02/01 Direct Link
Daddy wrote, “There is no one to tell.”Of course, he could have told Anne across the road when jessamine festooned the garden gate, etc., etc., but she wouldn’t get it, he was pretty sure, and she certainly wasn’t Lib. Better to accept that “no one” means “no one who might understand,” and stop seeking that particular antidote for that particular isolation.

So on the day when a thousand robins came to Tarversville and sang and danced among the leaves, Dad had reveled in their fleeting companionship as one would a gathering of old friends visiting briefly, from far away.
02/02 Direct Link
How hard are can it be to find something in such a small space? Twenty-seven feet long and eight feet wide and somewhere there's a backpacking stove and a tube of lithium grease. I needed both but found neither. Instead, I found three toenail clippers, a pair of long johns, a wife-beater T-shirt, and that tiny piece of driftwood that would make such a perfect button. When I peered down into the mast step, I found the silver dollar placed there by his second wife, the one who left after thirty-five days, on Valentine's Day. So much for good luck.
02/03 Direct Link
As I recall it, the poem began this way: “A thousand robins came to Tarversville today/They sang and danced among the leaves/And spoke of things unknown to me.” Somewhere I have a copy, in his handwriting, but time and travels have separated me from my things, so I rely on memory now. Eventually the birds betake themselves to the grove, where they gorge on cedar berries in an avian “three-martini lunch.” Then they take wing to parts north, bearing the hope of spring to those he loves. But here’s the problem: he needed to tell us. He told us all.
02/04 Direct Link
Tayron is sitting quietly beside me. It has started to rain. The downpour beats us into silence inside the house by the sea, but Tayron is quiet anyway. When he comes to visit he follows me around, observing. Occasionally he’ll comment in his husky, three-pack-a-day voice. He is six years old, and he has asked me to be his mother.

There was never a time when I wanted a child, until Tayron came along and asked outright would I take him. I couldn’t fathom that child-longing women talk about. I always thought I was cold. Smart, maybe, but also cold.
02/05 Direct Link
I pulled the medicines out of their locker and sorted them on deck. Most were expired and had to go, but I paused over an unopened box of scopolamine patches – so expensive, and the only thing that ever eased my seasickness. The cyclobenzaprine was unfamiliar. He took that and Dilaudid? Apparently, that ER didn’t mess around with his sciatica. He said the pain put him into atrial fibrillation, so just seeing the bottle of flecainide made me angry. It sounds like it could kill you, but that’s what those unwavering VA docs prescribed. If I’m angry at anything, it’s Vietnam.
02/06 Direct Link
I really am going out of my mind. I’ve become obsessed with everything that reminds me of Mike. I look at pictures from our days aboard Merlin and wonder what will happen to my soul. I think I was on the point of becoming a good person when he got sick. I think of all the possibilities lost when he died. His touch is gone, with his understanding, his smell and his goofy grin. Sometimes I wish I could fast-forward to another time that might (only a chance of this) be easier. What happens when it’s permanent? What happens now?
02/07 Direct Link
There was little in the way of companionship or excitement in Dad’s house by the side of the road, except when a car broke down and someone needed to use the phone, or when there was an accident at the four corners, or when Barney came by to use the washing machine. So in his solitude he would mail his poems to his daughters, or call us to talk about what he’d made for supper. He needed to know that we knew. Now his spirit in the cedar grove calls to me. And now I understand what he was saying.
02/08 Direct Link
Standing a watch at night in the northern Pacific is a test of endurance. It’s cold and it’s damp and it’s bumpy. If you’re sailing close in along the coast, the water is confused, and it’s nearly impossible not to get seasick. During my first night watch I drew on all my experience as a distance runner and a backpacker to manage the discomfort. I was numb-cold and tired, every muscle braced against Merlin’s lurching movements. Suddenly, a loud hissing sound parted the air as dolphins came to play in the bow wave, creating a laser show of colored light.
02/09 Direct Link
The boat was everything to them. They’d spent more than half their time together trying to sail it down the coast from Puget Sound, getting stuck in port after port. Three weeks in Newport, eight months in Coos Bay, a winter in Eureka. At one point they’d discussed whether the boat was unlucky. There was the silver dollar at the foot of the mast, but there were no “eyes” on the bow. So he’d carved a pair from a scrap of mahogany and painted them, using as a model the eyes of the orange tabby who’d come to live aboard.
02/10 Direct Link
Except for getting out of the Northwest, their plans weren’t initially clear. That vague horizon only came into focus after the winter in Humboldt Bay with a blown engine and a smashed rudder. Something had to change. Something wasn’t right. Was it lack of vision, lack of planning, dumb bad luck? Were they adventurers or inspired fools? They settled on the Caribbean, via the Panama Canal, as an interim destination. After that, perhaps they’d travel up the Northeast coast and then cross the Atlantic to the Med. Then someone they met on the dock mentioned the Honduran island of Roatán.
02/11 Direct Link
When it came time to make sense of the impossible, to give it comprehensible shape, I came up with this: It was his job to show me how to live and mine to help him die. There are times (usually I’ve been drinking) when this is so clear it could cause me to believe in a guiding spirit. More often, though, I marvel at the static magnitude of the loss and fear my life is finished for all wonder but this. I know his love has survived, but it cannot touch me, and I am so spoiled and want more.
02/12 Direct Link
In the spring they put the boat in drydock and left the country. They’d rented a small house on Roatán, where they planned to rest for a few months. On Roatán they could think about what to do, whether to continue, and if so, how. He was tired, frequently sick, and chronically depressed. She was worried but not ready to quit. In fact, she sometimes wondered if she wasn’t driving them both too hard. He seemed to want to sail so much. He claimed that sailing was the only natural talent he possessed. But the self-doubt she saw alarmed her.
02/13 Direct Link
The classroom teemed with children. It was always hot -- and terribly dusty -- but I remember how contented we were with our schoolhouse at the edge of the mangroves. That morning, particularly, I remember all the laughter.

