Sailing Season

Out my window, a golden gibbous moon glides above the birch as the last of the light evaporates from the sky. Darkness gathers in the woods, though the treetops above the field glow with a gentle afterlight. Decidedly cool air settles in with the darkness, muffling the crickets except for the steady buzzing hiss coming from the woods beyond the shed. A few others chime in but not with the gusto as on warmer nights. The coolness and striking luminous light of this time of the year are coupled with leavings: bird migrations, diminishing insect song, foliage change, so that the beauty carries a tang of wistfulness. I’m entranced by this duality. Isn’t wistfulness and a touch of melancholy always a part of something truly beautiful?

Our sailing season winds down, and now I can think of little else: When can we get back down to check the boat, let alone have time to sail? Will we have to contend with a hurricane in the weeks to come? How many more days do we have before the northerlies make sailing more of an endurance test than a delight? On the day we decide to haul the boat out for the season, will the wind roar, spin out windrows on the water, kick up a frenzy of whitecaps as it has in years past?

Already I think ahead to the long winter without Finn. Inside me swells that pang I feel for her cedar deck beneath my feet, the tiller alive in my grip, the hull surging forward, the sail belling and snapping. Already I crave our boat, and we haven’t even put her away. So in a sense, I suppose, sailing season never ends. Even when she’s zipped up tight and stowed away and I’m reveling in the richness of the dark days of winter, I’ll be aboard her, on a course for Cleveland Ledge light.

“I cannot not sail,” wrote E.B. White in an essay called “The Sea and the Wind that Blows,” by which I’m sure he also meant that he could not not sail even in his dreams.

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