Sample Chapter

When I left the company I thought I would be alone the rest of my life. Maybe that would be a good thing, as I seemed to have been losing faith in people. I began coming down to this ship on the bay that is parked on the sand and rusts away a little each year. I have been coming here since a young boy and have watched it slowly decay. The first wharf constructed to attach the ship to land was built before my time, but I have seen the wharf go through a series of repairs. Forget the old boat. It will never be repaired. Even when new it was quite useless. Built out of concrete at the end of Word War Two, it never received a commission. It was purchased by a private party, towed to its current location, and turned into a popular night club for many years, before the elements had their way with it. But I enjoy coming out on the wharf, looking into the fishermen’s plastic buckets to see what each of them might have caught, and sit for a spell on one of the benches and take in the beauty of the Monterey Bay.

The men who built this ship would never have guessed that this is where it would serve out its life. Me, I never would have guessed I’d be sitting on this ship looking at the same ocean waves rolling underneath of me that I learned to surf on over fifty years ago. Why leave if I like it here? Many of us are like that. One of my friends, Jorge, came out west from New York to join in all the music and cultural change that was stirred up here in the 1960s, and has likewise remained. Since he and his wife have parted I know that he has considered a return to the east. He will probably never leave. No other town is quite like this. More than once I have considered moving. Once to start a new life, once to finish an old life, and three or four times just to get out of the all-pervasive fog. I now accept the life given me, don’t need to run from it, and have become fond of the fog.

I still love to wander the countryside. I feel good with four wheels under me and a tank of gas. My sense of home is stretched between here and eastern Washington, where I was born and raised. For the first few years I lived here I felt like an outsider, a newcomer who never received a welcoming. That has changed. Rather than wrestle with the feeling of needing to be accepted I gradually convinced myself that this is where I belong. One of the Italian women in Santa Cruz that ran a restaurant on the main wharf in town said she never wanted to leave because the ocean here is so beautiful and she enjoyed meeting people who would come to her from all over the world. She put into words what I had felt for a long time.

Every place has its moments of beauty, my mother used to tell me. She’s gone now. She was an artist, an oil painter, and enthused nature lover. Her upbringing in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon influenced how she saw life. She would look for the beauty in all things, all places. She managed to give me some of that idealism, that optimism. “If everybody would only paint there would be no more war”. She gave me an understanding of how an artist sees the world, but the skill I have yet to master.

I live in the forest, but come down the road a couple of miles to get to the ocean. I get the best of both worlds. The redwoods stand still and tall. They grow ever tall, but ever slow, and will do so for thousands of years. The ocean changes its look and feel with every cycle of the tide. The road down to the ocean passes through a couple of quaint villages, Soquel and Capitola, as this stretch of bumpy asphalt matches the path of the creek. When I come down to the ocean at the creek mouth or at the cement ship I see so much happiness among the beach goers. A celebration of life continues here in a tradition that started with the beginning of these villages. When I come down to join this happy throng I often forget that there is any reason to be sad.

**********

Recently I started looking at the world around me more carefully. Keeping my eyes fixed on a computer screen had given me a two-dimensional view of the world that I simply could not shake off. My eyes would only focus on a few inches of luminescent real estate. After a day of work I would close up. I had forgotten much of what I had been taught when young. The artistic traditions in which I had been raised seemed to no longer be of much importance to me. Slowly I had developed a grimness about the land of the living. I still feel unsettled or uncomfortable about the way the world is going. I will never be free of that reticence to fully embrace or participate in our culture. I am settled as to where I live, but often unsettled in how I feel. Others have told me this condition is not abnormal, but days come when a mild melancholic aureole forms itself about me.

I wonder if my numbness to reality is wide-spread? If so, how do others become free and spontaneous, interested and available for thinking high thoughts, for seeing outside the scope of their own problems? Such predicaments have always held my interest. My mind seems to want to always feel a fresh and childlike awareness about the universe. When I am able to do that, all the other unhealthy activities going on in my mind tend to get juggled around pretty good so that the light, delicate, beautiful things may rise to top.

Just the other day down at the beach the surf was up pretty good, waves three or four foot high slapping down hard on the sand, and washing up to nearly the high-tide mark. I watched a young girl maybe four or five years old just scream with delight as she danced in and out of the foam and bubbles. She would then twirl around with her eyes closed, face back toward the open ocean, lift her hands as if paying homage to ruling forces beyond the clouds, then speak out loud as if in some sort of incantation or prayer. All this exuberance flowing so easily from such a young soul. I understand why some of the poets I have read, such as Wordsworth, wish for a return to their childhood. I notice often when I go the beach for exercise and for my drink of inspiration that the most inspired thinkers are less than five years old, while the logic-gifted thinkers such as my friend Jorge are old enough to be grandparents to a five-year old.

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