Category Archives: Stories

The Swifts, Conflict, Decision Making, and Following My Dreams

Last night I went to watch the swifts in Portland, who every September on their fall migration roost in the chimney of Chapman School in NW Portland. Watching the swifts is one of my favorite fall activities in this city, as hundreds of people come out with their families and friends and have picnic dinners on the steeply sloped hill, while watching thousands of birds swirl into the chimney at sunset. It’s a beautiful community event and I try to go see it at least a few times during the season.

But, last night turned out to be more than just a nice night of watching the beauty of nature and the strength of community. I learned something about myself that took me by surprise and has left me a bit unsure of where to go next. It came about during a conversation about past relationships, in which I said to my friend, “we broke up because we fought too much…although I have never fought with anyone else I’ve dated…” and then it hit me; I haven’t fought with ANYONE else since we broke up, not boyfriends, not friends, not bosses, not my mother, not anyone. Suddenly I was slapped in the face with the realization that for the past 4 years I have been avoiding conflict at all costs.

I knew that I had changed quite a bit since the summer of 2008, and I often liked my new amicable self, but I also had slowing been losing my path, unable to make decisions, developing patterns of self isolation and becoming even more flighty than before. I had many potential explanations for my behavior; my most important long-term relationship had ended, I was in graduate school, the economic recession was making opportunity sparse, and I was dealing with issues of self worth and confidence. All normal things that happen in life, but for 4 years I had been trying to address these issues so that my life could be better and I could maybe discover some idea of how to live my dreams, but nothing ever worked.

So over the last 4 years I have looked at everything in this quest for clarity; my jobs, my living situations, my diet, my hobbies, my friends, my spirituality, everything. I have sought out therapy, Naturopaths, energy work, new friends, new adventures, new jobs and homes, but still nothing brought me to a place that felt right. It was like I forgot who I was and I was now just trying on different lives to see if they fit. I developed an inability to make real decisions instead opting for whatever presented itself to me in the moment. But, it never occurred to me that most of this might be the result of developing a pervasive avoidance of conflict.

Now I think it is reasonable to avoid unnecessary conflict, but when you avoid conflict at all costs you become willing to give up just about everything in order to keep the peace. You give up your hopes, desires, and the things that are most important to you. You isolate yourself from any situation that might evoke deep emotions. And you find ways to justify people’s bad behavior so as not to have to confront it. Avoiding conflict makes you begin to think that being nice is more important than being authentic.

Over the years I have started to feel successful in my interpersonal life because people began to perceive me as nice and pleasant to be around. I no longer got comments that I was “opinionated” and “bitchy”. People would talk about how kind and diplomatic I was. Which are all great things to be and it felt good to be this way, but it has all been at the expense of pursing my passions and dreams. I have not found a balance; I just swung from one extreme to the other.

And now I can see so clearly how it all started and it had nothing to do with my ex boyfriend that I did all the fighting with (it just occurred around the same time we broke up). It was during my second year serving in AmeriCorps, where I worked as an environmental educator in the mountains of Idaho. For the first three months everything was great, I loved my coworkers, my job and the town. As a group we worked well together and had a great dynamic. We did however avoid any real conflict which left things stewing under the surface, unaddressed. Then, just after winter break everything changed; the group finally let what was simmering come out and conflict erupted into an all out battle. And as an opinionated, stubborn, process oriented person I met it head on with dire consequences. I became the group’s scapegoat for all conflict; everything was my fault, which it sometimes was, but definitely not always.

For months every time the group had an issue I would be placed in the central point of blame and criticized for anything I said or did. It was horrible and I didn’t know what to do to fix it. I was in a constant state of anxiety and defensiveness. It wasn’t until I came down with a fortunate (yes I said fortunate) case of food-poisoning in which I was out of commission for a whole week and the group (in my absence) continued to have conflict and therefore had to acknowledge that maybe it wasn’t always my fault. A few of my coworkers decided to stand up for me and bring the issue of how I was being treated to the group. So, after months of dealing with conflict by making me the scapegoat, we finally had to address the real issues that were plaguing our group and I was finally allowed to move on with my life without constant harassment and negativity.

