The Thought becomes an idea. The Idea can't be ignored. It's a force to be reckoned with, pushing aside meetings, appointments, to-do lists, and schedules. You begin to hear musings like, “What if?” and “Maybe we could...” and “I'll look on yachtworld.com, you know, just to see what's out there...”
The Idea becomes a dream. The Dream is all-encompassing. It involves your desire to live with less: less of a carbon footprint, less money, less “stuff” as an encumbrance, less stress. It might involve looking to travel. It might involve looking to escape. It might mean looking for a place to live with a view. You look at big boats you can't possibly ever hope to afford. You look at boats with all the comforts of home. You look at staunch blue water sailboats because you aspire to be Joshua Slocum. You pour over maps and glossy magazines with pictures of white, sandy beaches and aquamarine waters. Your umbrella drink is already in your hand as you swing in the hammock in the shade of a coconut palm.
The Dream becomes a plan. The Plan is usually the oft-intoned 5-year plan. Five years to look for and buy a boat, to take sailing classes, to purge yourselves of “stuff”, finish out your employment, move aboard, and cast off the dock lines. Ambitious? Yes. Doable? Yes.
In the same way as the seedling, this process is fragile and fraught with opportunities to fail. The process requires a mind open to new possibilities, to adventure, to change. It requires constant care. It requires thoughtful and careful choices, and it requires a tremendous amount of luck. Remove any of these and the beauty of a dream can fall by the wayside like so much refuse.
Our kids came dangerously close to this cliff yesterday. We hauled The Floating Bear out at a local marina in Ft. Lauderdale where they had made arrangements with a local mechanic to fix some of the more pressing issues so they could get on their way to their lives in Coconut Grove. The news was bad. In fact, the news was about as bad as it gets. The boat needs much more work than they anticipated, much more work than they have the financial resources to pay for, and even the mechanic who would be the beneficiary of the large check advised that our money would be better spent on another boat rather than the current money pit that is The Floating Bear. The Dream spiraled downward ever faster as the afternoon turned into evening and conversations became less hopeful.
Right around this time, as Tim and I walked back from the marina lounge, we happened to stop to chat with our friend Gillis, a full-time resident at the marina. Not being financially or emotionally involved in the drama of the Bear, he was able to offer some rather sage advice. He asked what their goal was.
Epiphany. We had lost site of the goal. The kids' goal was to find a sustainable, affordable way of living that would allow them to pursue their dream of writing and painting. While they love the idea of a sailboat and its way of fitting into nature in such a way as to compliment it rather than destroy it, they don't need a sailboat right now. They need a place to live. The Floating Bear didn't need to be The Sailing Bear.Very nearly all of the major repairs were related to The Bear's ability to ply the waters elegantly with canvas. Desirable? Yes. Necessary to reach the goal? No.
Discussions picked up this morning. Ideas were flung around, modified, tested, held up to the light, and some discarded. A hint of hope sifted through the conversation. The Dream began to be restored and a new Plan evolved. Tomorrow the Bear will begin the transformation from sailing boat to floating home and, as it is the home of an artist, a writer, and two small Pooh fans, it will undoubtedly be as creative as the original Floating Bear. The Bear's days of sailing are over, but like its namesake, I think The Bear will carry her family safely through the floods that have been threatening, and when passersby exclaim that something (the mast) is missing from The Bear, they will have Pooh's words handy for retort: "I ought to say," explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, "that it isn't just an ordinary sort of boat."