Well, that didn’t go according to plan, and that happens every time serendipity is involved. It was fun. Let’s do it again! Thursday evening I was on a tall ship under full sail, the boat heeled over to the gunwales, as a 133 foot long ship with almost as much sail area as my yard, plowed through the waves under excellent wind and a surprise visit by sunshine. The nature programs, my presentation, and every other plan except joy was left in the lee. It all worked out better than expected. I never planned to be there, but that’s the way the world works if I let it. I’ve been pondering that since I made it back to dry land, with wet pant legs and a soaked shoe.
The Adventuress is a tall ship that sails out of Port Townsend because “We envision a future where everyone values Puget Sound and chooses to act as stewards of its treasured waters.” They (Sound Experience) are also excellent stewards of the boat. Frequently they take people out for evening or weekend cruises. The ship can handle it. It was designed to sail to Antarctica and back and did. Of course, it is almost 100 years old and they’d appreciate any help or donations you could provide. I was aboard to talk about the land, not the sea. I am a site steward for one of Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s properties (Hammon’s Preserve). They invited me aboard to talk about the Land Trust (the land feeds the sea), and Whidbey (which is across the sound from where we sailed. Serendipity got me there.
The short version of a slice of my life. Spend less than I made. Invested the rest ala Peter Lynch. Aligned my spending with my values ala the 9-Step program in Your Money Or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Semi-retired early. Moved to Whidbey Island. Met my new neighbor who’d just moved to the island too, Vicki Robin. Our books come out together. The revised Your Money Or Your Life goes on to become a best-seller, and includes me as a case study. Dream. Invest. Live., by me with a back cover blurb from Vicki Robin, goes, well, nowhere because a book about investing ala Peter Lynch doesn’t do well as the market crashes. Despite that I end up on the board of New Road Map Foundation, an advocate of the 9-step financial integrity program. New Road Map gets interested in expanding the advocacy programs beyond text by going to video too, so because of my photography background I get sent to Collaborations for Cause, a workshop for advocacy via multi-media. There I meet the executive director of Sound Experience, the charity that tends the Adventuress and the vision of marine stewardship. I tell her about New Road Map and my photography, but when she hears about the Land Trust she invites me along for a cruise if I’ll give a talk. Thursday was the cruise and I was aboard. So was Vicki. And I made my talk a total of five sentences. We were on a tall ship with an able crew, an eager set of passengers, good wind, and sun. I wasn’t going to get in the way of that. Besides, I pay attention to big hints and don’t get in their way. I greet them as friends and see where they’ll take me.
Congratulations if you read that entire paragraph. I could graph it out, but the interconnections are more entwined than I listed. The key is that a wonderful part of life happened by following a path that could not be planned.
I was at the conference because of finance and photography. I’ve gotten to know Vicki by reading her book, luckily moving into the same neighborhood at the same time, working on books together, and dancing. I am a site steward for the land trust because I moved again and found myself near a vantage point for my photos of Cultus Bay. Whidbey Camano Land Trust had nothing to do with the conference, but they were the organization that ended up with the best chance for a benefit. None of that was planned. Maybe the cancelled talk is merely postponed to a time when there are fewer distractions and the presenter (me?) has a better idea of the speaking arrangements. The decks of tall ships are working spaces, not the rigid orthogonal architecture of most classrooms or lecture halls. There’s no way to know where it all leads.
Plans work best when the world is orderly. Serendipity doesn’t care about order or chaos. It makes things happen regardless of the circumstances. We’ve just been through turmoil. My plans were scrambled, and now I am scrambling. I’m not alone. Even nations and global organizations are looking for stability to regain enough control to re-establish plans. We’ve become accustomed to life flowing in prescribed channels to agreed upon rules, but that is recent and not typical of our history. We travel around in cars down paved and bounded paths. We reside and work within rectangular boxes. We expect the same from financial plans, relationships, and institutions. People who spend time in nature know reality doesn’t work that way. Trails wind to accommodate contours. Sailors steer according to wind and waves, tides and currents. Perhaps my time in nature prepared me for this next adventurous phase of my life that follows after apparently suspended plans.
The crew of the Adventuress are excellent at sailing through uncertain seas. A part of me continues to be organized and attempts to be unobtrusive. Vicki and I took the ferry to get to Port Townsend. We drove for almost an hour, to ride across the sound on a ferry, to sail on a tall ship, to find out that we got the schedules wrong. We thought the Adventuress would return in time for us to catch the last ferry back. We were wrong. I just assumed we’d try another day when the schedules meshed. No worries. The crew took our situation as a challenge. They assured us that after a couple of hours on the water they’d find a convenient break, lower a boat, and have a member of the crew motor us to shore – that is, as long as we didn’t mind getting our feet wet. They were sweet, enthusiastic, and earnest. I’ve stayed in nice hotels where the staff is accommodating, but officious. The crew of Adventuress was sincerely eager. Then we went sailing, the nature programs were cancelled because we were having so much fun, and I was convinced that in the exuberance we’d been forgotten. Maybe that was an opportunity to visit a friend for the night (and maybe get some dancing in, but that’s another story.)
I was wrong. After a couple of excellent hours, after I did actually talk to a few folks about the land trust, the ship was pointed into the wind, a boat let over the side, they hung a ladder, and three of us climbed down into a high-speed rubber raft for a fast, choppy trip back to shore. Vicki sat up front and caught most of the waves, and laughed. I checked in with our skipper. This ride was nothing. He’s done the same thing often, at sea, in the open ocean, going to ship to ship. He ran the boat up to the beach, and it was only my clumsiness that splashed a foot in the water soaking one pant leg and one shoe.
His attitude, the entire crews’ character, is inspirational. As a nation, a society, and as a species we are trying to maneuver our way back to a thriving world. I see it playing out as people try to make sense of their finances. Vicki’s new book is about making sense of food, the simple idea of aligning eating with values, and the powerful idea of everyone eating local. It is also playing out in every aspect of policy and personal action. The concept of charting a new course is cliche, but sailing may be the best analogy for how we are going to get to where we want to be, and even accommodating a few special needs along the way.