Unfortunately by this point, I had already completely shut down and must have subconsciously vowed never to do anything that would put me in that position again. I turned inward, began to avoid groups, and quickly lost my ability to make decisions. I became paralyzed with anxiety over doing anything that might upset someone or make someone think I was being contrary. I stopped speaking up or asking for what I wanted. And unfortunately, I was never able to make the connection that my sudden change in personality and behavior came from this very difficult experience and the resulting subconscious coping strategies.

And I now realize that my coping strategies have consumed my life. Being unable to make decisions, I stared to create predictable patterns that make my decisions for me. I go to the same restaurants, order the same foods, do the same things with the same people on a regular basis, wear the same clothes and generally leave the rest up to chance. I have learned to always be ok with whatever anyone else chooses, I no longer am a picky eater, I reserve my opinions for groups of people I know agree with me (and I can always see the opposition’s side and understand why they feel the way they do), I avoid people who I know have strong beliefs and tend to get worked up over them, and I spend more and more time alone.

I even recently decided that I wanted to live alone (even though I have a great, affordable house, with great roommates) because I feel like I’m always having to compromise, never acknowledging though that I never ask for what I want, never being willing to address my concerns or feelings with the people I live with. I would rather move out than discuss something that might not be pleasant. I’d rather run away than make things work.

So, that brings me to today. This whole realization just came crashing down in a torrent of insight and clarity, but now I don’t know what to do with it. Seeking out conflict doesn’t seem like the answer, but I clearly need to face my fear and maybe learn about strategies for effective conflict resolution instead of conflict avoidance. I know I don’t want to go through the rest of my life not authentically living with purpose because I am too afraid of being criticized or attacked for my choices. I want to have the courage to follow my dreams even if it may involve some unpleasantness. And I want to find a balance between being kind and diplomatic and being strong and living with conviction.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even know what I want anymore because it has just been easier to go with the flow and let things happen, than to risk being confronted for my choices. The problem is that this is incredibly uninspiring and leaves me feeling lost and confused most of the time as well as dependent on the spontaneity of others to keep my life interesting and fulfilled. And it makes my relationships unbalanced and inauthentic and leaves me feeling isolated from those I care about.

So, I guess my lesson is that sometimes going and watching the swifts is just a nice way to pass the time, but sometimes watching animals live out their purpose in life makes us question our own and helps us better understand our true nature. Fear is an amazingly powerful thing that can bury us under its weight if we don’t keep it in check. If the swifts were afraid of coming home to roost because of the peregrine falcons that prey on them each season, then the whole ecosystem would collapse. The swifts don’t avoid their journey because of the battle that awaits them at that chimney, they show up every year without fail and remind us that the journey is hard, but we have to go on it anyway.

 

All Packed and Ready to Go!

I don’t leave for Spain and the Camino de Santiago for another 2 weeks…but my bag is packed and I am ready to go!

The good thing about packing so early is that it gives me time to make sure I am not forgetting anything important and not bringing more than I need. The bad thing is that I keep looking at my bag and desperately wanting to leave tomorrow.

But, to be honest I’m also a little nervous. I may be a vagabond, but I tend to stick close to people I know. I’ve never spent 6 weeks traveling entirely solo. I’ve never hiked 600 miles. I’ve never even been to Spain. I’ve done many challenging things in my life, but this is new and different and is making me feel a little uncertain as to what will happen.

But, I guess that is the journey. I’m looking for something new in my life and in my travels and I can’t stick to what I already know to find it. So for the next 2 weeks I will wait with anticipation while my bag sits there nicely packed and reminding me of the adventure ahead!

