This short piece is for Joani Gohn, who is recovering from a surgery. Get well soon, Joani – we love you!
I was inspired, after hearing about the big snow storm in Montana over the
weekend, to take one last cruise on The Aimless, out into the heart of the North
Sound… The Salish Sea, to be exact. Thinking about how long and harsh
winters can be in Montana, it became clear that I should head out one more
time, to smell the salty sea air, perhaps see an Orca, and regain the quiet
sense of contentment that the nightly news seems to be tearing at. I have a
ton of sympathy for the Montanans… a late September snow storm is a cruel
way to introduce the wintry season, especially after a summer that always
seems too short! But all the empathy in the world isn’t going to melt their new
snow any faster, so I figured that maybe I should instead celebrate what we
have here, in contrast to Montana’s end-of-the-summer blast.
The temps here have cooled considerably, and the rainy days are rolling
back in now and then. But we still have these beautiful days, no wind, warming
sunshine, blue skies above and blue waters below… why not go out on the
raft and enjoy it one more time? So I am.
I sail out into the bigger waters, as the wind is steady today, and I’m sure to
make it back to land if I need to. Doing a little fishing, I almost dozed off, only
to be rudely awakened by a series of fairly large waves washing over the deck.
Getting up to look around, I see a huge container ship, a quarter of a mile away,
churning its way down the channel to the Seattle docks. Suddenly wide awake
and cold, i decide that’s enough big water for me today. Let’s sail back to the
the shore line and find some protection from these killer waves, before the
S.V. Aimless gets needlessly swamped.
After floating into a little protected cove, out of the wind, I decide to anchor
in a quiet spot. It was chilly out on the Sound, and I want to go inside, start
a small fire and warm up a bit. The little stove quickly warms the tent, and i
boil some water for a cup of tea. Ah, warming up nicely. That’s better. It’s
quiet here, except for tiny waves lapping at the side of the raft, and an
occasional cry of a sea gull. The old saying comes to mind, “It doesn’t get
any better than this” comes to mind. Well, it almost doesn’t. Have to wonder
how many people have said that in how many wildly different circumstances,
all believing at the moment, that this was really it… this was as good as it gets!
Funny though, if one happens to be an enlightened Buddhist, every day is as
good as it gets! Wouldn’t even that get tiring after awhile, though? The monks
tell me it doesn’t. I believe them. Just look into their eyes.
So if I’m sitting here feeling this is pretty much as good as it gets, is it possible
to be even better? Well, let’s see. Let’s go a little deeper here, and see what
happens. Another log on the fire, let’s meditate here for a few minutes and
see if it might just get a little better than this!
“Om mani padme hum, om mani padme hum. Quiet the breathing, still the
monkey mind. Om mani padme hum. Yes. How sweet life is. How very, very
sweet life is.
I guess that maybe it doesn’t get any better than this, but it definitely lasts
longer. Could it be a new definition of enlightenment? … a continued feeling
of “as good as it gets?” Probably not, but right now, to me in this time and
place, it certainly feels like it. I know that life in Montana was as good as it
gets for me, as it is for many others there. And I’d be there still, except that
I got old, and cold. Now the Puget Sound weather suits me perfectly, and
many of my days here really do feel like “it don’t get much better than this.”
I love the ocean the same way I’ve loved the mountains… an abiding peace
is anywhere you can find it. My cheese has moved so many times during my
life that it’s not much of a stretch to find my new “center of the universe.”
Do I still miss Montana? Hell yes! And always will, to one degree or another.
It was home to me, in my mind and heart, for nearly all my life.
Today, however, I am right where I’m supposed to be… sitting quietly on
a cozy little inlet on the North Sound, listening to the fire and letting my
brain wander. Think I’ll just settle in here for the night and count my
countless blessings. Because shit, man… it doesn’t get any better than this!