aboard the M/V sonofagun

Dude looks like a lady…

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I finally stopped by Cathy’s boat and asked her how she and Dude were getting along. She said she was delighted, they’re good mates now. Dude sat on deck, watching me but not making a fuss, and looked pretty contented. Then Cathy dropped a bomb:

“You know Dude is a female, don’t you?”

Oh. My. God. We never thought to look! We were told Dude was male, and accepted that without question! Suddenly, everything made more sense…the gentleness, the quietness, the cat’s docile and homey nature. I roared with laughter, looking at the poor kitty on deck, all these years she’d been misunderstood. I laughed all the way to the shore. I thought of how Kris only ever wants to have male cats, but he also says that Dude was the best-natured cat he’s ever had.
Laughed till I cried. Best joke the universe has played on us, ever. That was a good one.

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, paints and pens, stuff i've made

Dude

spectrum birds in colourwheel treesI made a rather happy painting for a journal today…did this in the morning, and in the hours after lunch, before I went to visit a neighbour on her boat. I’m glad I got it all finished before I went, I don’t think I could paint something so happy now.

I went to have tea this afternoon on Cathy’s boat, just next to ours. Was just trying to be a bit more sociable, and spend a little time with all the folks who have been so nice to me, before I go. While there, I brought up the subject of Dude coming to stay with her, and she told me she had rather hoped I was going to bring him over when I came for tea, and had been very excited. I felt rather abashed…she has been waiting a long time now for Dude…I have been putting it off, first telling her to wait till August, then till September. Now September’s at an end, and it suddenly seemed very selfish of me to keep her hanging on for another month or two. I guess I kept hoping for ‘the right moment’ to announce itself…for when I finally felt ‘ready’ to give Dude up. I realised, sitting with her, that I will never be ready. Now is as good a time as any. So I left her boat an hour or two later, promising to come right back with the cat.

I took my time preparing a crate for him to travel in…weaving two ropes in and out of the holes so they wouldn’t slip, and preparing the loops on the ends so that I could quickly tie the lid onto the crate once the cat was inside.

I picked him up, and started to sob, feeling his silky, soft fur and plump warm body for the last time. The silly sausage was purring…he is such a docile and gentle cat. He didn’t fight when I put him in the crate, and didn’t go wild once he was sealed in. I tied the crate up, and he sat quietly inside, wondering what the game was. He didn’t start to complain until he was in the dinghy. Every plaintive meow brought another flood of tears. I rowed him over to Cathy’s boat, because I didn’t want to traumatise him with the sound of the outboard.

We got the crate aboard, and I handed a bag over with his plate, his water bowl, his biscuits, and his brush, snuffling the whole time. She waited until I had rowed away before she opened the crate up.

I had to go back a second time, with his cat litter. Dude got very agitated, and Cathy and I swapped things—she handed me back the crate and ropes, I handed her the litter—via her dinghy, so that I wouldn’t come too close to the sailboat. As I rowed away a second time, he seemed to be looking for a way to jump over the guard rails and into the water. Cathy distracted him, and then he just sat on the back deck, watching me row away. Since I got back on board, i have tried not to look out the window at her boat…I don’t want to see him looking across the water. I think I’ll sob all night, tonight.

A part of me feels breathless…I surprised myself by just up and doing what had to be done, and it’s only starting to sink in now that Dude is not with me. I’ll miss his purring by my shoulder in bed, the adorable way he likes to sleep with his head high up on a pillow like a person, the considerate way he has learned to ‘massage’ and claw at the bedclothes just next to me, and not into my arm or head, and the sight of him stretched lazily out on the carpet at my feet.

I’ve been reduced to a leaky, snuffling mess. Cats, of course, are not like humans, they are practical and resilient creatures that live every moment fully in the present. He is not suffering the way I am suffering. He’ll be a bit put out, and he’ll look for me and the boat he used to live on, for some time. But on the whole he will settle into his new life with his new human, I think, much faster than I will get used to living without him.

