214. The Eternal Wannabe

It’s been nearly 110 degrees for a week as I write this. The humidity is under ten percent, thank goodness. It hasn’t rained since April and it won’t rain again until October. There is water in the two lakes that lie a few miles west and a few miles east, but the one our drinking water comes from was dry six months ago.

Welcome to the foothills of the California Sierras.

I saw a rattlesnake go by yesterday, carrying a canteen. He was having a heck of a time keeping it up, since he doesn’t have hips and he doesn’t have shoulders.

No problem. When February comes, it will look like the green hills of Ireland again. But it won’t last.

**     **     **

I grew up in Oklahoma, fifteen hundred miles from salt water, and fell in love with the ocean, though I had never seen it. That’s what comes from too much reading, and from having a beloved grandfather who lived in Florida, had a boat, and had joined the Coast Guard auxiliary.

I went to Michigan for college, found my wife, and married her. That gave me another maritime connection. Her father had crewed on a Great Lakes racing schooner when he was a young man,  a decade before I was born.

My draft number was 41 and they were drafting Marines, so I joined the Navy, but it wasn’t a happy time. Given a choice during boot camp, I chose to be a dental technician; it meant I would never have to man a gun. I spent my naval career on dry land, working at a hospital. I never regretted it. I loved the ocean, but not at the price of pulling a trigger.

I spent a year in Chicago, then came back to California, and settled in to write. I tried to find a place to rent on the coast, but I could only afford inland housing. And here I am.

Everyone has dreams. Most of mine have come true, but we still have to make choices. Choosing one dream often means abandoning another. Most of us have another life, the life we would have lived if things had gone differently. We may not regret our choices, but the things we might have been stay with us.

I wanted to build a sailboat and sail around the world. Not an unusual dream, of course. If you gave me the chance to go back and do that instead of what I have done, I wouldn’t consider it for a second. But still . . .

Because of that dream, I have spent a lifetime studying small boat construction, naval architecture, and maritime history. My second MA thesis was on shipbuilding during the nineteenth century.

Fortunately, I am an author. I can write a novel and call it Raven’s Run (see Serial). In it I can set off in the yawl Wahini, heading for Marseilles, and who knows, maybe a mermaid will fall into my lap along the way.


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