 

 

In Search of Adventure Abroad and Community at Home: Thoughts on Being a Vagabond

I am a vagabond; that much is clear to me. But I am also drawn to building creative and meaningful community at home. This makes me feel torn on a near constant basis and the process of fuzing these two realities together seems to be more alchemy than a hard science. At least I have yet to discover the secret. It seems that the life of a vagabond is lonely and isolated from stability, while filled with adventure and personal growth; while life in community is repetitive and predictable, but gives the opportunity to know others and a place intimately. Now these two realities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, or even reflective of what I describe above, but for me it feels this way. And of course while traveling I dream of my life at home and while at home I can’t stop thinking of getting back into the unknown.

This time around I made it just over a month in Portland before the itch set in. An itch that I couldn’t scratch without buying a plane ticket. After returning from Korea and Japan this past May I was excited about being home for some time, putting in my garden, maybe further developing my romantic relationship and hopefully finding a job. I figured I could at least go for another year before needing to travel again. But, the good feeling of being home only lasted about a month. The vibrant green of spring in the Pacific Northwest began to fade, my garden went untended, my relationship spoiled and only rejection letters from potential employers found their way to my inbox. My new dream of living a full and exciting life while remaining still dissolved…

…Now to be fair, I probably didn’t give things enough time. I expected stability while demanding excitement. I didn’t allow things to flourish from a place of newness, but allowed them to stagnate though a place of the familiar. Instead of holding tight and allowing for a new chapter to emerge, I chose to escape. It’s what I do best. So, I decided that I would spend 6 weeks in Spain in order to walk the Camino de Santiago, something I have wanted to do for years. I figured this would buy me some more time to try my hand once again at growing roots when I return.

While I desire some of what stability offers and often find myself attracted to staying put, the feeling never lasts. Some people find the idea of traveling frightening, but exciting; I feel that way about being stable and in one place. But, just like people who are afraid to travel and would benefit from facing their fears, I should probably face my fear of staying still for a time in order to gain the lessons of that experience. So now I intend to try again when I return from this trip. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if in the end it turns out that I am destined to be a wandering vagabond and will have to find my desire for community and stability in other ways.

But, I am excited to embark on this next adventure in search of clarity and to have the opportunity to do more travel photography in a part of the world I have never been. Who knows if I will find any answers on my journey, but I know it will help fulfill my wanderlust while giving me time to contemplate my next steps at home.

I leave August 2nd, so stay tuned for photos and stories from the road!

Cheers!

Tour de Ireland and France, 2006

In the Summer of 2006, my travel partner Daniel and I spent 40 days cycling through Ireland and France. Neither of us had any significant experience traveling by bike and we undertook this journey on used mountain bikes we bought in Ireland (not nescesarily recommended but doable!). Anytime “real” cyclists would see us and our bikes they would exclaim, “you can’t tour on those!”. But, that is exactly what we did and without too much fanfare made it with only minor hiccups. We did experienced crazy weather, broken-down bikes, and terrifying roads, but we also experienced beautiful scenery, the kindness of strangers and life in the countryside of Europe in places where many travelers never go. In total we traversed 1000 miles down and across the the west and south coast of Ireland, through NW France and finally through the French Alps.

We traveled slowly favoring seeing an area over gaining ground and had little agenda or plan as we went. The experience of self propelled travel was incredibly rewarding and I would recommend it to most anyone.

Some of the trips highlights were: The WHOLE West Coast of Ireland, seeing standing stones in NW France, watching the World Cup during mid-afternoon breaks at local pubs, ending up on the Tour de France route in the Alps, amazing food, “luxury” campgrounds (with pools, kitchens and bars) and seeing things just slow enough to enjoy them but just fast enough to stay interested.

At the end of our tour we were forced to sell our bikes in a hour window of time in Lyon when we discovered we would not be permitted to take them on the train to Germany. Letting go of that bike was one of the hardest things I have ever done, although I’m sure my tears were as much about the end of the journey as they were about saying goodbye to my trusty steed.

All of the following photos are scanned from film prints and the quality is pretty poor, but they still tell a story of an incredible journey that I will never forget. Hope you enjoy!

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To Whom it May Concern,

(The following is an open letter to publications or people I would like to work for. I have not yet sent it anywhere, but I hope to in the near future as I figure out the best way to approach following my dream of working in this field. As this is already an unconventional approach, I figured I would publish it here in hopes that one of you our there will see it and can help me on my way!)