I have got another two months of living here to get through, and my biggest fear is that Dude will one day try to swim across if he sees me on board. I hope, hope, hope he stays at his new home, and that the sight of me coming or going doesn’t make things difficult for Cathy.

This is just one of several tearful separations coming up…October is going to be a weepy, emotional, difficult month. Lots of advice about following your dreams will mention the pulling up of metaphorical anchors…it sounds romantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. At least, not when the other end of every anchor chain is fastened firmly to the center of your heart.

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, travel

many moons

Maun

photo taken in Maun, Northwest Botswana, by Philip Milne

Kris wrote last night from Maun, Botswana…it took him a while to get there from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe because he had to make a detour around Chobe National Park for two reasons:
1) The park is mostly soft sand, very difficult for a bicycle, and 2) “Meals On Wheels (i.e. cyclists) are not allowed into the park, as big cats are part of the park’s animal population.

Despite not going on any paid safari tours, he’s seen a huge number of African animals just by cycling from country to country…many, such as elephants, range far beyond the borders of proprietary parks, and wander the salt pans in between Botswana and Zimbabwe. Looking for a place to do his laundry and have a wash after the day’s cycle, he noses out the nearest culvert, creek, or river, and has encountered hippos, giraffes, and more elephants who have come to the water for much the same reason that he has…a drink and a splash. I just hope he never meets with crocodiles like the ones in Philip’s photo!

Meanwhile, I sit and count the passing moons…still no word from Immigraton about my citizenship ceremony, and until I have a date for that, I can’t really say when I’ll be leaving. Please let it be soon! I miss my wandering love so much.

The last full moon was a big one. Here it is at dawn, setting behind Darwin’s remarkably ugly skyline…

moon at dawnTaking the moonrise was harder…even with a tripod, the boat itself is always moving, however imperceptibly, and the long exposure blurred the moon and its reflection…

moonrise

A bit like two moons in a sky the colour of sea glass, these spotted rays floated slowly past the boat in the morning…

two rays 3

Antidote to all these murky or misty blue moons is my happy truss tomato vine…popping with hot orange suns. Summer is coming…the dry rasp of cold mornings is gone, and the sky that was, only a month ago, as cerulean and flawless as a Wedgewood porcelain bowl, is filling with small puffs of cloud.

boat tomatoes

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

Pack-down

dolphins at daybreak

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, excerpt from The Day Is Done

That my last post ended the way it did wasn’t meant to indicate despair or anything…I just realised as I was writing  it that even that soul-baring post was a form of procrastination, another devious way of putting off the more important things that, unpleasant as they were, really had to be done. So I shut down and started the pack down.

I’m, oh, maybe 75% through it now…spent the last 3 days doing nothing but. I’m glad I did; it was a pretty big job. Until this morning, it didn’t even look like I had accomplished anything! I moved 13 cubic feet of books, 7 large storage chests of fabric, craft materials, and paper into storage, looked back into the ‘den’ they’d come from, and was confronted with overflowing shelves of stuff that didn’t seem to have thinned one bit. Seemed like it would never end!

I would have hated doing this in a mad rush, say, the weekend before departure! With 7 bags of rubbish taken ashore, and 50+ books put on the yacht club’s ‘library’ shelves, and all my books, paper, and fabric hoards put away, I am flooded with relief and calm, at last. I only stopped because I ran out of rubbish bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic storage boxes, but I don’t need too many more of these, and am confident that I’ll get the rest sorted next weekend. If I get everything done by next weekend, I’m going to play with some last few paintings and bookbinding projects, knowing that I can just throw these last few things into the hold, put the paints and other perishable things in a box for artist friends, and steal away.

