rhythm’s return to whidbey island, or the journey north again.

3 June 2012 § 2 Comments

I landed twenty feet south of where I now sit last August, in Dragonfly the cabinPerfection. It was a rough landing – the sort where onlookers think the plane might just take off again, having tasted the ground and hating it without even waiting for the finish. I took a vacation in the old sense of the word: I vacated the world for Whidbey Island, where I dove into myself to see what was there. A lot of it wasn’t pretty. But if I needed beauty, I could have choked myself with it, so abundant did it bloom in the odd sunshine.

Heather landed here too; more gracefully than I, but with more bruises and scrapes. We picked each others’ scabs, asked the hard questions, and rewrote dictionaries in colored pencil. Romantic walks on the beach became escapist sprints up the hillsides, and rocks thrown off the bluff shattered the dead calm tension of a glassy sea. We were just at the beginning, waiting for our names to be announced: the rites of passage were at hand, and we had no expectations.

(insert: 9 months, equivalent to one semester of university, two flights, three lifetimes, four countries, and no less than five this-could-be-somethings)

…and here we are again, headed North, in the spaceship Nissan, toward they Bristol Bay fishing grounds.

Since my great Big Breakaway, when I dropped everything for a radically different lifestyle, I’ve been paying dues in the commercial fishing world, hoping that the job of Alaska Fishing Lore would happen upon me before I was ready for it; I’m about jumping in way over y head and learning to swim, learning lesson the hard way, and walking away alive, kicking, and wanting more, so why not have a job of the old school, where guys worked themselves into wretchedness for the lucrative, end-of-season payoff. In the autumns of the 70’s and 80’s, deckhands returned to their college campuses and local car dealers, fresh out of the Bay, and paid for school and Corvettes in cash.

That’s what I hear of the glory days. My first three years fishing, I was able to buy a plane ticket each and six jars of peanut butter between them, living in my tent and on the kindness of others. I ate beans and rice and nothing at all, hitchhiked instead of taking buses, and said ‘no’ to dozens of drunken nights with fellow vagabonds.

And just when I was headed up to re-up my travelfunds, I got a facebook message from the skipper I’ve been fishing with for two years running. Our schedules didn’t align this year, he found someone else, I was out of a job. It was the second time a job had fallen through while I’d been on a road trip toward Alaska. Clever, universe, very clever.

A beautiful dread arises when the rug is ripped from under you, and the future you’d envisioned disappears. In an instant, all the money and plane tickets and new packrafts; poof!

And then you smile. What now? Something else. Something better. Beyond your imagination. The castle in the sky still floats, far above its foundation crumbled.

Find a ladder. Climb.

If not this, then something better.

… (the universe answers specific requests, but you have to be sure you want exactly that. otherwise, leaving the possibility to its imagination, instead of yours, opens portals you’d never have looked for) …

If not this, then something better. If not this, then something better. If not this, then something better.

I met my new skipper and his wife yesterday, saw their beautiful home – which their fishing career no doubt furnished – and signed up for the hardest work I’ll have ever known. It’s the sort of job I would have lusted after; now that I have it, there comes a healthy dose of fear around it. I’ll find out what my real absolutes are this summer – physically, mentally, spiritually, and whatever other adverbs exist around my outer limits.

My fear is that I won’t get to write much. I have no magical note system to catalogue ideas when I’m spent for perfect recall. I might have to be okay with philosophizing with the fish. Sometimes they reply in croaks and groans, other times with slaps to the face.

I found something better, and must sacrifice for it. It’ll be worth it. And it starts here.

Here we go again.


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