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing in hopes of finding a way to follow my passion of becoming a photojournalist and if nothing else maybe get some good advice on what steps to take next. I am a photographer and I have been taking pictures for the past 22 years as a hobby. I got my first camera at 9 years old and started taking photos of any and everything I could. The only thing that got in my way was growing up in fairly extreme poverty, where affording food and socks was a stretch, let alone film, so my growth in the art was slow. Despite that, I scraped together money for film and printing and kept taking pictures throughout my childhood. Then at 17, I stumbled into a camera store in Bend Oregon and fell in love with an Olympus OM1, walking out spending almost my entire summer’s salary to take it home with me. Over the years I took a few black and white photography classes, but for the most part have taught myself as I go along.

After high school, I unfortunately listened to too many people that told me not to go into photography and art, but instead get a degree in something more “practical”. So, I put down my camera and decided to go to college to study Environmental Studies and later go on to get a Master’s Degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education. After 8 years in school, and 4 study abroad programs later (I apparently was more attracted to adventure than sitting in a classroom) I quickly realized I was not meant to sit behind a desk and do only administrative work and may have made a mistake in my career choice.

This brings me to today. I have found myself in a place where I know what I want to do with my life, but I don’t know how to get there. I know that I want to combine my passion for environmental and social justice with my photography and I know I have the skills and motivation to make it happen. In lieu of knowing what to do, I have spent the last year doing any and everything I can to build my experience and abilities.

I got involved with a local media collective in Portland, OR and started taking photos at Occupy Portland events. I was granted a small amount of money by a supportive donor in order to essentially “volunteer” full time with the movement. During this time I was published in many activist publications and developed a solid following of people interested in my work. I often found myself standing next to photographers from the major news outlets in the region and doing the same quality of work as they were. During many of the events I documented, I worked with a team of people to do live, day-of coverage and learned to quickly shoot, edit and publish photography that was relevant and timely.

This past April I decided to travel to Korea and Japan for a three week trip to visit a friend and take a stab at travel photography (while I have traveled for many years of my life, I never really tried to make anything happen with the photos I took). I committed to either posting a photo, a photo essay, or a story each day I had internet access on my blog and see if it was something I liked and was successful with. It was only my first attempt in the medium, but within a few weeks, my blog was featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed and I quickly built a small following.

Over the past year I have also worked with a few music journals to take photos at concerts, I have shot promotional photos for a dance studio, done product photography, weddings, and started printing and selling my artwork. With each project I find myself more excited about where I can go and what I can do if given the opportunity.

I understand that becoming a photojournalist is not for everyone. I have no delusions of grandeur or false ideas of traveling the globe taking pictures of cute wildlife. I know that getting the right photos to tell a story can be exhausting, challenging, and requires a dedication unlike any other. But, I do know it’s what I want to do and I know I can do it.

The scope of my experience as a photographer may be limited, as it’s only been the last year that I have really taken my work seriously, although I know that my skills are solid and my motivation infinite. I have traveled throughout large parts of the world, have a strong understanding of environmental and social justice, and feel that photography can be one of the most important ways to tell stories and hopefully have an impact for the better. I know that I will continue to do this work on my own whether or not I am getting paid to do it, but I know that I will be able to do so much more if I have funding and an outlet for my work. The funding I received for my work with Occupy has now run out and I am faced with going back to working behind a desk to make money, while spending my free time doing photography instead of it being my life.

It seems to me that getting into photojournalism is unlike any other field as it is not just about skill, but about the ability to do the challenging work that is necessary and a deep passion for what you do. As someone who is self taught and has limited finances to purchase the best equipment, I am not sure what I need to do next to make my dream a reality, but I know I am ready to do whatever it takes.