I was usually late getting ready for school. Mike and I had made love in the early stillness, and I’d slept deeply. Later, in the classroom tumult, his scent rose up from inside my sundress and I felt a rush of love for the children gathered ‘round me like flowers. I felt the intensity of the impulse to give and sustain life.
02/14 Direct Link
Aurora borealis

Some of us come to see the light
And some of us must be shown
On autumn nights when lost in work,
When others would not be alone.

A knock and a hail was what it took
(And apologies for coming)
But it was here, the time was now
The universe was humming!

A pale green glow, a gentle throb,
The cold beneath my feet
I wondered what I thought I knew,
You answered, so complete.

It’s like the borealis rays
That shimmer in the night –
The darkness so prepares a place
For the coming of the light.
02/15 Direct Link
There once was a woman who considered herself lucky. Although her life had not always been easy, somehow she seemed to land on her feet when challenge presented itself or when hardship struck. She considered this luck, which she acknowledged could run out at any time.

When she was 42, this woman was lucky enough to marry a wonderful man who lived on a beautiful boat. Not long after they married, they decided to sail the boat around the world. So they headed off down the West Coast of the United States from its farthest northwestern tip, called Cape Flattery.
02/16 Direct Link
Their luck was not so great. They encountered terrible weather, difficult seas, delays in port, and then, a broken rudder and a damaged engine. And they had only sailed as far as Eureka, California! They were depressed. They worked and worked on the boat and were now facing a stormy winter stuck in port.

So they decided to leave the boat and the storms and go someplace warm. They could return in summer and try again. Luckily, they had money enough, so they found themselves a Caribbean island and a little house to rent on it. They were off again.
02/17 Direct Link
The little house was just feet from the water’s edge. Fishermen in dugouts paddled by daily. Lime, coconut, and mango trees were everywhere. In the village set back behind the mangroves, one could find all manner of local delicacies – sweet corn cake, spicy stewed iguana, picked blue crab captured during the full moon.

The villagers would come down to the house to visit. They would offer to fix things, to sell things, to find things the couple needed. Sometimes they left with a little food, sometimes with a little money. It seemed luck was in short supply in the village.
02/18 Direct Link
One woman in particular would come to talk. Lya was her name, and she was opinionated and funny, with a mischievous smile and eyes that laughed. She was born and raised in the village, and her eight children were growing up there, too. She seemed -- informally, at least -- to be raising a lot of other people’s children as well.

One day, as the three of them visited in the house by the sea, the woman’s husband asked Lya what she would like most for her village. Lya had a ready answer. The village school needed computers, she said.
02/19 Direct Link
The couple listened to their friend. Then the husband said, “We can do that.”

The woman said nothing.

