There’s something about a new boat that chemically changes the way my brain works. Since I’ve never had anything close to an actual ‘new’ boat, I’m forced to immediately assess repairs, and fumble my way through most of them since a new boat represents new problems…..new challenges….new additions to the scrap metal pile. I rush through basic repairs. It needs to float. It needs to run. It needs to get there. NOW. There’s no real long view or manifest destiny at this point. It’s all necessity. It’s all primal. I work fast. I neglect responsibilities. I neglect sleep. I neglect food. I neglect my wife and child. All I can do is fix. Chain smoking. Beer guzzling. Midnight. 2 AM. Fall into bed. 7 AM. Fix…..fix, fix, fix.
After a few days or weeks, I emerge into the spring/winter/fall/summer midday sunlight and yawn, stretch, and change my underpants. I can breathe for a few minutes. Time to re-group. Time to patch things up with my wife and son, and reflect on why the hell I was such a crazed lunatic the last little bit. It’s a short break, inevitably, and the lunatic returns promptly. He shows up after the family has gone to bed. He gives me refuge during work, dinner, and bath times. He is exhausted, but rests only a short while before regaining his strength. He begins his paced return in the form of Google. There’s a funny thing about having access to millions, or billions, or trillions of images via the internet……you can have the damndest time finding a single one that represents what you’re actually looking for. I know for a fact that I am not that original of a human being. Everything I’ve ever thought or manifested from thought has likely been thought and/or manifested hundreds, no thousands, no millions, billions of times before. It all comes down to knowing what to look for, and allowing yourself to see what is right in front of your face. Out comes the designer lunatic. He’s silent. Can’t afford to waste energy on moving his mouth to make sounds. He can’t afford to waste the energy to get off the couch to go to bed. So there he sits….still….silent….and absolutely mad. If I were to apply the same focus and dedication to any other part of my life that I do to fixing up a 400 dollar jon boat…..well, things would be pretty different.
Before I’ve even procured this particular boat I’ve been furiously formulating its existence in daydreams full of clear summer day secret flats pulsing with bait, waterfowl, and giant goldfish. The boat races smoothly through the upper reaches of some river chain lake, far from the ski boat wake and the bass fisherman’s trespasses(they’re always up earlier than me). I and it are free to zip around blind curves as the lake narrows and begins to appear as it once did…as it always did. Herons grawk and lumber into disgruntled flight as we temporarily break the silence and solitude of the ever-narrowing river inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile, entering deeper and deeper into wilderness, deeper and deeper into solitude. Standing on the bank listening to a 30-year-old outboard humming, then roaring, then screaming past in the wilderness is an awful experience. It’s trespassing at its core. It robs all other sounds and sensory awareness for the few seconds or minutes that it’s present. It leaves a wake behind that feels imminently destructive, as though it will forever alter the untouched banks of the wild river, and send all aquatic life fleeing in despair. Being in the boat has an unequivocally opposite sense of that same experience. That humming, now roaring, now screaming 30-year-old outboard is all OHhhhhooooooooMmmmmmm……… It wipes out all possibility of thought. You’re left with visual and tactile knowledge only. The brain’s only function is to admire and react. There is no thought about steering or navigation as your arm, the tiller, the boat, and the river feel as one, guiding the vessel upstream as effortlessly as a leaf glides down. There is no reading the river. The river is reading you.
That is why the furious, feverish, nuthouse of a mechanic and designer exist. They will work tirelessly to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion, push wives and clients and bosses and friends and children to the brink of total frustration, loneliness, desperation, anger. They will leave everything else in life behind for the possibility of startling a heron and a nice breeze on their face.