Weather, not unlike life, is famously unpredictable. Out there on the water, the conditions can get brutal, fast! The winds grow in their tantrums. The rain, from an annoying persistent mist to a relentless downpour, can soak you - bone deep - in a matter of seconds. The temperatures can drop out, leaving your fingers and toes numb with a cold that creeps up and burrows down at the same time.
As sailors, you push through. You pull on layers, you grab your foul-weather gear, and you bite down for the fight.
Traveling from Charleston to Wadmalaw Island, we had constant rain, wind and temperatures hovering in the low 40s, but we were in a snaky part of the Inter-coastal Waterway (ICW). So, there we were: standing in the weather; Ryan was at the helm, and I was moving a light beam across the water searching for markers in the darkness of the night. Rain drops illuminated the light beam making it difficult to spot the reflective markers.
After 2 hours of weather, your body grows weary and your patience wanes. You yearn for creature comforts. This is when friends of sailors become lifesavers.
We docked the boat, threw off our wet foulies, and ran inside to the comforts of their home. We needed refuge. We needed warmth.
Within minutes, I had a substantial glass of pinot noir and a hot shower sliding down my goose-bumped, frozen skin. You feel yourself exhale. You feel yourself melt. You feel yourself re-calibrate and re-acclimate. You exhale.
The comfort of your creature comforts is amplified after wrestling with harsh conditions. But after you feel human again, and a little less like a swamp monster, you start to let you mind sink deeper.
Weather is part of the life fight. Comforts are part of the perks. But freedom is what lies between the fight and the release. Freedom to travel beyond perceived comfort zones, expectations, jobs, city / country lines. It is this freedom that feels good and lasts, long after the warmth of the shower has worn off, long after the freeze of the cold has dissipated.
You look around yourself and you find yourself in the middle of deep, deep gratitude. Thankful for friends who understand that a hot shower, a glass of wine, a warm meal of beans and rice, and a freshly-made bed with a washing machine to provide fresh laundry is an absolute blessing. Thankful for the hot coffee in the cup that will send steam into the air the next morning as you watch the sunrise over the ICW (where you left your fight hours ago). Thankful for the free day that stretches before you; a blank canvas; a day pregnant with unknown potential and opportunities. Thankful for your loved one; a hand to squeeze to remind each other, "I'm still here with you."
You stop and notice the universal comforts for us all: shelter from the rage, hot coffee and showers, clean towels and sheets, good wine full of notes and conversations full of themes, a shared table topped with food, closeness even far away from friends and family.
In life, not just in sailing, you'll encounter a fight that strips you down to a rawness, to a shaking mess of personality inconsistencies and neediness, and you'll find comfort in small things or big things, expensive things or warm things. But remember, that between the fight and the comfort is the life that you live. It's the precedent you set for yourself and others. It's the marker that you're searching for. It's the hours you spend, the people you hug, the revelations you experience.
And afterwards, you'll feel the glow and you'll know: This is right. This is good. And here I am.