Comfort and Joy

Lately I remember the playgrounds of my growing up. Every playground back ‘in the day’ had a teeter totter; one of those long boards with a seat on either end, sitting on a fulcrum. It was a lesson in the laws of physics to play on that thing. Heavier kids moved forward on the fulcrum to keep the fun going with smaller kids on the other end. Or they would lean way out, leaving their tiny counterparts suspended in mid-air until they decided to let them down. Slighter children would team up, seeing if they could cooperate in holding their larger, usually older, playmates up in the air. Occasionally a mean kid would jump off the bottom and the smaller kid would come crashing down. Oh, the tears. Oh, what fun.teeter-totter

The solitary game to play was to stand in the center with one foot on either side of the fulcrum and see if you could get the balance just right so the plank stayed straight across. The goal was to make it look effortless. If one side started to go and it happened fast, you’d get this out of control situation where all you could really do was to keep pumping legs up and down, using brute leg muscle force until you could manage to get the thing in balance again.

That’s a little what it’s feeling like lately around the Little Cunning Plan household. We have one foot planted tenuously in the ‘comfort’ of our long-time family home with all of the physical manifestations of the weavings of our history right here at our fingertips. The bay laurel by the kitchen window that I bought as a tiny sprig when Andrew was just a baby. It brings rich flavor to soups and stews. The fig tree I bought for my father when he was ill and moved twice until it got planted in its current spot. It sprawls there, unloading fragrant figs by the bushel in early summer. The sofa we bought when Claire was a baby; still the most comfortable seat in the house, our first lesson in buying something of quality. My mother’s French Provincial, solid maple buffet that I don’t ever want to give up. Our dog, Skippy, who can live the rest of his days in his own place here with Andrew.   And even the new cat, Boots, who has decided to sit on my lap as I write. There is so much ‘belonging’ here. So much of how I know how to be.

Boots. She likes to bite.

Boots. She likes to bite.

Comfort, used here,  is a word of stillness; a word of warmth and security and sameness. It’s a word that implies a lack of stress, a calm certainty of how to negotiate the chosen way of life. It’s comfortable to feel a connection to the past and to believe that this will also inform the future. Unfortunately, it can also feel a bit, well, boring. I suppose on some level there is nothing more ‘comforting’ than doing the same thing every day for the rest of your life until you get the comfort of a nice, deep grave. Um…no.  That thought certainly brings me right down to earth fast. No thanks. Maybe that mean kid who always jumps off the teeter totter has a purpose. If you play with him, you’ll be living on the edge.

Having never had a permanent home as a child, I have cherished my home as an adult and have put down deep roots in this house, if not this town. Frankly, I don’t really know how to leave a place and know that I will return some day, even if it’s to visit. In my experience, when you leave, that’s it. All leaving is completely permanent.  You never see the place or those people who lived there again. They cease to exist. One day you leave, the world shifts and now you live in a new one. The only thing that is permanent is your immediate family, and some of your belongings.

It’s unsettling to face this as a well-matured adult and know that I have absolutely no idea at all how to negotiate this new emotional terrain. It leaves me more than a little breathless and takes all my will to move this forward. A transition that feels like just another step on the plan to most people feels in some moments like stepping off into the cold void to me; like I’m waiting for the mean kid to leap off the teeter totter leaving me hanging momentarily in space before I come crashing down. Not always, but there are moments. To be honest, I can’t wait until this part is over. Enough already. I want to be in the new world we’re creating for ourselves so I can learn a different way and stop being afraid.  The patterns of childhood are a bitch, I tell you. You can argue with them all day long, but until you deliberately face the experience and record over it, they’re going to get you.

One foot tenuously planted in ‘comfort’, the other foot is planted in the ‘joy’ of moving forward with our plans to cruise, with the excitement of the unknown and the spirit of adventure. The freedom of living on a boat that can go anywhere brings with it a certain feeling of joy even though we are still here in Tacoma, at the dock, even though I get afraid of the void. Joy is a word of movement, of exploration and discovery and sheer happiness. Joy is a word of living out loud and with purpose; of creating new and different things that we cannot yet foresee. I feel excited to be moving forward even as I look with occasional longing at Fred, the huge philodendron I’ve had for decades. If I let it, there’s a certain tenor of excitement that thrums just under my skin, waiting to be let loose. I think that is Joy. It just might be.



Today is the longest night of the year. We’ve deliberately chosen this date to move aboard because today the sun is returning. It is the ‘birth of the sun’ we celebrate. With that there is new life percolating invisibly under the surface of the soil, just as the joy thrums just under my skin. The roots of plants are preparing for their burst of energy come spring. They will thrust even more deeply into their patch of earth and find their purpose therein.

The solstice represents spiritual re-birth, the rekindling of the divine fire within. It’s a hopeful time of new beginnings as the sun begins its ascent back into the nascent year. So we move aboard with hope and with purpose, feeling the joy that is present, letting go of the fear that holds us in the past, and knowing there is comfort to come. We will not come crashing to the ground, but land softly and deeply on the fertile soil of our stout S/V Galapagos, our new home. I think it will be like flying.

Merry Christmas to all of you, dear readers who have seen us on this journey so far. And a very rich and lustrous solstice to you. May your creative fires burn brightly.

9 thoughts on “Comfort and Joy

  1. I should probably know this already, but why did you not have a permanent home growing up. Were you a military brat?

    I love the symbolism of moving aboard on the solstice. Change isn’t always easy, but new adventures await on the other side. Happy holidays to you and yours 🙂

    • Yes, military brat. We moved pretty much every year from the time I was 4 through the 10th grade. We did spend three years in Germany, but we moved houses and neighborhoods during that time. You’d think that I would have become a wanderer by nature, but I only have felt comfortable wandering when I had a home to go back to. Onward, however! Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice!

  2. What a beautifully written post, Melissa. I particularly like how you describe the winter solstice. It’s my favourite day of the year for exactly the reasons you listed. And like Ellen, the symbolism of moving aboard on the solstice resonates with me.

    Merry Christmas to you and Mike!

  3. All the best to you both and congrats on taking the big step. Though I’m sure not to you, it seems like just the other day that you started talking about it. Looking forward to hearing about your new adventure.

    • Sue! How nice to hear from you! You know, it seems like yesterday, and then it doesn’t. How can time move so slowly and so quickly at the same time? It’s hard to believe there is so little time left before we are away from the dock. Just strange and surreal.

  4. I had worried about you when you were originally moving aboard on the first day of December, and now such relief that you were warm and cozy during the deep freeze. I am sure you could still find refuge back home on such cold nights.
    You are now living the dream of so many people, and I know you and Mike will do this in the best possible way. Want some book recommendations?

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