Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DOMANI VADO A MILANO (Tomorrow I go to Milan)

Tomorrow, I get up at 0 dark hundred to catch a 7:00 AM flight to Milan.  I will be alone in Italy for eight weeks where I intend to learn to speak Italian, eat great food and walk enough to keep from gaining weight.  For the first four weeks, I will be staying with a woman named Fiorella inside the Montepulciano city walls, about 5 minutes from my school, Il Sasso.  I know nothing about her except her name, so this will be an adventure.

The sun came out long enough, today, for me to finish pruning the fruit trees.  Now, I have only to pack and try to get some sleep before I go.  I'm excited, but was up until 3:00 AM last night, finishing  paperwork, so I'm tired enough that I should be able to sleep.

My next post will be from Italy.  My cellphone won't work there, but I will have access to email.

Ci vediamo.  (See ya.)


Friday, March 23, 2012


Having your boat sink is very much like the death of a loved one.  You're grieving, but you have to deal with a lot of logistics and legal hassles.  I have been through both in the past eight months.

My beloved Blue Note sank sometime between 7:30 am and 9:30 pm on Thursday, March 8th.  I found out about it Friday morning when I was awakened by a call from the marina.  Stage one of grief: denial.  It couldn't be MY boat.  It must be the abandoned boat right next to it.  I had just been out on my boat the previous weekend and it was fine.  WRONG!  Sure enough, my boat was sitting on the bottom of the marina.

With a human death, one has to make funeral arrangements.  With a sunken boat, one has to arrange for salvage.  Both are expensive and have to be paid for up front.  We stumble through both because these are not situations we encounter often.  Both funeral directors and salvage divers are very helpful and solicitous.

Then you have to deal with the regulatory agencies.  Instead of Social Security, a sunken boat requires dealing with the Fish and Game Department and the Coast Guard.  They arrive in packs, much like hospice employees.

Once the boat is up and floating and the autopsy has been performed (My boat sank due to a combinations of a head valve left open and a failed float switch on the bilge pump.) then there is all the stuff to deal with.  Much like cleaning out the home of a loved one who passed, this is where the second stage of grief appears: anger.  How could anything be so wet, heavy and oily?  How could there be that much stuff in such a small space?  Moving wet boat cushions is like wrestling dead sea lions.  It makes one swear.  The fact that it rained steadily throughout the process was not helpful.

The next stage of grief is bargaining.  If only we had checked the head valve before leaving.  If only we had tested the float switch.  The sinking of a boat also requires more practical bargaining with the insurance company and everyone whose services you require as you slowly (OK, not so slowly) hemorrhage money.

Then comes depression.  Your boat is where you go when you need to get away from the stresses in your life.  Suddenly, you have a whole series of new problems and that escape is denied you.  You start to think of all the places you have been and all the good times you've had.  For me, the depression really set in when Scott had to go up to Seattle and I was alone with the overwhelming task of cleaning all the muddy, oily gear and sails.  Thankfully, my friends pitched in and helped.  Times like these are when you learn who your friends are.  I am, fortunately, blessed with great friends.

For me, acceptance is still to come.  I know this is the catalyst that will eventually spur me to sell my other boat and buy the boat I really want to go cruising in someday, but I'm not there yet.  Grieving takes time.  In a week I'll be heading off to Italy.  A change of scenery will be good for me.  Frankly, I'm ready to leave boats (and death) behind for a time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


When I began learning Spanish, most of my German flew out the window, as most of my French had departed when I took up German.  Having spent a lot of time working on Spanish, I did not want to forget it when I decided to study Italian.  To combat this trend, I decided to join a Spanish conversation group.  We meet on Sunday mornings and talk about everything under the sun.  Time flies.  It is hard to drag myself away from these new found friends.

Why is this?  These people are basically strangers.

I started thinking about other people I have met in various language classes and at the Spanish language school where I studied in Mexico.  Most of them were pretty great, also.  It dawned on me that, in America where foreign languages are not stressed in public schools, it takes a certain kind of person to pursue learning a foreign language.  Or maybe learning a foreign language opens up some other part of your brain.  Whatever the correlation, most of the people I know who love languages are also open minded, curious, outgoing, generous and adventurous.  They love travel, different kinds of music, and literature.  They seek to connect with others and each language learned opens an irresistible  new range of connections and experiences.

Personally, I feel I am a slightly different person when I speak a different language.  It changes my frame of reference.  Our languages grow out of our traditions.  Some are more formal and respectful, others more concerned with beauty.  English, for example, is heavily influenced by England's maritime tradition, which becomes apparent when you try explaining our idioms to English learners.  Spanish takes many words from Arabic, which brings to mind the 700 years when Spain was dominated by the Moors.  It is hard to study language without absorbing history, as well.  One pursuit leads to another and it is an amazing journey promising fascinating companions.

Buon viaggio.