On the Docks,

“How about this weather?” “I’m getting used to it, colder than I remember though.” “Yeah, I like a drier cold, where a guy can still be comfortable in the teens, just with a light shirt.” “Not here.” “No.” “I’m Thomas, pleased to meet you.” “Thomas, I’m Brett, the pleasure is mine. You been in town long?”

“See that sloop coming in?” “Mm-hmm.” “I used to own her. I’m just back to see her again, that’s why you’re catchin’ me here.” “She’s beautiful, I’m not much of a sailer, least not on the big blue, but I can appreciate good lines when I see ‘em.” “Not a sailer!? You live in Port Townsend and you’re not a sailer!? Say it isn’t so!” “Well, I did work on boats once upon a time, in the yard though, firmly on land.” “You’re a shipwright?” “I wouldn’t say that, but I tried…”

“Why’d you sell her?” “My first wife and I took her all the way to Japan and back once.” “To Japan!?” “Yep, another time we went south. We packed the kids with, and the plan was to circle down around the horn and eventually get back east. We hit a container though, 20 miles off Chile, Punta Choros…” “Jeez” “Bilge pump shorted out, winds were pushing thirty knots, heeled over half the night, made harbor next morning. We were all pretty shook up. Plan was, I’d stay there to make sure the repairs went well, and she’d take the kids to her mom’s, come back after they got settled. Next time I saw her was a year later, in court, fighting for a chance to see my kids… I had to sell her, for every reason.”

“I’m speechless. Really, I don’t know what to say to all that.” “Wind’s picking up, wanna grab a coffee?” “Sure, there’s good spot down Water Street a bit. Smoke?” “Sure, after we get drinks?” “Good call.”

In the Coffeeshop,

“Could I have a sixteen ounce half-caf with one raw, and, Thomas, what would you like?” “A medium Americano please, but I’ll get mine” “No sir, please, I’m enjoying your company.” “If you insist.”

“Wanna go for that smoke, or burn off the cold by the fire for a bit?” “It’s a real fire! Sure, let’s warm up. You said you like a drier cold. Where’s that?” “Well I’ve been a lot of cold places, but mostly Montana is where I was talking about.” “Ahh, Montana, one of the best places.” “I agree, I’ve spent a handful of years there since my parents relocated back in ‘07. My wife and I moved there shortly after the wedding, and our first son was born there too…  under that big old sky.” “Sounds like you like it there a lot, why’d you leave?” “Simple answer is money. The truth is a little more complex. Fact is, I could have worked harder and stayed, but we kind of dug ourselves a hole in that first bit of marital bliss, and when Levi came along, things started to get real. My wife, her name is Staci, she’s from here, well, she grew up in Sequim, and her mom and stepdad live out in Quilcene. Things were gettin’ tight in Montana like I said, and I’d heard of this wooden boatbuilding school out here. I grew up in the trades so fine woodwork was appealing. I applied, they accepted, and we were packing.” “Going to school didn’t fix your money problem though?” “No, well, not at all, but I’m a veteran, and the VA paid for the tuition, and they give a bit for housing while you’re in school. That, plus all the odd jobs I could pick up was just enough to keep us off the street.” “But you made it.” “We did. I guess there really wasn’t ever a time I didn’t believe we would, even when I didn’t know how.” “Amazing how life’s that way huh?”

“Kinda freaks me out really. Like there’s some big puppet-master in the sky, dancing us along the edge’s of life’s most dangerous moments.” “God?” “Well, that’s what they call it, what I called it when I was growing up.” “Not anymore?” “I guess I’ve decided to sort of believe everything, I can’t make heads or tails of all the ‘truth’ out there. Used to think I could, but the more I read and heard, the less I felt I could know.” “I know that feeling. Would you say you’ve lost your faith?” “No, just that I refuse to cling to the God and religion of my childhood. I grew away from regular church attendance pretty quickly after I left the house at sixteen, and I was sick with guilt for leaving that way of life, but I never have been able to go back, not with my heart. Sometimes I wish I could.” “What’s that?” “I mean, just, it would be so much easier you know… Like, growing up in the church, non-denominational, Christian, tithing, witnessing, church, the charisma is what keeps everybody sated. The preacher is usually just a peach, and all the various bishops too, and the ‘love’ of Christ is just there, thick in the air. You could, pierce it, with a spear… Anyway, it would just be easier to be drunk on that love and charisma, to just swallow it all, and the Sunday message, wash it down with some communion juice, rather than face the truth, or the other story.” “Which is that?” “It’s a long one, let’s have that smoke, are you warm enough?” “Yes, let’s do, and Brett, I’m really enjoying this, I hope I’m not taking up you’re afternoon.” “Not at all, I really enjoy meeting new people, and I have the afternoon to myself, Staci’s got the boys out to her mom’s, riding horses.”