In writing this letter I am hoping that I will be given an opportunity to work in this field. I would be happy to intern on an assignment in order to gain the specific skills of professional publications and show I am able to do this work. In viewing my work, please know that this is just the beginning of my creative abilities. I understand that my blog, website and published pieces are not representations of an extensive portfolio of polished professional work.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I would be happy to provide any additional information about myself and my work if it would help. I look forward from hearing back from you and hopefully having the opportunity to work for your publication!

~Lauriel-Arwen

(AKA The Perpetual Vagabond)

Off to Korea! (And My Quest to Find a New Dream)

As the title of my blog suggests, I am bit of a traveler. But, this trip feels different. I’ve been fairly stationary over the past few years as I have been focusing on activism, sustainability and building community. I have been learning to garden, looking for jobs in the non-profit sector and hoping to build a life for myself in Portland that is meaningful and makes a positive impact in the world. Unfortunately, just as the “American Dream” has come to a screeching halt in the last few years, so has my “Personal Dream”. The dream in which I got a Master’s Degree in Sustainability Education, and environmental non-profits lined up to hire me to help build their growing organizations. A dream that once hired, I would take my small, but adequate salary and have enough money to buy a house in which I could organize community garden projects and neighborhood potlucks. On the weekends I would go camping, take up new hobbies and enjoy reading a nice book while curled up next to my romantic counterpart. It didn’t seem like I was asking for much, but I did know I wanted it more than anything.

Now, I’m not sure whether this dream was always a pipe dream and it was only my personal lack of foresight that did me in, or if things really changed while I had my head in a book during 8 long years in higher education. But ultimately my dream did not materialize and as far as I can tell, many people are in the same boat.

But, my breaking point was this spring, while working a job I was qualified for with a high school diploma and didn’t pay enough to meet my meager standard of living. The job was also uninspiring and extremely boring. I was tired of being bored, I was tired of looking for jobs in my field and competing against hundreds and thousands of other applicants, I was tired of being poor and going deeper and deeper into debt with no hope on the horizon for a better future. I was just tired.

So I quit. I quit my job and I quit pining after something that doesn’t seem to exist. I quit feeling inadequate about myself and my abilities. I quit thinking this dream was what I wanted. I decided I never wanted the dream in the first place, it was a misguided dream and really I wanted something else.

So, I dove into being an activist with Occupy Portland and began to spend almost all my time working with our developing alternative media coalition and documenting the movement through photography. And I loved it. I loved the community and the energy of people coming together to try to make change. I loved challenging the system that had promised me a much different life than the one I had. I loved being involved in my community and I loved being a photographer. During this time I realized that photography was my passion and I wanted nothing more than to do it all the time.

But, after a while something still didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like what I was doing was really filling the void in my heart for finding a new dream to replace the one I gave up. Something was still missing.

And what I’m learning is that it’s hard to give up a dream and find a new one. Dreams take time to develop, to nurture and to plan for. So, for the past few months I have been living in a vacuum looking for another dream. Working to discover my passions and creative motivations while also figuring out how to turn those things into a sustainable way of making a living. I’ve also been mentally burdened with my desire to help create a better world and unsure how to follow my artistic dreams while also stopping the rampant destruction of the environment and the exploitation of human beings for profit and power across the globe. How can I become a travel photographer while still ensuring that single use plastics are discontinued? How can I spend my time writing, when people in my own city are without a home or adequate food? How can I sit with friends and drink a glass of wine while our biosphere is in rapid decline?

Which brings me to Korea. I leave in just a few days for a trip of pleasure and adventure. In contrast to the stress of being an activist over the past few months, I am taking a break to re-charge and see if I can again fall in love with a dream. I of course want to find a way to be both an activist and live a passionate, happy, centered, and meaningful existence, but until then I may need to take breaks from each world to spend time in the other. My passion for activism is eternal, but creates a stress in my life that is all consuming (and doesn’t provide me with a source of income), while my passion for artistic creativity (that does provide me with income) is at the core of my being, but leaves me feeling like I’m not doing enough to help the world.

