I am altering my course to port
For half the year, we give up fresh produce, telephones, dryers, cars, and dishwashers to live in a cabin at a remote fishsite on the west side of Kodiak Island. In May, we pack up the boys and the dog. We buy a season’s worth of groceries. To get supplies here, we fill and label boxes and totes and deliver them to a boat, which carries them around the island to the village of Larsen Bay. We pick them up at the cannery, haul them down the dock, carry them across Uyak Bay, and then heft them one by one over the sides of the skiff, up the slick jumble of beach rock, over the small rise of beach grass and driftwood, and then up the steep hillside. We unpack and settle in for the salmon season.
I am disabled–communicate with me
I remember this overzealous policeman dad who, picking up his son from the school where I taught, tried to lecture the kids on the playground about screaming. “Shouting should be reserved for obtaining help during a dangerous situation,” he scolded. “It shouldn’t be part of recess play.”
“Good luck with that one buddy,” I thought.
But maybe he was right. Every time Peter hollers my name from the beach or his boat, my heart stops and I run for the door. Is he being mauled by a bear, has his skiff flipped, did he lose a crewmen to the waves, did he accidentally cut off a finger, did he lose his lucky hat? No. Today is the first day of salmon season and he’s so excited he’s shouting from the skiff. His voice rides up on the wind. “Sara!” He points and hollers, “Reds in the net!”
_ . .
keep clear of me–I am maneuvering with difficulty
_ . _ _
I am dragging my anchor
. . . .
I have a pilot on board
_ _ .
I require a pilot
_ _ . _
my vessel is healthy and I request free pratique
the smell of beach fires and cottonwood and tomatoes in the greenhouse
whales out the window
such luck, to live on this island
my vessel is stopped and making no way through the water
“They’re out there. They’re not showing, but they’re out there.”
He swigs his coffee as he paces around the living room.
Friends once asked how he does it. How he can stand the fatigue and monotony of all those long days pulling on wet raingear, stinking boots, hauling nets against the waves or wind.
He says, “If you had a tree that grew money in your backyard, wouldn’t you want to keep on picking it? Wouldn’t you go out there until you’d gotten every last dollar?
I think of it like that.”
“And then wouldn’t you plant more trees and hire some immigrants to pick them?” He didn’t really say that.
Out here he is the provider, the captain, the muscle. And he gets all the glory.
My aunt and uncle came to visit a few weeks after our son was born. I cooked and cleaned with the baby in a frontpack. When they boarded the floatplane to leave a week later, my Aunt said, “You married a good man, Sara.” I agree. He’s good-natured even when he’s tired. He’s smart and handy. When he does something for the first time, from building a house to wiring a cabin for solar panels, he reads and teaches himself how to do it. But sometimes, watching him leave from the shadow of the cabin, I think of the upcoming hours of mothering and cleaning and cooking and baking. I am not going anywhere. I feel a little jealous.
_ . . .
I am carrying dangerous goods
From the back porch, I spot some other number two, courtesy of the dog, near my garden bed and try to chopstick it up with two sticks and fling it into the alders. It catches on a branch under the bird feeder. I didn’t think that was possible with dog turds, but Schooner eats a lot of grass out here. Poop is something I didn’t plan to spend so much of my thirties talking about or praising or examining or cleaning up.
“Did you go poop?”
“Yep. I did.”
“What are you eating?”
“Dog food. Dog food is my favorite. ”
. . _
you are running into danger
. _ . .
you should stop your vessel instantly
_ _ _
_ . . _
stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals
_ . _ .
16 replies on “Woman Overboard”
This writing is so delightful! I love your nautical-related subtitles and how each section blends with another to create the whole picture.
Every writer mom can relate to your triumphs and trials but the unique setting give all of that a fresh perspective.
So refreshing to read! I can almost taste the salt air. Thank you, Sara.
This is so terrific! I love, love Kodiak island and your depiction of it and your life there fills me with longing. I stayed for a month there and every time I spoke to the man who is now my husband on the phone — scratchy line to the contigees — I described eagles and otters and whales and the smell of the sea and he said, “but you are coming back, right?” Thanks so much for sharing your life!
This is wonderful. I especially enjoy the poem phrases in the middle, featuring whales out the window and orange poppies. What could be better and what a vivid image!
You are so talented…. There are tears on my cheeks. What beautiful thoughts about Peter. And the section written as your conversation with Liam is like an echo a million times over. I appreciate your candid way of making the ordinary into the extrordinary. Wow.
I agree with Kim – You make the ordinary into extraordinary!!
All your writing is wonderful, but today I think this one is my favorite. I appreciate your honesty and your sense of humor had me laughing!! A total delight to read!
This makes me laugh and cry!
Sweet Sara. Love.this.tons! I smiled the whole way through and shot a few high-fives in your direction. I guess, if someone asked me how I spent my thirties (as they slowly turn into 40s), I, too, would have to say tired. Loved. Tired. Happy. Really tired. Grumpy ’cause I’m tired. Life is so sweet, but being so tired was something I neverever reckoned with.
This is lovely–I especially appreciate the form to the story. Thank you for adding something new to my day and perceptions.
You are incredible! This is so beautiful – and so funny and honest and precious. I love how the vignettes add up to such a great picture as a whole and yet are so perfect in themselves. You have a gift. Thank you for sharing.
Clear, crisp writing. I drank it up like sparkly, fresh breeze days on the water. International Code of Signals punctuation … brilliant! The whole piece is beautifully crafted. Bravo, Sara!!
Sara-Love this piece!! You make everyday life come to life!
i love these window-pane glimpses into your life. mothering, i think, has universality whether you are doing it in Alaska or Wisconsin. beautifully written.