On Water St.,

“You want to walk a bit? Down to the boatyard?” “Sure. Dimitto was headed in, maybe we’ll see her on the docks.” “Dimitto?” “My old boat, the sloop.” “That’s a name, what’s the scoop there?” “Tell me about that other truth… you were saying?” “Oh yeah, just that it would be easier to take the valium they’re passing out in churches than to see it for the placebo it is.” “That’s it?” “Well, no, the problem is that most people don’t want to think about this God they serve. They just want a master. Not only that though, they want a devil too, a great red Satan, someone or something to blame rather than take responsibility. The really unnerving thing, and one of the things that kind of undid my ability to keep with that paradigm is just the sheer violence committed in the name of religion, most any of them really, but certainly Christianity. I’m all for valor, and whatnot. I’ll defend my family and friends with my last breath, but there’s no spiritually significant circumstance I can imagine that can possibly justify the evils carried out by zealots. I’ve known a few too, they’re convinced, and with their own salvations on the line… Who wouldn’t be.” “Good point, I’ve known a few people, consumed by religion, really just afraid, but there they are every Sunday, repenting for buying scratch tickets, or watching porn.” “That’s just it, the fear. The real thing that undid my faith in the Christian narrative was the Bible itself, the stories there.” “How’s that?” “Well, I don’t know how familiar you are with the arc of the book…” “Enough.” “Ok, so, God, the Father God, is this all wise, all knowing, all beautiful being, the very essence of light and truth, and, according to the Bible, it is He that has created this world. Depending on your particular denomination, the tradition may read that he was accompanied in this endeavor by his son, the Christ, and possibly the Holy Spirit too.” “I follow.” “So, according to the tradition, He or They create earth, and placed on it the first humans, blameless and perfect even as they arrive, from the dust, in the garden. And this garden is perfect too, as well as the whole of creation, lacking just save for that snake, old Satan himself, the deceiver, lying and tricking Eve, you know the story.” “Yes, I do.” “So, they fall from grace, and things are awful, and there’s war, and earthquakes, and pestilence, and evil makes it’s way into every life across the planet, somehow or another, from that time till now. Somewhere in there the Father has to send his blameless son to die for the rest of humanity’s sake. His death though could be seen mostly in vain. Many won’t recognize him as the Son of God, many too will never hear of him, others yet may hear and believe, but won’t be able to live that pure life he advocated. So, all these people going to hell, so much suffering in every life since that time in the garden. Yet, again, according to the Biblical narrative, there at the beginning was this great white light, this perfect being, the Father God. Now, he’s so good, and so perfect that we couldn’t even bear to see him, so they say. And he so powerful, that he can separate the night and day, and form the splendor of woman from the rib of man, and see, so far, into the future. Into the future… And that’s where I lost it all, all my ability to hold tight to what I’d been taught. The moment I put it together that he, the loving Father, knowing the end from the beginning, built this whole thing to fail, like a grand domino cascade, I lost my shit. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t serve that God, that god is sick, to create a world full of pain and suffering just to watch it burn. Sorry, I get kind of excited about this, religion was no small part of my upbringing.” “Don’t apologize. I’m not offended, and it’s good to see a young man passionate about something. Truth is, I’m no stranger to these feelings you’re describing. I’ve wrestled too with the Judaeo-Christian programming I was given as a child, and all the certainty it was administered with. There wasn’t any room for doubt in the home where I was raised. It so happened though that I too came to struggle with understanding the God of my father. I was mixed up and afraid all the time, worried about going to hell, not because I was a bad guy, but because there was the distinct possibility that I had it wrong, that what I had been taught wasn’t the absolute truth it was presented as.” “What did you find? How have you dealt with it?”

“So, I found my self swimming deep in that pool of doubt when Alice left with the kids, and it wasn’t just them leaving,  but that was the catalyst. After the whole court battle was over, she ended up with the house and most everything else of value, except the boat, she didn’t want anything to do with it. I went back down to Chile, where she was docked, and paced the deck for weeks. I didn’t have anything else to lose, and I…” “Sorry, Thomas, I have to take this. Honey, yes, I’m just walking down to the boatyard with a gentleman I met out on the docks. Yes, mhmm, I’ll pick some up. Yes, and you’re doing good? Great. I’ll tell you about it tonight. Ok. Love you. Bye. Sorry, when the mothership calls, I have to answer.” “No problem, I might have to do the same, I’m planning on meeting with a friend tonight in Seattle. We’re going to a show at the Paramount.” “Such a great theatre, who are you seeing?” “Well, it’s a play, The Book of Mormon.” “Great, I’ve heard it’s a good show.” “I’m not really interested in the show, but the date is spectacular, that’s enough for me.” “Have you known her a while?” “Since I was a teen.” “Really!?” “Yep, she and I wrote letters back and forth for years, back when letters were still being written. She really was my first love, but never more than a friend. We’re talking about getting married now though.” “That’s really great! I mean, to have something so beautiful happen for you when… “ “I’m so old!” “No, I just… well, yes, I suppose.”

