Feeling Small – Part 2

Feeling Small – Part 2

Aside from the majesty of the land- and seascapes, there are other ways I feel small during the summers on Kagán. Some feel good, some are less comfortable. Like everyone, what feels good to me is easy to think about and look at, like feeling small in my current knowledge. There’s so much to learn. About sailing. About life. I will never be bored.

The less comfortable often come up as blind spots. Perhaps when I make a mistake on Kagán, fortunately, this summer, with no negative consequences, like injuries or boat damage (aside from the occasional buffable scratch or smudge). Or when I feel belittled by an off-hand comment, the sting of seeing a new sensitivity or, worse, one I thought I’d gotten over long ago (to the fellow sailor on some now-forgotten dock, the comment not-forgotten – yes, I do understand about seasickness, if only you’d have let me finish my sentence…). Or reading a book that opens my mind about issues or ideas, but then I think I should have known them already (specifically, How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming PhD – Wow! A must read!).

Maybe with the slower pace of sailing life, I notice my reactions more. In the quiet nights swinging at anchor, I play those reactions over in my mind and my heart. Typically, my first reaction is beating up on myself, despite years of working not to do that. I’ve been self-critical as long as I can remember being. When I was a kid, my mom worried that I’d make myself sick, waking up in the middle of the night to add something to an assignment in an effort to get my homework perfect. Now, those assignments are expecting myself to know things before I’ve learned them (Come on, Deb, give yourself a break!), analyzing my imperfect interactions with my boyfriend or friends or even strangers on a dock (What would’ve been a better thing to say? Or to feel?), and my judgements of how I’ve handled moments to milestones of my life.

Harder to admit is that my next reactions are often defensiveness and anger, sometimes expressed and sometimes internalized.

I don’t like that I get defensive and angry. I don’t like that, more often, I can’t simply embrace who I am, what I know (and don’t know yet, and still don’t know that I don’t know), and not feel small (in a bad way). Simply writing that, saying it “out loud,” makes me feel a bit less small, a bit more courageous, about who I want to be in my relationships (especially the one with myself) and what I want to stand for in this world. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel vulnerable saying that. I do. Courage isn’t not being scared, sometimes it’s being scared, and doing it anyway.

Standing in those “harder to admit” admissions is where I find opportunities to grow (oh, great, another f—king growth opportunity…).

A quote from a recent blogpost on the website, A Life of Practice, by my dear friend, Sara Eisenberg, said it so well:

With the honesty and kindness we practice: we include one more piece of life, one more piece of life, one more piece of life. Which allows us to be the size we actually are – neither better and wiser, nor smaller and more foolish..

Photo by Inactive. on Unsplash

Feeling Small – Part 1

Feeling Small – Part 1

A workboat motors east along the base of Estero Peak, a 5,500-foot high mountain with a spectacular rockfall on its upper face that rises from the north shore of Cordero Channel. With AIS (shipborne “automatic identification system”), an electronic system that all commercial vessels must have and pleasure craft can have (and we do), I see it on Kagán’s chartplotter and recognize its name as a fuel barge that supplies the residents, marinas, and elite fishing lodges in these remote and beautiful waters. It’s darn big, at least compared to our 36-foot, 10-inch long sailboat, but looking at it, even through binoculars, it appears to be quite small. Without binoculars, it’s barely a speck in the distance.

The scale of the mountains that preside over the channels and inlets we are making our way in is imposing. I feel humbled, and very small.

Kagán, the magic carpet we ride to these places, must appear as a mere mote to those who might spy us in their binoculars. Yet she’s a mote with all we need – a complete home, a home that could take us around the world. It’s all a matter of scale.

Scale is a concept I relate to as a geologist as well – there are geologic processes that create analogous forms from the microscopic to the majestic, like travertine terraces, if only we take the time to look. That is one of the benefits of summering on a sailboat, we go slow enough to take that time.

I am feeling small here, on the lone boat in a large anchorage. I ponder and write, sitting in Kagán’s cockpit with the late afternoon sun lighting the distant mountains and clouds. Then a tug and tow drifts into view, heading south in Nodales Channel. It’s another big one, but not to my eyes from here, nor can my ears catch the thrum of its engine. So big and so loud, but so small and so quiet.