Even this trip I am about to undertake makes me feel uncomfortable. Traveling for me is both at the core of an adventurous life and represents so much of what I see wrong in the world. I will be taking an airplane across the globe, which emits huge amounts of greenhouse gasses, I will be eating food in which I don’t know how it was grown and raised, I will be impacting local communities through the influx of foreign dollars and western cultural imperialism, and I will be contributing to the idea that it is OK to move goods, services and people across the globe rapidly and with little effort.

But, on the flip-side, I will be growing as a person and engaging in cross-cultural understanding. My world view that I use to better understand and find solutions to big problems will expand. And I will be feeding my soul and overall creative well being. I will be following one of the dreams that is at the center of my being, which is to see and experience as much of this world as possible and share those experience with others I meet.

So, in a grand effort to try to re-engage myself in the world and find balance between me as an activist and me as an artist and traveler, I will spend the month of April in a new place, away from all that I know and love and hopefully come out of it with at least the beginning inclinations of a new life’s dream. Ideally a dream that will seamlessly bring together my many passions and be both personally fulfilling and help to create a more beautiful, just and livable world for all.

Please check back over the next month to see photos from Korea and learn about what I am experiencing while there.

Cheers!

The Next Adventure

I just moved into a new apartment in Portland, my 7th home in 3 years. But, this place is different than the others; an old brick apartment building from the 1920’s above a row of boutique businesses. The coffee shop downstairs is patronized by a mix of yupi business types and junkies left over from the night before. Across the street is one of the top rated and equally expensive French restaurants in the city while a block away is a long established strip club. There is also a drug treatment center around the corner that keeps the flow of interesting people coming and going. The neighborhood is clearly in transition as am I, so I think we are getting along. While I have no garden, no neighborhood park, and no front porch in which to drink wine and watch the world pass by, I like it here. I like it despite the hallway carpets that smell of cat piss and 90 year old poorly aged musk. I like it despite the rowdy bars across the street that serve stiff drinks ’til late and seem to leave people in a state where smashing bottles and getting rowdy is the only option once they leave.

In truth, it is nothing like where I dream about living, although when I was young I had always romanticized this kind of existence. But, up until now I have been living a very different life. A life of lush trees, communal dinners and backyard fires. I have been seeking community and fresh, locally grown produce. The idea of living in an apartment never appealed to me because it felt lonely and isolating. I felt like living in a building of people that were not intentionally choosing to live together and shared no communal space would somehow be buying into the myth of societal separation. But, despite all this I am trilled to be living here. I have always had a tenuous relationship with this bubble of a city and I am now thinking that maybe I have been living a life that I thought I wanted, but never quite fulfilled me. Here in this apartment I have no exceptions of what my living situation “should” be. It’s just a place to live, sleep, cook, and relax. It’s a dive, so everything that is nice is just a pleasant bonus.

But, really the best part about my new home is the world map shower curtain that surounds the claw foot bathtub. Because while I am living in one place at the moment, I am always dreaming of my next adventure and this shower curtain serves as the perfect aid to my morning daydreams. I picture crossing the Atlantic by sea, the waves rocking our boat to sleep as the vast space of the ocean is lowly passed over. I imagine journeying the trans-mongolian railway as we enter the Gobi Desert, watching the early morning sunbeams illuminate the desolate landscape stretching out as far as can been seen. I picture cycling through Europe and walking an ancient pilgrimage trail, following in the footsteps of thousands of people crossing the planet slowly and intentionally. And I can smell and taste the unknown and I find comfort in getting lost along the way. I can feel the vastness of the world and also understand it’s ultimate interconnectedness that makes it that much more appealing to explore.

I think that maybe in living here I am learning that comfort in my home is not what I am looking for. I may love living in community and having a park to explore and having a garden in the backyard but ultimately I’d rather live in a place that gets me excited to keep moving, to keep exploring and that keeps me dreaming about the next adventure.

Flying Fish

It was 3:30 in the morning and I had just been hit in the arm by a flying fish. Despite this, my all consuming nausea and dizziness was really the focus of my sleepless, disoriented thoughts, but the sting in my right shoulder and a winged fish floundering around on the deck also disturbed me.