“There she is, down this pier.” “What’s that? Oh, yes, your boat, of course.” “Not mine anymore, but really, I don’t think we’ll ever part. When she was finished getting her repairs, the crew working on her suggested I give her a new name. You know, superstitions are common in boat work, and especially so with this crew. I was pretty restless then, and I really wanted to get back out to sea, but this renaming thing was eating at me. You have to understand, what we went through was easily the scariest night of my life, and losing my family too… I was living on the boat there; taking a nap one day, I had a dream that was another catalyst.”

I was standing on this easy sloping hillside, oddly enough, I was in Montana, near a cabin where my first son was born. I was looking, staring up at a big full moon, and a brilliant circle in the sky surrounding it. As I looked on, I saw the moon move down and to the left in that circle, while the circle remained where it was. I realized this wasn’t normal moon behavior, to move so suddenly, and I felt the earth move some too. A moment later, I looked down at my hands and forearms, prompted by a tingle or a tickle that had come over me. I looked down for half a second there at my appendages, and as I looked, a glow spread down my arms and over my hands, or maybe the glow was there already, either way, I was glowing! It was a yellow greenish glow, more yellow, and gold, and it was amazing… My mouth was open in disbelief, but this was all sort of pacing along see, and, next thing I know, I’m ascending, not flying, just rising straight up off the ground. My arms, which had been in front of me, palms up, hung down by my sides, almost palms forward. I didn’t know if I was dead or dying, but I was leaving, that was for sure. A quick and deep sorrow came over me in that moment as I thought of my wife, who I still love, and our children. I was leaving, and I missed them already… Instantly upon feeling that remorse my perspective changed; I was seeing myself rising, from an angle, and above. There she was, not glowing but standing there watching me rise, behind me, where my glowing self couldn’t see her. She was holding our youngest, with the other two by her side. She was beautiful; they were precious… After seeing her I was somehow comforted, I knew that I was just learning something that she and they weren’t yet ready to know, and that they would learn it precisely when they should, not before. My sorrow was gone, quickly as it came. Still aloft, in that higher perspective, my eyes were pulled from gazing at them, off, beyond and to the left, then all around, and in the distance. Other personalities, other people, glowing, rising, astonished, breathless with the glory of it. I was back in my body again, all aglow now, I kept my palms forward, arms to my side, but I turned my face towards wherever I was going. I looked up and the wind rushed past my ears as I rocketshipped up and away; the sound was a symphony. I closed my eyes and smiled; bliss consumed my heart. That moment, in that very moment, or the next, I opened my eyes, and I was awake, still beaming, in my bed, on my boat.” “Holy… I, that’s… beautiful.” “It was, and every day I hold on to hope that my end will be like that.” “Me too, I’ve never had a dream so beautiful, I usually wake in a cold sweat, feeling like the world is bearing down on me, and I’m afraid, so afraid to die, I don’t know why, probably a lot to do with the dogma, the church, that nonsense. If only we could go like that…” “Hey, here she is, Dimitto, the very boat I was on when I had that dream, you can even see where the repairs were done here on the starboard side.” “This is just too much, too much… Thomas, what have we spent the last forty minutes together? I feel like I’m in some kind of dream myself now… What a trip! Is this real? Are you real?” “Hah, now Brett, get ahold of yourself, I’m certain you have tales of your own.” “Sure, yes, but I have to say, this day, meeting you, will go down as unlike any other of mine, especially recently.” “Are your days not interesting?” “Sure, I suppose. Well, yes, I manage a vineyard, and the all the ins and outs of that are interesting enough, but I feel so often like the excitement of life is behind me, spent wholesale in my twenties.” “What are you, just thirty?” “Thirty-two.” “You thirty-two, and I sixty-four; tonight I’ll propose to a woman I’ve been in love with my whole life. What’s to say that normalcy has taken root in your soul?” “Nothing. You’re right; I’m just glad to get to meet you. I feel like I’ve lost some of the spark in my life lately, and it’s good to see it in yours.” “Well, I’m glad to have met you as well Brett, and thank you.” “Mmhm. So, what happened? You said the dream was a catalyst?”

