Very happy to be back on the North Sound on the SV Aimless, my safe haven
from all the madness below. We just finished an excellent trip to Europe,
eye-opening and perception-expanding, as always. The water and the air here
are so refreshing, it feels like pounds of humanity dust are falling off me,
making me feel lighter and clearer every moment.
The air is chilly today, overcast, with the promise of Winter slipping through
the flaps of the tent as I write. The peacefulness of it all invites my brain
to begin processing our recent trip, and though I’d prefer to simply sit in a
meditative mood and feel the breeze on my face, my monkey mind won’t
let me. It’s hopping and skipping from Vienna to Rovinj, from restaurants to
sidewalk cafes, from border checks to Customs and security lines, long walks
in narrow streets and up countless cobblestone steps, conversations in broken
English with clerks and waiters… memorable experiences in all.
When one is over seventy, it quickly becomes apparent that the world has
changed from the one we knew… especially when one travels outside one’s
safe boundaries. It appears to me that it’s a very youthful world now, much
more so than I’d have guessed. And it’s easy to find where the youth live, and
where the retirees live… the young being out on the busy streets, in the bars,
on the subways, in the cool cars in traffic… moving, always moving. Whereas
we found all the old ones, the retirees like ourselves on tour buses, ferries and
hanging out at sidewalk cafes for lengthy periods, often close to a church.
I find it pretty amusing, trying to figure out how we become who we become.
For instance, everywhere i order a Bloody Mary now, they’re too spicy for me.
From Seattle to Rome, they’re all too spicy. And no, it’s not just me… it’s become
a spicy, spicy hot world. Ahh, it’s probably me.
So many young people are so conscious of how they look at any given moment,
not that that’s anything new… but much more noticeable to me now. Many of the
older set (mostly men, I know…) seem to stop caring how they look in public.
I was taking pictures of the new fashions in shop windows in Como last week,
when I saw a poorly-dressed tourist in the reflection of the window. I remember thinking, “Look at that dumpy-looking old dweeb…” And it was me.
I was sitting in a parking lot in our car, waiting for B, who had gone in to pick up
a few quick things. I was sitting there daydreaming when the little car next to
me started slowly rolling backwards. I jumped out of our car and ran around to
the back, hoping to stop it somehow, but I saw there was someone in the car!
It’s then that I realized it was an electric car, and didn’t make a sound as its
driver began backing out of the space next to me.
What has happened to me? How and when did I become an old fart slob?
When did my taste buds start resisting a little spice? And why did I not get that
the automotive industry is changing the way it propels itself around the world.
What’s really happening here? Is it the world, or is it me?
Well, it’s both, actually. The world is always going to keep changing, to one
degree or another. And I have changed, too… mostly for the worse, I think.
I have always bragged about my ability to embrace change, and go with it.
Now, seemingly suddenly, I find myself resisting change, of almost any kind.
Probably that’s one of the things I like most about Europe… it doesn’t change
nearly as much, or as fast, as we do here in America. A large portion of
their cultures appear very stable to me, and god knows I appreciate stability
Yes, the world changes constantly, at a fairly predictable rate. When we are
young, most of us change with it, whether knowingly or not. So we spend this
40 to 50-year window of our lives thinking they are all “the good old days.”
Then, finally, we begin slowing down, only to notice that the world seems to
be speeding up, moving away from us faster than we’re comfortable with. And
it’s then we begin longing for those good old days. Our memories trick us
into thinking that our 50-year window of life was basically stable, when, in
fact, it wasn’t… we were simply feeling stable and comfortable within its
So, does our world change faster now than it did, say, 90-100 years ago?
The internet and the cellphone have dramatically changed our culture of
communications… internationally and personally. And it seemed to happen
fairly fast. But was it any faster than say, the time between 1915 and 1930,
when we had a world war, an industrial revolution and a stock market crash?
While we older ones have mostly adapted to laptops, cellphones and texting
and tweeting, our parents and grandparents adapted to cars, airplanes, radio
and television. All that was pretty dramatic stuff back then.
It occurs to me that my longing for “the good old days” is actually a myth.
There are no good old days, but simply past days and years that we have
conveniently lumped into a way smaller window of time, and have given that
memory a soft and fuzzy name. And, if that’s true, why do I long for a time
that wasn’t slow and easy, but was fraught with challenges, difficulties,
life-changing world events that we had no control over… how in hell did they
become “the good old days?” And why have I not been aware of this myth
For one thing, “busyness” leaves little time for reflection, and it becomes
easy and convenient to accept packaged concepts that show no initial flaws.
Being retired now, and having all the time in the world to sit and reflect, I find
all kinds of accepted ideas that possess all kinds of logical flaws. Which is
probably one of the main reasons I am so at peace out here on the North
Sound. The water, the wind, the relative silence reminds me that the natural
world is changing far slower than the “civilized world.” Yes, I hear that our
Salmon fisheries are dwindling to a dangerous level, that the new warmth of
our oceans is messing up the eco-balance of the creatures and plant life there…
not to mention our changing weather patterns…that there’s about to be new
drilling for oil in Alaska… sigh. Yeah, i’m painfully aware of all that. And the
dangerous part of all that is, when I’m floating around out here, those realities
dim, and it all feels so same, so safe. My natural world feels safe again, I feel
young again, I love spicy bloody marys again, beer and vodka have no fruity
flavors in them, jazz is popular again and ’57 Chevys are the car of the year again.
Ahh, the good old days! Good god, Steve….
It appears that even self-induced ignorance is still bliss. If it feels good,
(especially at my age…) then do it! So I think I’ll continue to sail blissfully on,
even though my temporary ignorance might be frightenly close to temporary
insanity. Right now it doesn’t matter. I’m happy, and at peace. Thank you,
North Sound, for quieting my mind and settling my heart.