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Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Time to Heal

Harbor of Oriental, NC 
We returned to our sailboat last week; she was placidly waiting for us in her slip in the tiny town of Oriental, North Carolina throughout a month-long visit to MN, Canada and Chicago. The Neuse River runs through the town and on up through New Bern. 
My hometown, Spring Grove, MN 

My great niece was Syttende Mai Queen (17th of May)
The Atlantic is about 25 miles to the east. Oriental is a cruiser-friendly stop along the Intra Coastal Waterway and if you have never heard of the place, I would have to assume that you are not cruising the East Coast of the U.S. There are many folks that have chosen to settle in Oriental after retiring from the boat life.  We feel welcomed here, almost as if we've been here for years. This is our third visit to Oriental, having stopped briefly on our way south in the fall of 2015 and again while traveling north in the spring of 2016 .  

From upper left: Lefse, Role Polse, Rosette, Sanbakkel, and Vole Polse (sp?)

We were so charged last fall; we were heading to the Exumas and beyond!  Our first winter season in the northeastern part of the Bahamas (the Abacos) stoked our confidence in our boat and in ourselves.  We were ready to travel beyond the Abacos. Eager for wilderness sailing and plenty of snorkeling, we left the States for exploration of some of the most pristine islands on earth. 

Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge as seen from Enger Park
Carl looks out over Duluth and Lake Superior

And then after life dealt us a few detours-- the lightning and the medical evacuation from the Bahamas, my enthusiasm paled. On our drive back to the boat from Memphis after surgery, I felt as if something had shifted or slipped out of gear for me. My internal momentum to sail and explore had sustained damage along with the boat and my back. 
A lovely few days visiting friends at their cabin (atop the cliff) in Canada.  Caught a big walleye.

Carl and I (along with Jax holding down the backseat of our Subaru) arrived at our boat on June 3rd.  Given that Carl had quickly hustled himself off the boat in order to drive to Memphis in time for my surgery, I figured that I would find our home unkempt. I was prepared for that, but I was not prepared for the rush of emotions that slapped me as I stepped onto the boat after a six week absence.  

Carl and I inside the boat house, Canada

Looking around me, I knew that I could not perform most of the tasks that were normally mine on the boat.  Not only was my gait still "off" but I had gained several pounds in the last six weeks of minimal activity.  

Stopped at the Zoo in Madison to meet my cousin.  Thought this was an interesting photo.
My body felt foreign to me. I needed Carl's help just to get onto the boat from the dock.  I could not dress my lowers without his assistance and the only shoes I could put on by myself were my slip-on Crocs. I couldn't crouch down to reach the things I needed to do the dishes, nor to haul out the cooking pots. I couldn't open the heavy fridge and freezer doors. I couldn't even take Jax for a walk because of the risk that he would lunge after a squirrel and knock me off my feet. I wouldn't be able to help sail the boat with all my limitations, let alone handle the docking lines to come into port. I was dependent upon Carl. 
Kapoor Elliptical Sculpture in Millenium Park Plaza, Chicago

There I stood, exhausted and off-kilter.  All I wanted was to crawl into bed and wake up someplace else.  Someplace where ordinary tasks were easier to do. Oddly enough, the image that came to mind and fueled my yearning for the easy life was my sister-in-law's refrigerator (of all things) in Memphis. How easily the refrigerator doors opened!  I could see all the contents at a glance; ice was dispensed readily into my glass and water too. I looked around the boat cabin and uttered something I had never heard come out of my mouth before, "I don't think I want to do this anymore." And then I crumpled.
Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.  Sadly, I lacked enthusiasm for the work of this artist.

Carl listened and we talked and I listened too.  He surmised that I may have been reacting to my exhaustion with a long car ride and my current level of function which certainly could be expected to improve with time and exercise. I said that I didn't want to end our cruising life on a sour note; as if one disappointing winter could ruin our adventure. We talked some more and then I occupied myself with reading yet another book while Carl made dinner. 

Michigan Avenue, heading out of Chicago,

He was right of course.  The discussion of "when will we be done with our cruising life?" comes up now and then.  HowEVER, the topic is no longer at the fore front.  I am NOT ready to give up this cruising life for a life on land quite yet.  We spent years talking and preparing to live on the water.  I figure that if it took that long to plan our move onto a boat, it will likely take at least half that long to plan a move back to land again.  After a few more days of my nerve pain medication and muscle relaxant, I was feeling much more like myself, that is.....only slightly discombobulated and still wanting to live on Northern Star.
Mother Loon with babies.  We see loons in waters of northern MN, Canada and also Georgia and south in winter.

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