“She was a rare thing, fine as a beeswing.
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away.
She was a lost child, she was running wild.
She said, ‘so long as there’s no price on love I’ll stay.’
And you wouldn’t want me any other way.”
—Richard Thompson, Beeswing
It’s 11:00 PM and I’m anchored up in 13 feet of water just west of Soldier Cay in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas (25 degrees 40 minutes North, 77 degrees 46 minutes West). It’s a beautiful night with the wind blowing 10 knots out of the northeast and Soldiers Cay protecting Hazel James and me from the open-water swell. The light from Arcturus, some 37 light years away, will be rising in the east soon. The mnemonic to remember is, “Follow the arc to Arcturus”—if you follow the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle, you’ll find the bright reddish star Arcturus. The light I’ll be seeing was generated 37 years ago, before Colleen and I met. Since that time, it’s been traveling at 186,000 miles per second. At the other end of the distance spectrum, Soldier Cay is less than half a mile long and a quarter mile wide at its widest. It’s uninhabited and a beautiful place to walk.
55 nautical miles east of us, across the Northeast Providence Channel lies Eleuthera. I hope to be sailing there through the night tomorrow night to arrive in the daylight with good visibility for costal piloting.
I’m listening to two songs and having a bit of a cry. “If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and “Beeswing” by Richard Thompson. Although I quoted Dr. Seuss in an earlier post: ”Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”—that advice works some of the time, maybe a little bit more each day, but it doesn’t work all the time.
Colleen and I married young. On our August, 1990 wedding day she was 21 and I, 25. Funny coincidence, 1990 is also the year that Hazel James was built—we’ve all put some miles under the keel since then. Neither Colleen nor I pictured ourselves as marrying young but it just happened. It was so right and so perfect, and it seemed like we should just do it. We could then get on with our life together. We married after Colleen finished her undergraduate studies and I was a staff consultant at Arthur Andersen. At work I was borderline miserable, in life I was directionless. Colleen and I would talk for hours about just taking-off and disappearing—backpacking or cycling and camping, and hitting whatever Grateful Dead shows we could find.
Then one day—thankfully after we were married—she was, or perhaps we were, pregnant. If people plan and God laughs, this was God chuckling. As it turned out, it was the best thing that ever could have happened to us. In addition to a wonderful child and the drive to have a sibling for that child, it gave us both a sense of purpose and direction. By definition, any work becomes a lot more meaningful when you’re playing for keeps and have others depending on you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still, as I think about taking-off on this sailing voyage, I’m taken back to those early days of Colleen and me and our dreams of taking-off together. While there were a lot of bumps these last five years, since she’s gone I think less of the recent years and more about the past, when things were so much more carefree and seemingly with fewer consequences. I loved her and I wouldn’t want her any other way.