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I’ve experienced many surprises since taking up the cruising life.

Just the other night, my reflection in a brightly lit ladies room truly shocked me. We’d gone ashore for dinner. I was treated to florescent illumination for desert. Three letters said it all–OMG.

For longer than forever, applying make-up and hair dye had been as routine as using toothpaste or devouring chocolate. But the logistics of daily life at sea, the details of daily navigation, maintenance, anchoring & docking, provisioning and detailaing a large vessel without a handy car as well as the normal routines of daily life—the cooking, cleaning and laundry—became first priorities on this six-month shake-out cruise.

I tried to put it in perspective. While I never found time to color my hair, I did waken daily to dawn skies surrealistically colored like Maxwell Parrish paintings.

I had been able to ignore my reflection. Yet, I had traversed river waters so still, they perfectly mirrored thousands of trees showing off their autumn leaves. I viewed anchorages so private, the stars came out unabashed, in droves.

I guess I paid less attention to my skin and more to the ocean’s—trying to find words that perfectly described the thousands of variations in her skin tone.

I’ve been humbled by her power–I’ve managed her six foot waves on the nose of our 60,000 pound ship, surfed down the other side in a following sea and watched her foam rumble underneath after the crest. I am beginning to understand her changing moods–from glassy or confused, mellow or angry. I’ve seen her currents move a tide over one foot an hour, or nearly push 60,000 lbs into a bridge. She always reminded me how unimportant wrinkles are in the big picture.

I’ve confirmed without a doubt that dolphins are magical. Period. Every single one of them. Scamps. Playmates. Water nymphs.  And there is nothing like watching kamikaze seagulls who suddenly ascend over our helm windows after dive-bombing our boat.

Still, it shocked me to see how much my face had aged over the last six months. I’d begun this first year of cruising in the summer of my life and now look like I’m returning in the autumn. It had been easy for me to overlook the change, facing miles of ocean.

Miles of ocean can be meditative, though. So much so, that in that self-unaware state, the best surprise of all occurred. A story that I would so love to finish kept tap tap tapping at my creative gray matter, telling it to pay attention; to remember that I’m still a writer, even if I’m not writing much. Without consciously trying, ideas began to emerge about the era in which I’d set my lovely story. Did this setting detail exist in that year? Was that song released before or after this story event?

I just walked out on deck to see a half moon’s light illuminating the restless water passing by, its incredibly fast current unable to upset our secure anchor and it hit me. Even if my skin looks older, even if I really have moved from summer to autumn, being a writer means I can be a child forever.

While I’m living in the exciting, magical but often challenging, practical world of a mariner, I will always have my imaginary worlds, the ones I create. I can be a child forever, a child at play–a writer.

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