The Panorama Room was where we gathered each evening for an informational lecture about the next day’s schedule of activities. This was an Expedition Cruise, and came with expectations to go ashore to hike the islands several times/day with our naturalist. There were seven — each of them responsible for a group of 16 people. Each group was given a name. Marty and I were in the Dolphins.
One night, as we sat at a table with three women we’d met from Rio de Janeiro, one of them smiled widely and exclaimed, “I didn’t know we would be so scheduled!”
Me too, sister.
That morning we had had our Wake Up call at 7 AM. (They make announcements via a public speaker system in Spanish, then in English, then German.) Marty was already awake and bouncing around. He opened the shades and sunshine streamed into the room. I had slept well.
After breakfast, we packed our snorkeling equipment, put on bathing suits underneath our hiking gear, got our life jackets, then onto the boats. That morning the Dolphins loaded first.
The waters were incredibly still; a first since the cruise began. The boat took us to a “red sand” beach — iron-rich lava sand from millennia of volcanic eruptions.
We took off our life jackets and put them into bags. I changed out of my river shoes (wet landing) and into my hiking shoes. I was already beginning to sweat. The temperatures were in the upper 90s. Mosquitoes were everywhere. Fortunately, someone brought repellent (we had forgotten ours in our room.) We doused ourselves, but it didn’t do any good. Everyone swatted away bugs and sweated profusely. We had not even begun the hike.
Within 15 minutes I was Over It.
For three days, every minute had been filled with activities on islands, on the water, on the ship. I had had little time to read and no time to write at all. I’d begun to feel like I was leaking out, as if my fuel had gotten low and my engine was choking its way through the last dark dregs of my tank.
The Old Lady From Long Island (the Dolphins’ Resident Kvetcher) told the guide: “I must be taken back to the ship immediately after the hike.” She didn’t want to remain for the swimming and snorkeling that was planned.
By the time the hike ended, I told Marty I was going back with the Old Lady. Another woman, coincidentally from Long Island, also wanted to go back. So when the panga arrived, I joined them. I’m sure we looked like Three Old Ladies being ferried back to the ship.
I watched the receding Red Sand Beach — it practically shimmered in the oppressive heat — and the other travelers peeling away their sweat-soaked clothing to get to damp stuck-in-their-cracks swimming suits…
I looked up to the skies and thanked Sweet God Almighty I was going back. I trailed my fingers in the 80 degree water. There would be no relief from the heat in that salty bathwater.
After I made it to the room, I shucked out of my clothes and took the World’s Longest Shower. Then I gathered up my wet things and put them in the dryer (there wasn’t a washer on board.)
I lowered the shade completely to block out sunlight because the rays were reflecting off of my laptop screen. Then I flopped down on the bed and started writing.
Who We Are seems beyond our conscious control. I didn’t choose to be a bookworm. It simply was. Why did I begin writing when I was a child? I have no idea. I wrote my first poem when I was nine years old; the earliest entries I can find — in my many boxes of journals — are dated 1973, when I was 12 years old.
When my friend Gary moved from Los Angeles to Sonoma County in the late 1990s, he knew he wanted to make changes to his life. I love his story: he told me that he thought back to earlier pleasures… what had he been doing? His happiest moments were hiking with his dog and camping in nature… but he had let those things go from his life.
He started getting up at 4 AM — rain or shine — to go hiking with his dog Sadie. Though Sadie has been gone for a good many years, he hikes now with his dog Berta and his partner Jim. They bought a new-to-them camper and have spent many weeks in the Sierras, in Utah, Oregon, the deserts of Southern California… They’re creating lives that bring them joy and honor their Essential Natures.
What you’re reading here has been edited, of course. The original draft was more than 2,000 words. It is now a trim 850 words. It takes me roughly six hours to write and edit a post. And I love every second of it.
What refuels you? What do you need to do so that when evening comes and you’ve crawled into bed, you can look back and think: Today was a good day?