The ships rigging creaked and shuddered while we sailed through another long hot Caribbean night. I was on night watch from midnight until 4am and I had been at the helm when I became ill, a distinct pattern. It was my 30th consecutive day of seasickness and my favorite kind of fish, the flying fish, which I placed on a near godlike level, had just been mortally injured on my arm. I couldn’t help but laugh. I laughed for a while. I was living on a 125ft sailboat with 29 other people most of whom seasickness seemed to elude. They all knew how much I loved the flying fish. I was like a hyperactive four year old the first time I saw one, having believed that they were nothing more than an imaginary creature from childhood fairy tails. As far as I was concerned seeing a flying fish was as good as seeing a fairy. My fellow students and the ship’s crew were acutely aware of this fact. Despite the ungodly hour, it only took minutes for word to spread; I was a fairy killer.

My seasickness subsided while I contemplated the irony and ridiculousness of my situation. I laughed a bit more and then returned to feeling ill. I searched my pockets for comfortless food and forced down my four hundredth saltine cracker of the month, I never wanted to eat another saltine again, but unfortunately it was all I could stand to have come back up.

Dee, the History and Literature Professor on our ship had heard the news of the flying fish and in no time she was at my side. “Where’s the fish?” She inquired. I didn’t look at her. I faced the water, my arms wrapped tightly around the rigging, nearly contemplating throwing myself over. At this point I had lost track and pointed behind me.

Great” she smiled, “You don’t mind if I use it for bait do you?”

Of course I minded. My slain friend deserved a better fate then to be used as lowly bait.

No” I said, “might as well, right?” I conceded.

I loved Dee and was in no place to debate my inane flying fish morality. And anyway my watch was over and I could finally lay down and go to sleep, typically the only part of the day that I felt well. I was about to enter my 31st day of seasickness and needed all the rest I could get in order to get through to the 80th day, the last day, the day I thought about on an almost constant basis.

Counting days was something that brought me both sadistic pleasure and ultimate despair. I couldn’t help, but count. Sometimes I would even count hours when the days were not passing at an adequate speed. Each day often felt like many, with sleep being broken up into short blocks of restless time. Sleep was never more than a four hour period; a time when I wasn’t seasick and it passed in a blink of an eye. The only moments on my voyage that passed quickly was while I was sleeping or while we were on land exploring one of our Caribbean ports of call.

Time at sea crept by and the variable winds laughed in my ears testing the last of my sensibilities. I would often spend my nighttime watch singing to the sea in hopes we could make amends. I sung the sea shanties I had learned on the ship as well as songs from my childhood that at one time brought me happiness. While the singing would drown out thoughts of depression it didn’t bring happiness.

I don’t think that sailing has even been a particular joyous endeavor for most, but there have always been those who have romanticized it to the point in which the innocent and un-expecting consider the idea of trying it out.

I was such a person.

I pulled myself up from the rail of the ship by whatever rigging I could find. My thoughts danced between the low and persistent growl in the pit of my stomach and the anticipation of my small and extraordinarily hot, stuffy, bunk. This bunk, my bunk, was my favorite part on the ship despite its obvious and insurmountable flaws. No room to sit up, very little room for any personal belongings (of which I am famous for having too many), and unfortunately my particular bunk was as close as any bunk could possibly be to the diesel burning stove that the food I couldn’t keep down was cooked on. Ironic. It was a hot, hot stove and there was no barrier between its heat and my bunk. I hated that stove, and its unscrupulous ability to raise the temperature by at least 15 degrees, but still I loved my bunk.

As I crawled into its embrace I completely de-robed. Clothes were unbearable to wear in the heat and my thin, but adequate bunk curtain gave me some comfort that I was not completely exposing myself to my shipmates, although I could never be completely sure. I didn’t care. 110 degree heat warranted no excuses.

It was just after 4am. It would be less than 4 hours before I would be woken for breakfast and the beginning of another long arduous day. I located my contraband disk-man and pressed play. The sound of frogs on a warm spring evening flooded my ears. I gave one last thought to the flying fish and sleep took over.