Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rivers, Pirates and Quarters: What Else Is There To Think About When Stuck Beneath The Weight Of Imminent Departure?

Happy Kazakhstan's Constitution Day. It's late on the night before I leave on this wild adventure, and I still have lots to do before boarding the plane tomorrow, but I thought I'd share a few last minute pre-departure thoughts as a means of procrastinating what actually needs to get done.

I sure do love this California. I spent last week in Yosemite National Park doing a Wilderness Medical Training, and it was flabbergastingly gorgeous. I was camping on the Merced River, and was reminded how huge a part of my heart rivers have claimed. Not even the ocean can make my heart bang around in my chest looking for a way out so it can stay behind forever like a river can when turned into a golden ribbon by that late evening sun. Don't get me wrong, the ocean receives its own ovation, my heart salutes and bows, but then happily nestles down and is grateful for the chest and its snug warmth, not daring for a moment to brave that moody beast without the protection of a body. I gave myself a twilight baptism each night I was on that river, and enjoyed it immensely, because I get the feeling Malta isn't a very rivery place. California I want to sop you up with a piece of warm bread.

I realized over my morning coffee a few days ago that my life had taken a jump into a higher bracket of interesting when I noticed that my straying thoughts had landed on different methods of thwarting pirates. Every morning I sit out in the sunlight and drink my coffee, and somedays I stare off towards nothing and let my thoughts float lazily out past the breakers, while other days (too many lately) they can't get away from the shore, and my jagged problem of the day is left to be pummelled over and over against the sand until it's worried smooth. This particular day was one of the nice ones where my thoughts were just backstroking along, when suddenly I realized that what I was focusing on was different tactics my crew could emply to sidestep the Somali Pirates that we will be sailing close to. As many of you know we will be sailing through the Gulf of Aden where there is an unprecedented amount of pirate activity as of late. Perhaps if we sailed in a convoy with a cluster of other ships, or maybe we could hire an armed escort, or it's conceivable that we could just hug the coastline through the sketchy waters and keep help close by. Anyway, there I was sipping my coffee in quiet little Lagunitas, California, and I was actually coming up with methods to steer clear of Uzi-toting pirates, and it was then that I had to smile and recognize that my life, for better or worse, is certainly more strange and fascinating than it's ever been before.

I had an amazing experience yesterday when I was cleaning out the glove compartment of my beloved Peugeot (which I sold for $1 yesterday to my great friend Brendan, which is a whole story unto itself). I was pulling out relics and artifacts by the handful from the past ten years that I have driven that car, when at the very back I came across a $10 bankroll of quarters. My first thought was that I could not believe they had been in there all this time, because there have been countless occasions where I have been digging into the seat cushions and looking on the floor for a quarter to feed some greedy meter, and had I known I had $10 worth in the glovebox I certainly would have benefited. My next thought was that I would leave them in there for Brendan to use (I know, he could go out and buy ten more cars...), but first I would open up the roll because I had something very important to check. When I was five or six years old my dad and I began collecting 1976 Bicentennial Quarters with the drummer boy on the back, and for whatever reason a five or six year old has of doing things I started calling them Cowboy Quarters. I still call them Cowboy Quarters to this day, and I still collect them. I opened up the roll of quarters from the back of the Peugeot's glove compartment and the first quarter I saw was in fact a Cowboy Quarter. "Good thing I checked," I proudly thought to myself. I began fingering through the rest of the quarters, and quickly saw that every single one of them were Cowboy Quarters! My mind at first began running through the statistical impossibility of what I was seeing before I realized that at some point my dad had gotten this roll of Cowboy Quarters for me and stuck it in the glove box, and now over six years since he's been gone I stumbled upon the gift. Never in my life have I uncovered such a treasure, and what incredible timing! There I was getting ready to part ways with my car that I love more than anyone should ever be allowed to love an inanimate object, and I am two days away from stepping out onto the grandest adventure of my life, when suddenly from the past, or perhaps from beyond the grave, my dad was able to drop in and give me a little pat on the shoulder to let me know he's right here, still filling my life full of treasure and supporting me on my way. I have hundreds of these Cowboy Quarters, and added forty more to my collection yesterday, and with those forty quarters my heart has been filled to the brim, and all fear or doubt for what I am getting set to do tomorrow has been flushed away (hopefully for good).

I've got to finish packing now. Wish me luck that I don't develop any deep vein thrombosis on my flight to London tomorrow...