One of the problems with being lucky is that it’s free. It’s there or it’s not, and when it runs out it’s not because you didn’t pay the bill. But sometimes it feels that way. So because the woman thought she was lucky, she also felt she was getting away with something. It was as if she’d stolen something she hadn’t earned – or lied – and it made her feel, at times, like a fraud. Without luck, she suspected she could accomplish nothing.
02/20 Direct Link
Months passed. The couple met with the school headmistress to discuss the idea. The headmistress was delighted because she loved the school and the village children. She told the couple that if they could get 12 computers, then the government would provide a special teacher.

So they all agreed to this plan.

The couple began writing everyone they knew, telling them about the project that was so important to the village – and now, to them. They bought their own computer, took pictures, and sent them to organizations that helped people. They began to write a grant and to think big.
02/21 Direct Link
Still, the more the woman thought about it, the more she worried. Could they really accomplish this? Would they default on their promise? How could they let the people of the village down? She’d never done this kind of thing before. Sometimes, she had a hard time sleeping at night.

Her husband began to worry, too, but he was worried about the boat. It was summer again, the best time to sail it farther south, out of the region of rocky coastline and stormy weather. He wished that they could go back to the United States and continue their voyage.
02/22 Direct Link
So as good couples do, they worked out a plan.

The woman’s husband would return to the States to single-hand the boat down the coast of California. His wife would stay in Honduras to work on the project. They understood that this might be a separation of several months, but they felt it was necessary for their promise and plans.

On the day her husband left, the woman told herself she was fine. She paddled a kayak out into the sea, to the place on the reef where she would snorkel while her husband held the boats and kept watch.
02/23 Direct Link
But instead of finding peace on the water, the woman felt angry. She didn’t understand this, as she considered herself a rational and an independent person. Why was she unhappy? She had lived so long on her own. Surely she could handle this separation from her husband. Surely she could grasp the good sense of their plan.

A wavelet took the kayak broadside and tumbled her into the water. She panicked as she struggled to get back into the boat. She felt the coral cut her feet. She felt ashamed to be inflicting her own damage on the struggling reef.
02/24 Direct Link
But instead of finding peace on the water, the woman felt angry. She didn’t understand this, as she considered herself a rational and an independent person. Why was she unhappy? She had lived so long on her own. Surely she could handle this separation from her husband. Surely she could grasp the good sense of their plan.

A wavelet took the kayak broadside and tumbled her into the water. She panicked as she struggled to get back into the boat. She felt the coral cut her feet. She felt ashamed to be inflicting her own damage on the struggling reef
02/25 Direct Link
Her husband returned to the boat in Eureka, California, to find it dirty but otherwise sound. He scrubbed and sanded for several weeks. He oiled the rails and put in provisions, checked the engine and the lines. Then he waited for the right weather window.

One day a man wandered down the dock and spoke to him, admiring the boat. They struck up a conversation and talked about voyaging, which turned out to be the admirer’s dream. When asked where his wife was, her husband explained the project and its demands. The visitor asked, “How many computers do you need?”
02/26 Direct Link
As it turned out, the admirer was someone who worked with computers for a large company. He had many to spare, and he offered to send them to the school. He seemed captivated by the plan, and by the couple and their boat.

The woman’s husband sent an e-mail from the local library. That night, when his wife read the note, she ran into the village to find Lya. The two of them danced and embraced. Lya told the woman she believed God had sent them to the village. The woman told Lya she was sure it was just luck.
02/27 Direct Link
Their separation continued, but now the woman was busy with the computers that arrived every week by private mail plane. They needed work, so she learned how to do much of it herself. She began to teach computer skills to the headmistress of the school and several older children in the village. She became very busy.

Her husband, meanwhile, had managed to sail their boat farther south along the California coast. But his progress was slow, and he was dogged by physical weariness and odd ailments. His back troubled him, and his spirits were low. He missed his wife terribly.
02/28 Direct Link
The summer brought many storms to the Caribbean, and the island was not spared. The rain made the dirt roads impassable sloughs of mud. Food and fuel were in short supply. There were days when no power was available, which also meant no water could be pumped. The woman felt like a prisoner in the house by the sea. She was impatient to work on the computers, impatient to teach, and could do neither.

During one particularly bad storm, Lya came down to the house to take the woman into the village beyond the mangroves, where she would be safe.