Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Have and to Have Not

Hottest day of the summer so far. I’m anchored outside of a harbor I’ve been coming to for 20 years. Anchored because I find the 500% increase in mooring rental offensive. Anchored because I can. And anchored because frequently I find the company more interesting.

Today’s human theater is played by contrasting families. A bit further out is anchored a young live-aboard family. Their aura speaks of simplicity. They row past daily. Mom and dad to shore in the morning. Mom back to pick up dad on the beach in the evening. Never in a hurry, Always with time for a friendly hello. A boy and a girl, neither more than 5 years old, and both as much dolphin as human judging by their comfort in the ocean.
Nearer by and on a $50 a night rental mooring is your classic weekend cruiser on vacation. His outfit is more modern and includes an inflatable with a planning speed outboard motor. His children might be comfortable on the water, but it’s hard to say as they seem permanently wrapped in their life vests. Not that this is a bad thing. In fact, given the rest of the story, it seems wise.

So I mentioned it was a scortcher today. 103 degrees inland. It was a great day to be in the water. Probably a great day to be a kid in the water too.

First the rowboat went by. Mom pulling patiently at the oars. Dad waiting patiently on the beach. Children dressed as they were born frolicking behind the dinghy with one of those dime store inflatable pool toys. They really did remind me of a couple of trained dolphins swimming along behind the dinghy. As they went by, mom quieted them to explain that they shouldn’t shriek quite so much as someone might mistake their joy for distress and jump in to rescue them. “The little boy who cried wolf “ story in a real life framework. I guess a lot of folks would be upset by this scene. No lifejackets on the kids. No lifejacket on mom to set an example. Yet somehow I only want to thank them for being real. I want to thank them for understanding that there is more safety in learning to be comfortable on the water and in learning practical common sense seamanship than in any wearable device. If there were 2 happier kids on this island today I didn’t see them. And while there are days to teach the importance of manmade safety on the water, today just seemed ideal to teach safety through comfort and skills with nothing more than one was born wearing.

Buzzing around at the same time was vacation dad. His two tow heads were bouncing about, apparently too much in fear for their lives to even scream. Or maybe just bored. It’s hard to tell sometimes. They were riding one of those marine store inflatable tubes with handles and bright graphics all over it. They were sucking down outboard fumes at a brain damaging clip, but it’s OK since it was one of those heavy but “clean” 4 stroke outboards. The seamanship they were learning would be better unlearned – it’s illegal to buzz around within 100 ft of moored boats at planning speed in this state. But then I’m pretty sure dad is oblivious to this fact. So will the kids be. They will probably also be hard to convince later in life that their entitlement to fun does not exceed others’ entitlement to a peaceful afternoon free of the side effects of their fun. They began learning today that it’s OK to drive stupidly as long as you have a seatbelt and airbags. But they didn’t seem to be coming near enough to hit anything, and even if they did, they were surrounded by inflatable things and wearing bulletproof life vests. And I am not one to interfere with “intelligent design” as Mr, Darwin’s work is now known.

But the lingering question in this scene is who has and who has not? I guess I was a little bit of both examples growing up. Probably still am. But today, from where I was sitting, it was the slow, simple fun I most admired. I could only feel sorry for the frenetic family. Today it was my fellow dwellers on the fringe that clearly had it best. I know which set of kids I hope grow up to run my world.

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