The newfound calm allowed me to just sit, at daybreak, and watch these dolphins playing in the creek. There’s a mum and bub pair, and then a third adult dolphin, and they were hunting, but also stopping now and then to just slide over each other and…well, it looked like play to me. The little one sticks very close to his momma. They come lurching and blowing up the creek quite often, at  night or very early in the mornings.

dolphin at daybreak

Sadgroves Creek dolphins

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, paints and pens, stuff i've made

A smack of jellyfish

redwork bird

As promised, here’s the finished redwork bird design from yesterday, done up as a mock kitchen journal cover using the font Asterism, and a woven fabric texture from Picmonkey, to sort of give me an idea of how it might look.

Also some very small (the size of a playing card) watercolors from this morning…just playing with ideas and stuff. I really wanted to jump-start  a big painting, but didn’t feel well…think I have picked up someone’s flu. It was bad enough to prevent me from heading in to work. So I consoled myself with these little things…they sort of serve as warm-up exercises for the large painting I had in mind; whether I use all the motifs or not is not important…what matters is that I’ve dumped my ideas somewhere for reference, and my mistakes on these teeny-tiny canvases will possibly save me from making the same ones on a larger scale in acrylics.

terrarium jelly

An idea that has been with me for a long time (too long!): a jellyfish that is also a terrarium. Because the two forms have always seemed to be crying out for each other, in my imagination.
There’s something very right about this combination.

muumuu jelly

A jellyfish like a pink silk muumuu with pleated ribbons.

crocheted jelly

Not happy with this one: Just. Too. Much.
Looks like the sort of horrible lampshade you sometimes come across at a Salvation Army shop. I like the tentacles, though.

beaded jelly

The Meh Jellyfish…every smack of jellyfish has to have one: kinda boring, lacks spark. That beaded curtain was a really lazy, unimaginative, clichéd way to finish what might have been an okay exumbrella. (That’s that outer, umbrella-looking part of the jellyfish. I looked it up just now.) Maybe if I transplanted the tentacles from the crocheted lamp jellyfish…

mangroves

One interpretation of mangroves.

Speaking of mangroves, check out my accidentally fabulous tomato plant, growing like nobody’s business in the middle of a mangrove creek! It sprouted from some kitchen scraps thrown onto a basil plant! Pretty soon it had ousted the withering basil and become the star plant on the F/V SonOfAGun.

sea tomatoes

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

My prodigal dinghy was found today, intact and outboard running. I even got a bonus: there was a huge red fuel tank in it that wasn’t there before…ha ha ha.

Three policemen in plainclothes came to see me at work; they’d caught the guy who did it (no, not the heroin addict at all…shame on me for being such a sucker for movie stereotypes!), and wanted badly to prosecute, as he is also responsible for thousands of dollars stolen in credit cards, electronics, and a caravan, I think they said. So I signed a statement and came home and towed the rowing dinghy behind the motorised dinghy. The mood at the club was celebratory, and I was getting waves from people on boats and thumbs-up-signs from passing dinghies…I waved back, returned a small smile, but didn’t really feel as elated as, I guess, they thought I’d be.

A lesson has been learned, and I cannot consciously, purposely, go back to ignorance, so I will continue to row, now that I know how easy and quick it is from our new spot in the Sadgroves Creek. Also, to put it mildly, I do not love that outboard.

All’s well that ends well. At least I have my dinghy and oars back! And I AM sincerely glad that I have recovered what was really Kris’ property. It will come in handy on craft fair days, anyway, and has proven invaluable for moving four friends at a time, to and from the big boat on party nights.

Isn’t it funny how, when you accept a situation fully—to the point of actually falling in love wiit the new conditions—whatever the problem was in the first place often rights itself?

The best part is that I now enjoy a new FREEDOM: I no longer need nor am dependent upon what I originally thought I had lost.

Lost & found…& found again.

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life, philosophy

Working with a thief

home

That which stands in the way IS the way.

Marcus Aurelius

After my manager returned from her 6 weeks of annual leave, one of the other staff members at work resigned, and so I am still working 6 days a week and, believe me, this blog isn’t the only thing that’s suffered from it…I have had no time to make anything new or do anything creative; with just Sunday free, I barely have time to keep the houseboat from looking like a pigsty, get the laundry and groceries done, run all those little errands that hold the framework of my life together.

