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Date Published: April 23, 2012

Plans are just ideas created in our heads of how things should play out. Rarely do they match the reality of our lives. They help us move forward with certain direction and yet, what would happen if we let the winds of change guide us with their inspiration?

I was sitting outside at my local Starbucks minding my own business and trying to immerse myself in a divine book. Chip wanted to have another profound conversation about life at our favorite hang out (slash office space). What was really behind his mind was taking me out on his boat for a raw encounter with nature.

Our paths had crossed by chance under the stars late one night… I was teary-eyed from having hugged and connected to a sturdy tree and yet ready to defend myself from the shadow approaching me. Until then, we had only seen each other at the coffee shop. He was surprised that ‘a city girl’, as he defined me, had that energetic exchange with the Universe. Since then he entertained the idea of luring me into nature because he believes it’s calling me. “Ok. Let’s do it. When and where?”, I stunned Chip with my determination and closed my book. “What’s the plan?”, I asked. We agreed to rendezvous at 11am on Friday to set sail on his Trimaran. The satellite image of Google maps assisted in showing me the canals through which we would navigate due South, passing by Stiltsville, with Elliot Key as our destination.

Did I mention that life gets in the way of plans? My boy woke up at 3am on Friday with a high fever. Following a pediatrician visit, a swine Flu diagnosis and a pharmacy stop telling him twenty three times NOT to touch anything, I kept my mind open to the possibility of setting sail. His dad was about to pick him up for the weekend and pleased that I had done everything I could to make him comfortable, I was soon ready to go on my way. Bikini, summer dress, sunscreen, large hat, crocs, and sunglasses. “You’re going out like that!?”, my four-year-old son asked wisely. I smiled warmly knowing that meant he liked it but didn’t quite approve.

Two hours past our meeting time and after a quick stop at the supermarket for a bag of ice, we parked my car at the Church grounds. We agreed to cut our trip short and stay in the area. Chip grew up on Key Biscayne so he knows a lot of it’s history and people. More sensitive and communicate than most men, he’s always inclined to share information. He explained that this land used to be a sewer plant for the mainland and with that, we headed towards the bushes where his canoe was hidden. He offered to pick me up on the small beach 30 feet away or join him to tread through the stench and mosquitos. I didn’t hesitate for a second and ducking below the branches I stoically followed behind him. The mud was thick and slimy, dead vegetation hung around us and the water started to creep up to our ankles. Then the putrid smell hit my nostrils and I remained unnaturally neutral to it. I knew the mosquitos would charge at any moment and I challenged them to attack with all their might. I didn’t care. While Chip rowed us out of the mangroves, I sat inside the green canoe looking like Tiger Lily, the kidnapped Indian princess from Peter Pan.

We pulled up to the Mantis, the trimaran he spent two years building by himself in a shipyard in Bayou, Alabama. I counted four mosquitos on his face and a swarm of them around his body. Not a single bug stung or came close to me. All my life I’ve been attacked mercilessly by them. Wow! I wondered if they would always leave me alone now. Was I free from the mosquito consciousness? My attention went back to the boat… Not only had he built it, he has been living on it for the past year. The curvature of the wood was even and gentle beneath the white paint. I imagined him working on it arduously and patiently under rain or shine. Netting on the sides and in the front invited relaxation: come enjoy the splash of the ocean! The main sail was tucked away under a blue cover. A small motor boat hung overboard for windless days. Everything was neat and simple; even the second anchor, with it’s rope coiled up like a sleeping snake. Then he pulled out from the hatchet a few miniature yellow flowers and a toy trimaran he built out of the bark of trees, supermarket chop sticks and palm tree leaves. He was thankful to have been entertained making that for me.

Southeast winds were blowing so we pulled anchor and were limited to crank up the motor. The journey began. He explained that first you have to have control over the boat by having power. We just did it the other way around. It reminded me of when I monkey around at the playground and tell my kids not to follow my example. We flowed past the Yacht Club and it’s $50k membership fee; the Trimaran wouldn’t fit there anyway, I learned. Soon the water got choppy and the wind blew head on encouraging us to turn back. Now we aborted the mission to Stilstville, the eerily enchanting group of abandoned wooden houses built on stilts on the sand banks.

He grew up on one of the large houses right on the water and we drew in closer to get a better view of it. I loved his story about the secret service chasing him on his rebellious sailboat when he was just a kid because their new neighbor Nixon had restricted that area of the ocean for security reasons. We anchored on the sand banks, which are usually jammed with party boats blasting music on weekends, to enjoy the adolescent breeze and the shameless sun. Chip sat his muscular tan body under the shade and I exposed my UV protected skin to the warm rays. Laughing slyly, he confessed that he had been hoping the mosquitos attacked me and pained me back to basics. Now he understood that I am simple. Little strong bird.

A few hours went by digging up our past and putting it out there. Death and our views on marriage were center-stage. He told me about his teaching jobs, his work as a psychologist, books he’s published and those he’s working on right now. We had a conversation about inspiration that keeps running in the back of my mind. I’ve learned that different people inspire us in our lives; their divine qualities open up something in our hearts. Many times we close off to protect ourselves, thinking that if that person isn’t close to us, then we will be robbed of that feeling. Actually, whatever someone awakens in us is there to stay, so the heart can remain open and fearless even with the threat of that source of inspiration disappearing. I’ve also found that the opposite is true. If someone is inspired by us, then it’s generous to let them surge on that energy which is actually God flowing through us. Each of us is accountable for our own truth. So when you only want friendship, you can be at ease offering just that and not shutting your heart down to them. Chip understood.

The next time I gazed up, I saw a battlefield: a beautiful crisp blue sky confronting a grey mass of condensation, with the sun acting as the mediator. We were ready to head back. Before calling it a day, Chip showed me where he anchors at night: a buoy he put together located out by the sand banks, just North of the marina. With childlike enthusiasm, he told me about the dock he built in the mangroves at the request of a kid who heard he used to build them when he was young. As we came up to the spot, a speed boat was already docked there. A group of gals was sitting in a circle of beach chairs, cooling off in shallow water, while the boys were hanging out on the wooden structure by the old barbecue grill.

While he prepared to close down his floating home, he kept talking and told me that initially, he had planned to be here for a week. He couldn’t believe it had turned into a year. The simple life of living on a boat, at times just spending $50 a week, getting fresh water from the church and using Starbucks as his office, grew on him. He acknowledged that maybe it’s time for change now.

Off the boat, into the canoe, through the mangroves, onto slimy mud (still sparred by the mosquitos) and finally on firm asphalt in the parking lot. This sequence was his daily routine! I dropped my friend back at the coffee shop and thanked him for the wonderful afternoon. It didn’t turn out as we originally planned and yet it was absolutely perfect because there were no expectations. With squishy feet and a hot chocolate in my hand, I headed back to my rooted home having grasped another lesson. Transcendental experiences occur when we let things flow like a sailboat finding it’s way in the wind.

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