A Short Winter’s Cruise

Today, the news of the day and the quiet time following New Year’s Day
have driven me back out on the sound on my trusty craft, The Aimless.
A quiet, peaceful holiday with good friends is as good as it gets for me.
January can be a let-down after the 3-month build-up of the Christmas
season, so I circumvent it with a one or two-day cruise out on the North
Sound. It never fails to clear my head and redirect me.

Is it cold? Hell yes. Is it uncomfortable out here? Sometimes. Is it worth
it? Always. On days like these, I try to get the tent really warm with the
stove, get some hot coffee and a sandwich going, light a candle or two
and see how close I can come to perfection on the Sound. It’s never up
to me to achieve that perfection… the weather always decides.

Today, for instance, I’m thinking about how calm my life is now, how easy
it has finally become. Oh, I appreciate it, believe me… like most of you,
it hasn’t always been easy. A few quick memories is all it takes to remind
me how great my life is today.

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Ever think about where you’ve been, what you’ve done, that surprises
even you when you think about it? Being retired, I’ve had plenty of time
to think, to remember the special times in my life, some of the truly
adventurous experiences that I’d never have imagined would happen
to me. I’ll bet a lot of you have those, too. How unusual, how unique
those experiences were depends, to a large degree, on your frame
of reference.

What constitutes a unique and exciting experience can be wildly different
from person to person. What’s different and exciting for us might not be
unique, if a million people or so have done the same thing. The element
of danger is usually a consideration, as is location. Who you’re with or
not with can play a part, as can the circumstances of the moment.

What I think is equally important is this… where does our ego live in
all these memories, in all this speculation as to what is exciting, unique?
Is it enough to sit by the fire in a winter’s evening, remembering unusual
times with your brandy close at hand? Or do we want others to know
what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what strange and crazy things
have happened to us in the course of our amazing lifetimes?

My particular ego swings from remembering and feeling good about
myself and my life, to wanting others to know some of what I’ve
experienced… perhaps in the slightly sick hope that they’ll see me
in a different, better light. Now, however, my desire to share a few of
my special times has a better purpose… that of triggering your memory
of your life’s experiences, to remember them, relive them and smile.
For my part, I want my son Dillon to know some of my stories, just as
my dad made sure I knew some of his stories.

We’ve done some crazy shit, haven’t we? For me, There’s a lot that I’m
proud of and satisfied with, and a few that I’m ashamed of, and refuse to
share… with anyone. I guess that nearly anyone who has lived a long and
full life has at least a few of these dark memories. A good friend of mine
put it clearly… “Sure, I’ve done some things I’m not proud of.”

I have a few friends whose lives were more colorful than mine. I can
name them here, because some of you know them, and will smile.
Ron Abbe. Ray Taylor. Rick Gohn. John Crouch, Roger Williams. Ron lived
in Mexico. Ray and John in Colorado, Rick in Texas. Roger might be the
strangest of the five… he has lived most of his life in a 50-mile radius of
Virginia City, Montana. How exciting can that be? Well, for starters, he’s a
heavy equipment operator and owns most of his own equipment. He’s been
the engineer on a steam locomotive on a short line railroad for several years.
He’s been a miner, a water commissioner, a mechanic who works on his own
heavy equipment, even the locomotive he engineered. I’ve found him digging
in the old sewer lines, deep beneath the Virginia City streets. He’s been an
active member in the city’s politics forever, and has been it’s mayor…
probably several times.I’ve found him hiking up in the high country, and I’ve
found him in that locomotive, rolling down the track in the cab in the middle
of summer, with the cab temp right at 124 degrees. How many of us have
done that?!

I could tell you what I know about each of these guys, where they’ve been,
what they’ve accomplished, and each one would fill an entire blog. Each of
their resumes are unbelievable, and i love knowing men like this, men
who have done so much, who have lived so fully. Their ladies are
remarkable as well, and have contributed much in their own right. And that
should be no surprise.

I am proud to know these guys, proud of them and their amazing
accomplishments. I wish, from time to time, that they would have a blog,
that they would write their stories… I know how colorful they are. But none
of them, to my knowledge, have even tried to write about their lives, or
anything else, for that matter. They are probably still too busy living it. Roger
once told Jack Waller and me, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a thought worth
writing down.” Ha. And I remember Jack saying, in his inimitable style,
“Oh Roger, I don’t think that’s true…” And he was right, of course. Roger
could fill two books in a heartbeat if he ever decided to.

Another small log in the stove, another hot cup of coffee. It really is chilly
out here today, yet I am warmed by these memories of my friends and my
life, and am constantly amazed that it has gone so well for us all, difficulties
aside. Can’t help but wish any who read this could be sitting out here on the
Aimless with me… what a wonderful time and place to take stock of things.
I open the flap to take a look outside. It’s spitting snow now, and there’s a
seagull sitting at the far edge of the raft. Cool. I’m going to take that gull as a
sign that all is well, and is going to stay well, for at least the immediate future.

Steve Hulse

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