Last Sunday, my one day off, I worked some more: I took all my craft market gear ashore, and a friend kindly loaded the stuff into her ute (that’s Aussie for a pickup truck…from ‘utility vehicle’) and took me to the Museum Grounds for the Dragonfly Craft Fair. It was a good day for me, and I came back to the Dinah Beach Yacht Club cashed-up and feeling triumphant. My friend was curious to see what living on a boat is like, so I invited her to come home with me. We unloaded my tables, chair, boxes of craft market goods, and I went to get the dinghy. But it wasn’t where I’d left it, and more looking revealed that it had not simply been moved nor ‘borrowed’ by a fellow club member. It had been stolen.

When I used to row my dinghy, I could leave it tied to the pontoon for days on end; nobody touched it for all these 5 years. Thanks to the new outboard engine, it disappeared just 6 weeks after the engine had been attached.

I apologised to my friend, reported the theft to a few friends, the marine police, and some people at the club. At first I was a bit upset…with myself, for not locking my dinghy the way everyone else at the club does; but mainly over the loss of the aluminum dinghy, itself, as well as the small but super-heavy anchor that was in it, my custom-made oars (extra long, tropical hardwood, with oversized blades), and the two 15-liter water containers that I carry water home in.

I ordered a vodka-lime-and-soda, rolled a cigarette, and found myself strangely at peace with what had happened. What do you do when something like this happens? Cuss? Start shouting? Cry? Round up a posse of murderous, bearded waterfront characters and comb the harbour in a flotilla of dinghies for signs of the dinghy and/or thief? (Nobody saw who took it, though there are suspicions that a homeless heroin addict that’s been hanging around the waterfront lately did it. Who knows?) Rush off and spend all of the day’s earnings on another outboard engine? Someone told me “That’s why you should always have TWO outboards…so if one gets stolen, you have a spare!” Buy outboard engines for thieves?

Strangely enough (maybe it was the vodka?) in a very short time I accepted what had happened, felt a kind of relief and peace wash over me, and pushed the lost engine out of my mind completely. The truth is that I never did like that outboard…’fast’ was the only good thing that could be said of it. Otherwise it was noisy, smelly, it vibrated the dinghy so violently that parts of it had started to fall off, it was moody on cold mornings, it was vulnerable on rough days at the pontoon, with all the dinghies lurching and leaping and crashing against each other. It was a hassle to buy fuel and oil for regularly. The worry that I would run out of fuel midway through the week, or during a trip home, was a constant faint anxiety at the back of my head. I couldn’t listen to music on my way to work. It scared all the birds in the mangroves away, so that I never saw them. A couple of times I went over rocks in the shallows with it, and the propeller made the most terrifying grinding and screeching sound…it required deeper water than a rowing dinghy and so I found myself stranded by tide levels that I would normally scull right over. But my beloved had bought it for me, and I couldn’t refuse to use it without seeming ungrateful and recalcitrant.

My peace blossomed into joy: I had an excuse to go back to rowing! I laughed out loud at the bar, delighted. Thank heavens for Josh, who is one of just five men (Kris included) at Dinah Beach who have actually done some serious rowing: while everyone else was giving me their two cents on where I should start looking for my lost dinghy, or asking me to demonstrate my knot-tying skills (implying that because I am a woman, I probably don’t know how to tie a decent knot, and the thing worked itself loose and drifted off! To which I found the quick reply “Sure, I’ll show you my bowline knot…can I use your dick as a bollard?”) or offering me the loan of their spare outboard (so the thief can have another one, and I have to buy them a replacement?), Josh simply, matter-of-factly, handed me his oars and told me where to find his own little sculling dinghy (his own boat is out of the water, for now, so he doesn’t need them soon). He knows I like to row. And as someone who’s done it for years, he knows it not as hard or unpleasant as it may seem to onlookers.


