by Ray Jason
It was the silhouette hour. A cayuco came paddling towards me in the deep dusk as I sat with my back against AVENTURA’s mast. The oarsman’s stroke was smooth and strong. There was a child in the back tending the fishing line as her dad rowed.
When they were 20 yards away I realized that it was not a father – it was a grandmother. Even though she was as ancient and weathered as her hand-carved cayuco, she propelled it like a man in the prime of his life. It was a joy to behold.
I motioned them over towards my boat and hustled below for a packet of cookies to give to them. As they nudged up beside my hull, I was amazed by the peaceful dignity of the old woman. Her face was dark and deeply lined, but her eyes flashed like moonlight on the sea. At this close range I could now see the amazing resemblance between her and her grand-daughter.
As they rowed away I noticed the grandmother turn her head to make sure that the young girl was okay. I suspect that as she did so her mind flashed back to when she was that same age - sitting in the stern of a little cayuco admiring the power and grace of HER grandmother as she paddled them across a twilight lagoon.
I turned back to my clipboard and spent a half an hour working up a haiku to celebrate the encounter.
Ancient grandmother –
you still row your cayuco
like the girl within.
This was another sublime episode for me as I drift through my middle years here in the Archipelago of Bliss. These little vignettes feel like such blessings, that I always search for some meaning in them to share with my readers.
Just as I was pondering what message lay hidden in that sweet encounter, a light went on. It was my anchor light that comes on automatically as the sky darkens. I laughed at the overused cliché of a light bulb going on when someone gets a clever idea in a comic strip. And in this case it was doubly humorous – because what it sparked was a meditation on “electricity.”
Some of the over-arching themes that I write about in my essays and that I also get to savor and test in my sea gypsy life are simplicity, freedom, self-reliance, an easy pace of living and pleasures that are elemental rather than ephemeral.
The impact of that old woman’s noble face and dignified bearing will remain with me for the rest of my life. But how many of the Facebook photos that you find captivating today will you remember next week? The difference is that my experience was direct and immediate whereas the photographic one was indirect and mediated. You did not actually see a goofy cat – you saw a picture of a goofy cat.
Silly Facebook cats are only one strand of a gargantuan electrical web that has ensnared much of humanity. Here is a brief bullet point list of some of the features of modern life which will not function without electricity:
· Air conditioners
· Smart phones
· Check-out line cash registers
· Air traffic control towers
These are all tied into “The Grid.” And the centralized electrical system is not controlled by everyday people, it is ruled by the wealthy and the powerful – who I gleefully refer to as The Malignant Overlords. And these folks worship the god of profit and ignore the pleas of the people. If you doubt me, just google up what Enron did to their customers in California.
The more you are tied into this electrical matrix, the less likely you are to experience a life that is simple, free, self-reliant, easy-going and elemental. The old woman paddling the cayuco has never been on The Grid and flourishes just fine without it. Likewise, the sea gypsy community is not chained to a centralized power prison. But because we have our own independent solar and wind power on-board, we can also enjoy pleasant creature comforts.
As I sat on the deck in the darkness with my clipboard and its little light, I tried to fathom the message that was woven into the little visit with the grandmother and child. And I believe that it is this.
A person can live a very rich life by savoring the slow and simple pleasures. But the bright, electrical, frenzied spectacles of the real world are often just illusions and phantoms. They seldom offer true joy - and often lead to despair and tragedy – for both individuals and the society.
The secret might be to disconnect as much as possible from almost everything that your culture is telling you to do. If it tells you to watch TV, go to the park and feed the ducks. If it tells you to buy, Buy, BUY, sell some things and give some stuff away. If it tells you the government cares about you, make them prove it.
And then, one fine day, some kind, attentive stranger might recognize that you lead a simple, authentic life and offer YOU some cookies. But even more importantly - what they are really offering is their respect and their admiration.