While hiking up Mount Maxwell on Saltspring Island the other day I was asked by a fellow climber for a story about 'a significant moment' associated with our sailing across the Pacific Ocean. I answered with the tried and true of many sailors; that of the tremendous uplift of dawn arrivals, of sighting the peaks of the Marquesas islands after a month at sea. But then, I was asked, what else?
This time I described our watchkeeping routine, where I woke at dawn and made tea and then relieved my wife Heather from her four hour stint. As we sat in the cockpit we would discuss the wind, the course, the number of squalls during the night and then sit quietly and watch Aurora ( the dawn) spread her grey veils across the sea's face, the mists coalesce into clouds and finally the sun himself bring colour to the masts and sails and paint the grey sea surface a deep mid-ocean blue. We did this every morning at sea and it was a valued moment in our relationship.
“Yes, yes, OK,”said my hiking companion, “but what about those deeply significant ones”?
“I just gave you one”, I replied, and then had to somehow explain that this dawn moment, the shared 'cuppa' and simple talk was the stuff of life and much more meaningful and long lasting than any adventurous 'sailor/ storm' moments could ever be.
“Did you talk about the big stuff? Life! Death! Clinging on by your finger nails in thunderstorms?”, he said, still looking for the blood and guts of the adventure.
“Nope! Just the usual everyday stuff that two long-married folks share while on the adventure of their lives, looking out for each other and their daughter Anne still snoozing down below in her berth, recognizing figures in the clouds, planning the day ahead and discussing the next landfall.”
Our relationship that we were tending every dawn was the basic unit that we then came to recognize in the whole ocean, the planet and the universe. The world did not simply come to us in exciting moments of significance, it was there all the time and was best understood in the form of relationship. If I had anything to pass on to my fellow hiker it was that.