I’ve been to and from the boat a few times, now. Josh’s oars were just 6 feet long, awkward and much too short to scull properly, so I bought myself a pair of 8-foot oars at the ship chandlers after the first trip. The blades are still too small for my liking, but at least I’m comfortable rowing now. I’m like a huge water bug, skidding over the surface of the harbour on long legs. I pop my earbuds in and listen to music or an audio book as I row. I skirt the mangroves and the birds fidget when I come near, but they don’t take off in a scatter of panicked wings. I look around me as I row, drinking in the cloudless sky, the sunlight embroidering the edges of the leaves in fil d’or. I’ve been listening to the audio book Vis and Ramin, an 11th century love story. I catch myself grinning as I row. I LOVE this…I feel so alive, so much a part of this world. My body loves the honest work of rowing, my heart beating time to the rhythm of my strokes, and the world isn’t flying by in a rattling metallic cacophony of fuel-scented exhaust. It’s good for the heart, for the body, for the mind, for the soul, for the environment. Why would anyone want to do anything else? I’d like to thank the dude who stole my outboard for giving me back my self-reliance, and so much joy.

Fabulous Water

*And for those who are always concerned about Time and argue that rowing takes too much time (though they don’t complain about sitting in front of a television for a couple of hours every night), I have timed each of my recent rowing trips, and it has consistently taken me 35 minutes to row from the boat to the yacht club or the other way around. That’s 15 minutes longer than it took by outboard.

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, life

Don’t let go of that thread…

what ships are built for

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

Besides my creative life (which keeps me sane and relevant to myself) there is only Kris, really. Everything and everyone else can fall away and I might suffer a period of regret or pain or loss, but I would get over it quicker and with less trauma than you’d expect, because he stands opposite the sorrow, and balances me out. He is my ball of thread: that wonderful fairytale device that the heroine lets unwind before her, and that leads her through the world. I was an insufferable goose when he met me…I owe him for who I am today. He gave me both the space I needed to open fully, and a scrupulously honest mirror with which to see myself. And because I wanted so much to be worthy of him, I pushed to go beyond the garden-variety mediocrity of my early self.

Today he set sail for South Africa…a dream that’s been in the works for two years. When he gets there, and as soon as I’ve tied up a few of my loose ends here (two exhibitions, and my citizenship, basically), I will fly to catch up with him in either Durban or Brazil (depends on how long my loose ends take).

So my lover, my greatest teacher and my best friend all left together on one sailboat. The ball of thread is out of sight, and stretching ominously. The pull to be with him is tremendous. Things that I thought were important, last month, or felt I couldn’t possibly leave undone, suddenly seem like so much insignificant mucking around. Over the next few months I will slowly cut myself free of the ties here, and let him reel me in.

I didn’t get any pictures of Kris leaving, this time, so have re-used some shots from two years ago, taken the morning he left for S.E.Asia (he was gone four months).

swallowed by the fog

He was intentionally vague about his departure…didn’t want any parties, last minute well-wishers, or the generally curious trying to catch up for one last handshake, lame joke, or to ask the same dozen questions he has answered, over and over again, since he first built his steel Chinese-junk-rigged sailboat and started sailing around without the usual engine, GPS, EPIRB, digital charts, radio, solar panels, water-maker, or toilet. As you can imagine, some people find it hard to grapple with that, or with the idea of man at the mercy of the sea and no thing to rely upon but himself. But getting away from mankind is what attracted Kris to sailing, in the first place, and he goes out there to be alone with the great ineffable force that some call The Universe, Being, or God.

On his Monsoon Dervish website, Kris bids you all farewell:

“I’ll be turning 60 later this year. I’ve been working for a living for the past 40 years and I am tired of working. Humans are the only animals who work for a living. All other creatures live for a living. And I still have five years to go till my old age pension. I have decided I am going sailing for those five years. I will live for a living, like all other creatures in the world.”

Bon voyage, my love, and I’ll see you in Durban…or Paraiba!

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