summer frequented by my bare feet as I stride to the end of the dock and plunge into the cool waters of the lake. How far away summer seems, both the one preceding us and the one to come. How anathema to today it would be to be warm on the dock, to have the sun warming your skin, to dive into the water, to lay on the dock and feel the sun warming your body as the water drips onto the warm wood below you. And yet this is the place that all that happens. But it doesn’t feel like the same place, not right now, not in the winter.

In the summer, time stops. Just for a moment. In the winter, it drags on forever.

I have always thought that if you’re uncomfortable in a situation it’s best to change the external factors. If you’re cold you need to go to a warmer place or put on more clothes. If you’re too hot you need to go to a colder place or take off clothes. If you’re hungry you need to eat. If you’re thirsty you need to drink. If you’re feeling stuck or stagnant you need to move! But what if instead of constantly changing the externals you changed your attitude towards them? Just seeing my boat through the eyes of others this morning has made me so much more appreciative of where I live. The silence, the nature, the water, the solitude, the closeness to wildlife. I complain about a small living area, about the cold, but how many people when they walk out their front door are greeted by ducks? How many people, when they go to the bathroom at night, see a beaver wading in the shallows, gnawing on a freshly-felled branch? How many people can step off their back porch into a lake? How many people get to get down on their hands and knees at night after a hard rain and clean flithy water out of the bilge compartment? We could all benefit from observing animals more, animals who “do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,” to borrow words from the Wendell Berry poem The Peace of Wild Things. Does the merganser ply the waters of Puget Sound thinking about what ill fortune may befall it in a two years, two months, or even two hours? Its countenance belies a peace, a congruity with the present moment that most of experience maybe one or two moments a day, if we’re lucky. Many of us never experience it all all, so quickly are we moving from distraction to distraction, perceived important task to perceived important task. The keyword here is “perceived.”  These tasks give meaning to our days, even if this meaning, when rapped on sharply with the knuckles, emits a hollow sound (not unlike the flake of Forestland’s Marathon Man V0, in Leavenworth). When the events of our days are boiled down for a few hours so that everything superfluous evaporates, what then is left at the bottom of the pot? Probably a few interactions with our fellow humans, a meaningful glance, a fleeting touch, a burst of laughter, a photo of two smiling friends/lovers on a bed wearing sweatpants and white t-shirts. These things stand glistening when everything else is stripped away. If you were to do the same thing with the day of a merganser I imagine there would be a lot more left in the pot. A lot less water to evaporate.

It has stopped raining (see: as much) and I look at the three books on the bench seat in front of me: Leavenworth Bouldering, Becoming Supernatural, and Joshua Tree Bouldering. In other words: The Bible, a book, and another Bible. A book sandwiched between two Bibles of rock and stone, granite and granodiorite.  I get up and head to my car, just to take a drive. There’s nowhere in particular I want to go, but my car has good heating and it makes me feel like I’m doing something.  A perceived important task even if I don’t really perceive it that way. But when I get to Fremont and I’m sitting there looking at the rain that’s still falling on the window I notice a street sign that’s crooked, one of the bolts having been ripped out of the ground, and for some reason noticing this is not superfluous. This would be one of the things left in the pot at the end of the day when all else is boiled away. Glistening, and rather unexpected.