Against the Tide

It’s funny how, when you all of a sudden have nothing to do, you find everything to do. It doesn’t take long to discover this. And then you had better get busy doing things that you like, or at least don’t hate, before a man gets whacked with the ‘Honey-do” List, the list that is always there, lurking in the shadows, ready to be sprung upon you like a loaded bear-trap as soon as you appear to be just a tad too idle.

I’m not going to mention the hated Germ by name; seen enough of it splashed across every media from print to broadcast, no need to Speak Its Name. But it is of course the reason we can’t go anywhere. And, here in New England, this cold spring – like winter last night, 21 April – is the reason I can’t get my garden in or boat and yard projects underway.

They say that there are a number of phases that a person undergoes when he or she is informed of a terminal illness; I forget what they are, but I think ‘Denial’, ‘Bargaining’, and ‘Acceptance’ are at least three of them. ‘Tis very similar, I think to being locked down in one’s house by command of all-powerful Tyrants who used to be called Elected Officials and Servants of the People. Well, good morning.

But after you get over the shock of the imposition of Martial Law, you had better find things to do, and quickly, otherwise you face the imminent imposition of ‘Marital’ Law, and that can be even more oppressive.

So I got busy indeed. I can’t tell you the last time the dust mites were cleaned out from way behind the powder room toilet, but I can tell you now that you could serve hors d’oeuvres back there. I have repaired things long broken and forgotten, swabbed decks, organized cabinets, found long-lost books and knick-knacks, and brushed up on my culinary skills to the point where I can truly claim, as Capt. Joshua Slocum did once when sailing alone on SPRAY, that “Never was there a crew more in agreement with the cook.”

I have been enthused and encouraged to resume work and restoration in my basement workshop on interior panels and parts from my new (old) antique wooden stinkpot, my ANNA MARY. In fact, I’m busy as hell, which is a good thing, because I’m getting too old for day-long recreational drinking. But every so often, around sunset, with the cold wind gusting out of the northwest behind scudding clouds and the earth seeming to be still in pre-spring stasis without warmth or hope, I will put a few rocks in a glass, pour some bourbon over them, and stand by my window and watch the sunset sky redden, and remember how things used to be before everything went to Hell. Remembrance is saddening, yet comforting at the same time; you can get lost in it, and feel it wash over your soul like a warm tropical waterfall, and as Fitzgerald wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Capt. Mike Martel
Bristol, R.I.