A long weekend away from the work-a-day world, in which I load my truck camper with food and drive east to San Luis Reservoir, near Los Banos, in the San Joaquin Valley, to camp and visit with my windsurfing friends. We have been coming together here for years. Memorial Day weekend is our annual pow wow, when all sailors who come here regularly try to get to the reservoir to sail, have fun, and update each other on what we have been doing. The crowd dwindles from when I first came here in the late 1980s. As many as 250 sailors would once come. Now we are down to less than twenty. The sport is dying and not much new blood is being added. People take up kite boarding instead, which is not allowed at San Luis Reservoir because of overhead power lines. Windsurfing is losing its magic because the gear is expensive, and the training, skill-building, and muscle-building requires much time and effort. I found that if I did not sail regularly throughout the long season, my muscles would not be conditioned enough to hang on to the boom when the strong wind comes up. But now I have had to stop participating in the sport because my peripheral neuropathy has caused arm and leg muscles to atrophy. I wish I had kept a better record, a journal, to give account of those years.
I do recall what life was like for me when I first began windsurfing. A couple of days ago I saw my former boss from the company I was working for when I began windsurfing. He was walking around in a store. I didn’t get a chance to talk with him. At first I couldn’t remember how I knew him, then when it occurred to me he had slipped out the door. At the time I was working for him, some twenty-five years ago, I felt dissatisfied with the way life had been going back. I knew I needed some adventure to inspire me. Life had begun to feel mechanical and, well, lifeless. Sailing in high wind on badly ruffled water helped me pull out of my psychological rut. The challenge of mastering the sport gave me that immense renewal that I needed . Seeing my former boss the other day helped remind me of what life had become for me before I started windsurfing. When a person from my past shows up unexpectedly, I see great meaning in the occurrence, rather than brushing it off as mere accidental happenstance. The message I read from seeing him is a reminder to me of how disconnected from life I had felt way back when, and now that age and neuropathy have slowed me down and made the thrill of windsurfing nearly impossible for me, I need to find another means of maintaining the joy of living. A popular bumper sticker I see around town has a picture of the Dalai Lama and next to it the words “Be Stoked”. Finding happiness is an imperative that comes from both eastern and western traditions!
My mental and physical world often seem to conflict. I’m sure I have inherited a trait that causes me to dwell within. Other family members have a history of being preoccupied with a spiritual or religious longing for a deeper world. I find myself unconsciously becoming distanced from day-to-day concerns. Days come when I understand that I must allow my five senses to explore and perceive so that I can pull out of my shadow-like self. I know people who do work that requires a great focusing of their mind. The work causes them to become disconnected from their physical surroundings. They feel that in their spare time they must climb mountains, run marathons, ride bicycles, or go surfing–anything physically challenging–to reprogram their thought patterns and give their body back some of the meaning that has been taken from it.