Sitting alone in the saloon on Polar Bear. I dinghied Boogie and Marlies in to shore about a half-hour ago; they’re off to find the station chief and tackle the pleasantries. A radio report a few moments ago said that the chief was due back in an hour, so Boogie and Marlies were settling in for a cup (or two) of coffee with the station crew in the meantime.
In contrast to the tea party ashore, I find the tranquility out here on board delightful, which again will come as no shock to anyone who a) knows me, or b) has read any previous posts from this summer. It’s as close to being on my own boat as I’ll get this summer: no guests to tend to, no to-do lists to check off. Yes, if it were my boat (and I wasn’t in as forbidding an anchorage as Jan Mayen, which is why I was left behind: as insurance for the boat) I’d likely be ashore hiking or in the water surfing or swimming, or even — gasp! — out sailing. But regardless of where I was or what I’d been doing, there would also be down time during which I’d enjoy the gentle rocking of a boat at anchor, a cozy saloon in which to sit and chill, music on the stereo (Neil Young right now, FYI), the sound of the wind in the rigging overhead.
In this particular boat saloon, I can see a calendar hanging in the galley. Today’s date — Sunday, July 10 — has a red square highlighting it, and it also highlights that at this time in one week, I’ll be back at my childhood home on Plum Island. I’ll leave Polar Bear in Akureyri, Iceland, on Saturday and fly to Reykjavik. The next morning, I’ll catch a flight to Logan Airport in Boston, and then a C&J Trailways bus to Newburyport, Mass. Sometime after lunch on the 17th, my folks will pick me up and we’ll head out to the island. And the curtain will come down on the first act of this summer of my life.
The intermission will likely bring much introspection, a big retrospective on the show so far. And as I sit here, a week out from that break, I’m curious as to what the tenor of that analysis will be.
I’m concerned that being back in the States will be so comfortable and familiar that a return to the normal, to a life back in Corporate America, will be really appealing. I’m also concerned that being back in the States will be so comfortable and familiar that I’ll be clamoring to get back to the new-vista-around-every-corner aspect of life at sea. It’s likely a question of which rose-colored glasses I’ll find most comfortable (though it’s obvious that I’ll wear out both pairs pretty quickly).
And in reality, some of that analysis will take place in the next five days, particularly the three or so it will take to cover the water between here and Iceland. Because if I decided that a return to the mainstream was in order and opt not to return to Polar Bear in Greenland in early August, I’d need to pack everything up and take it with me on Saturday.
I’ve gotten some good and kind advice with regard to that analytical process from friends over the course of this summer so far. One reminded me of the Robert Frost line, that “the best way out is through.” I was encouraged to embrace the challenging lines of thought, the painful, to not take the easy way out (who, me?!). Another friend recalled times in her past when longing for the familiar had gotten in the way of true emotional and psychological growth, and encouraged me to push through those times when I wanted to pack up and go back to what I knew. She said that once she survived those easy-to-quit weeks, she made real progress and found that being out there was indeed just what the doctor ordered.
Putting that sage advice into practice is another reason why my current line of thinking is as I mentioned earlier: rejoin Polar Bear in August for the Greenland-Iceland-UK run — and then figure it all out. At the very least, I’ll get to see one of the world’s unique places and log another thousand or so open-ocean miles. And it might just be that getting back out there after a big dose of the warm, the comfortable and the familiar will enable me to clearly see which glasses fit me best.
Besides, I think I can survive without lobster rolls, In ‘n’ Out Burger and the Red Sox until September.