Guna morning

July 15th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

This morning we woke up to the sounds of singing in a language we don’t understand. A female voice came wafting our way from Wichubwala, one of the hundreds of tiny islands that make up Guna Yala. 

When we arrived at our anchorage late last night, our arrival was the talk of the town.  First there were flashlights on us, then whistles and calls, busy talk in the Guna language, and finally shouts our way – HOLA!!! – in Spanish.  Our electric engine typically affords us the dignity of ninja stealth when we limp into anchorage late, but not here.

Today we start a honeymoon of sorts.  This isn’t a vacation, but certainly a new chapter.  For the past six years we have pushed forward, and today we begin forming our days differently.  For the first time in a long time, we woke up wondering what to do.

A sleepy look out the porthole revealed no fewer than four Guna cauycos paddling along in any direction.  With the singing and now the sounds of kids splashing around nearby, how will our days here unfurl?

dear president

December 1st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Many of my acquaintances are writing good old fashioned letters lately, to their elected officials. This is for you, dears:

ORDER HERE (this is real)

I have diligent friends who generously circulate their hand-crafted call lists and phone scripts, encouraging their circle to support the Water Protectors, watchdog political appointments, and bear witness to the uptick of hate crimes in Trump’s America.  I know some that battle in an online scrum and others who are organizing travel to protests.  For many reasons, I weigh how and where my own energy can be directed.

After swastikas with pro-Trump slogans were spray painted on the Brooklyn playground named after Adam “MCA” Yauch, late member of the Beastie Boys and avowed peace warrior, his former bandmate said the following:

“If you’re able to volunteer, volunteer…if you’re a musician, write that anthem. If you’re a writer, write. Take what you’re good at, and what you truly enjoy, and lend your services to the causes you care most about. ‘Cause we can’t, and we won’t, and we don’t stop.”

Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz

This struck me, because I have a hope that my most purposeful work lies ahead, but my next steps are (still) less than clear.

Side note – During the same event, Public Advocate Tish James sang “We Shall Overcome” with the gathered crowd, a mental image that gives me an attack of nostalgia for NYC and makes me wonder if there is a video out there pls?

Right now I watch those individuals and groups who have been doing this thing – those who have been engaged in resistance and will be for the long haul. I admire those who have steadily stoked a fire that fuels their ability to both row and steer.  I was shocked by the election outcome, but I have been even more impacted by those who are making new ways forward.  Specifically, I mean #BlackLivesMatter and #noDAPL, campaigns I view as expressions of pure love for humanity and the earth, respectively. If you try to tell me different, mind you are in for a long conversation with footnotes.

I try to steer clear of echo chambers and instead make eye contact and hear/learn/use people’s names right away. Traveling often makes me feel like my hands are cut off, like I have no pull in a place where people don’t know me. Lately, I’m moving more as a pilgrim, so that every wandering step has more purpose, and every stranger is the next opportunity for exchange.

I am still thinking of what I have to offer in that exchange besides postcards, tho.


November 10th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

My personal mission is to heal the divide between me and the environment. Sometimes that looks like community and land use planning, but more recently that looks like sailing up and down the East Coast. I would like to try explaining what I get from this life on a sailboat. You know that What People Think I Do/What I Really Do meme? I should probably just make one of those sometime.

On land, I had developed an out-sized stress response*. It is something that sort of sat on top of me for most of my twenties, then sat politely beside me in my thirties as I gained some perspective, “invited it in for tea”, and other hipster nonsense. I think many have this to some degree – a full fight-or-flight response to something that is decidedly NOT a predator in the wild.

Over time, my adrenal system was trained to treat every risk of even small failure as a life-or-death situation. It’s a long line of fallen dominoes that I can follow right up to where I am today, through the tough decision to change my life and career, the unlikely events of becoming an Italian psychologist/sailor’s bride, and ultimately leaving land full time.


When I am offshore for a few days, after the watch routine settles in and the discomfort of transition wanes, I have the following experience. I feel cold, rain, waves and wind. I see stars, moon, sun, birds and bioluminescent plankton. I steer the boat, and check instruments while I maintain my own personal safety and support that of my husband and boat cat. We work as a team, we have to communicate clearly but efficiently because there is not much surplus time or energy. When a threat arises, like a squall or too-high winds, or too-cold weather or too-hot sun…then I feel fight-or-flight in the appropriate context. The crisis passes because the response works (!), we complete the leg, we come to shore, and I can walk back arm-in-arm with my stress response all the way to “normal”.

Its like therapy in reverse – instead of trying to bring the mind into context with the body, sailing brings my body into context with the mind.

Here is where this swerves from the personal to national politics, as every damn thing does now, apparently**. I want to challenge you, dear reader, to consider a deeply-rooted pattern of your own. Maybe one that doesn’t often see the light of day. Is it based in fear? What would happen if this fear was removed, even for one moment?

Relief from fear offers me moments of clear purpose, compassion and love for others, and enough mental space to act on that. With practice, maybe I can live this way “full time”.

*If you worked with me, you may or may not have noticed it (I say that winkingly to my friend-colleagues, who totally saw this, and whom often helped me along or were caught up in my stress by proximity. Ps. still thx and sorry). My best friends for sure know what I am talking about, because I grappled with it as it progressed. Before any big deadline, meeting, presentation, whatever cumulative professional moment, no matter how prepared I could be, my body would physically go through the same process – insomnia, anxiety, and tunnel vision on the work until the moment of the thing. Then, after the thing, during which I would typically appear pretty calm and capable, there would be a second cascade – reviewing the thing over and over to evaluate my part, waves of self doubt and beating back negative thoughts of shame, guilt and remorse. People, I am talking about all this over a half-hour talk on water quality monitoring – to a room full of nerds like me.

**I hear from some NYC friends that they feel like they have lived in a bubble, couldn’t imagine the turnout that turned out for Trump. Inside of NYC, my life, work and relationships challenged me daily to (imperfectly) develop my own ability to serve as an ally for peace and justice. I owe this refrain to Alexie Torres Flemming, and the still-unfolding slow knowledge I gained from working with her. Today, I have to be grateful that my last few years as a nomad expanded my worldview to include more political diversity, especially among people who look just like me. While I will never be silenced by racism, sexism or the idea that anyone is more or less “legal” than me, I can see how each of us arrives at our own worldview through authentic lived experience, and how each of us can be so deeply affected by our fears that we might be moved to behave against our own best interests.

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