What matters most are the little things

There are men who somehow just grip your eyes and hold them hard like a spell and such was he, as he pointed the flashlight in my direction and with inflection, all bundled in woollies and lumberjack red, his face unshaven, said—as I turned my head—“The lady that’s known as Lou.”
It made everyone laugh as he carried on his narration, drawing us into the story.
The husky rendition of “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” echoed across the little bay in the south arm of Rainy Lake as six hardy sailors sat around a mighty campfire taking turns reciting the poetry of Robert Service.
I sat there listening to the banter and the tales of the night, clad in my own version of woollies and a toque, and I was so very thankful I didn’t pull out of the weekend adventure like I had considered doing—and all because the weather was nasty.
Mother Nature, who would not be moved, threw a cold, windy party for the Rendezvous Yacht Club’s annual fall cruise. But as I am learning, sailors are seldom moved from the love of the sail. And while they sail with safety paramount, they are a determined lot of jolly, brave, and roving tars.
Admittedly, I had a big whimpering lip in the days, hours, and—yes—minutes leading up to the fall cruise as I watched the weather forecast marry Murphy’s Law and slide into the belly of winter.
Despite my misgivings, I channelled Stan Rogers and his song “Northwest Passage,” and forged on with my own brave counsel. I was determined to crack the ramparts of my hesitation and take passage over to the adventure.
I quit shaving my legs to gain an extra layer of warmth, and packed enough long johns and wool socks to outfit a small team of lumberjacks. I would wear three layers of clothing at all times, lip chap, and no make-up (thankfully my captain is far-sighted).
As I dragged my rock-weight baggage to the trunk of my car, it was all I could do not to run screaming into the house, duct tape myself into my housecoat, and hide under the bed until I missed the boat. I felt like the “little engine that could” battling one or two wheels stuck in a vat of molasses.
So I belted out, “Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage . . .” and the northerner in me rallied!
Late Friday afternoon, I drove across the Noden Causeway to meet up with my captain and his sailboat, and I looked out over the lake at the seething, boiling cauldron as ice-cold rain pelted my windshield.
I was sure I’d lost my mind.
I stood in the rain on the dock and watched the “Morning Dove” dip and swing it’s way to me across the channel. My teeth chattered up a dentist’s bill and my frozen carcass—clad in the pathetic little raincoat I’d found hanging in the barn, where it had been collecting pigeon feathers since 2006—was numb and shivering from top to bottom.
I was sure I was off my rocker.
But it was too late for the quitter in me to win. I had one last tantrum, the likes of which looked like “Yosemite Sam” having a fit over an undone plan, and then I stepped onto the boat and sailed from land and the world dropped away.
That night, while we were tucked in a bay on the lake and well-anchored, the gales of November came two months early and blew the pants off September. Yet I was safe and sound and warm and happy in a v-berth with the sounds of such a monster raging outside.
And the following night, after a day’s chilly sail to the next anchorage and before the mighty campfire drew us in at night, I kicked Mother Nature’s booty and jumped in the cold lake.
Emphasis on cold and on screaming how cold it was. Extra emphasis on fun.
Robert Service wrote a poem about finding the joy in little things and I concur.
When I ponder, amid this tangled web of fate, about what a fantastic summer I have had, it is the seemingly little things that have brought me the most joy. Among them, holding my captain’s hand, a little boat that dips and swings, a sail that fills with wind, the stunning fall colours along the lakeshore, and being in jolly roving company around a warm fire while the words of Robert Service and the songs of Stan Rogers flowed freely through us.
It’s the little things that matter most. Thank you.
(Now hurry up Spring, 2013 so we can go sailing again!)

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