“Let’s have that smoke.” “Sure, yes, there’s a bench ahead here, you packin’?” “No, I quit a long time ago, but I’ll occasionally smoke OPs.” “OPs?” “Other people’s.” “OPs, hah, that’s great. Well, I’m still smoking, trying to quit, or not, I don’t know, but I’ve got some decent pouch tobacco, I’ll roll us up a few.” “Good stuff?” “Organic at least, American grown.” “Good enough.”

On the Bench.

“Ahh, that’s good. You know, I haven’t been a regular smoker for years, but I still think about ‘em all the time.” “Yeah, I wish I could get to where I didn’t smoke as often.” “What’s stopping you?” “It’s just, they’re always there. I’ll say to myself, ‘This is the last pack. After this, I’ll just stop,’ then I’m back at the counter, throwing money into a fire.” “They’re tough that’s for sure. I kind of had to go to war with ‘em. I just got mad enough, and let out my battle cry. I won; after I’d won, they were the slave and I the master. Now I decide when I’ll have one instead of the other way around.”

“So, how did that dream change things for you?” “I woke up, and I always think of it like a butterfly coming out of his cocoon, like I’d been transformed into something new. All my fear and worry and doubt was still there, but none of it mattered as much, or at all. Even now I think of that dream all the time, in the days following though I could just close my eyes and relive it, and feel all that bliss at the end. I thought about it, and, trying to figure out where the bliss came from, I realized it was in that moment that I let go, and looked up, my body glowing. With that in mind I made a conscious effort to let go of my expectations, and fear, and doubt, to let go of my plans, and the people that had let go of me, and that’s when I let go of cigarettes too. It wasn’t easy, any of it. It was a process, and a fine balance too, letting go, and caring at the same time. I broke through though, and I named the boat Dimitto, it’s latin for letting go, and divorce, and abandon. I set off then, I sailed first to Easter Island, then Kauai, then back to Portland, and that journey, during that journey, took about three years, I shed one skin, then another, and another. I’m here now, still becoming, still changing, living in the flux. I can’t explain it any better than that, my decision to submit to fate, or the hand of God, or Universal Will has guided me from that time till now, and I’ve lived the best kind of life a person could hope for. Not aimless, and full of intention, but without expectation.”

“But… how… how can I do this?” “What’s that?” “Suppose I wanted all that, to let go of the expectations, and the fears, and the doubt, to be free on the wind, and I do, I do want it. How is that even possible? I have a wife, and kids, and a job. I’m trying to finish my degree too. I need parameters, plans, hopes and dreams to order my life, but I do so admire the kind of blissed out adventure you seem to have lived. Is it even possible for me? Isn’t that kind of having and eating the cake?” “You could see it that way, but trust me, it is possible to plan without expectations.” “How!?” “It’s really a matter of focus, letting go of what doesn’t matter. You have to overcome that sickness of our age, addiction to the outcome. Brett, this is it, we live and we die. In between, along the way, we are programmed. For most of us, the day comes when the programming, which is constant, either fails outright, or fails to meet our needs. That day is one which will forever leave us scarred. Whether we embrace the fallacy of our programming, and carry on in willing ignorance, or whether we accept this more supple state of flux into new and more challenging understandings of existence, there will never be time for us which is unaffected by the knowledge of insufficiencies in our worldview. This is my plight, whether it be the plight of mankind too, I cannot say, to know and understand my scars. This is the path I’ve known, the way, the way of no way.” “…” “Did I lose you there?” “No, it’s just, all that sounds so profound, and simple too, but right now I can’t see applying it practically. Maybe I’m overthinking it…” “Could I offer a suggestion?” “Please.” “Just live your life Brett. Take care of your family, work hard at your job, play hard when you play, and whatever plans you make, whether they fail or not, consider it all a part of the ride. Get in the river, and let it take you to the sea.” “Get in the river, I like that, I think I can go with that. Thomas, I really can’t tell you how good it’s been to get to know you some today. I would invite you to dinner, but you’ve got a big night ahead.” “Yes I do, but thank you for your hospitality. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you too.” “Do you think you’ll come back this way any time?” “If the winds are right.” “Can I give you my number, you could call if you do.” “Sure.” “Here’s a card.” “Thanks.” “Well, I’d better be off to the grocery store, mamma want me to grab some turkey. I really hope we can meet again sometime.” “I’m betting we will.” “You know, it feels somehow like we’ve met before.” “Perhaps we have.” “Yes, perhaps…”

© 2015 Brett Townsend