Reader, Writer, Sailor, Friend
I lost a friend last week. It was not a surprise. Rob and his wife Leslie have been fighting a battle against lung cancer with courage and grace since he was diagnosed at stage 4 two years ago. I knew Rob as a sailor, as a writer, and although I've only knew him for a few years, as a friend.
I've generally reserved this blog for lighter fare. Rob was a big part of our many adventures aboard Morpheus that have oft been chronicled in this blog, so it feels right to leave some comments about Rob here.
As they fought this battle, Leslie and Rob kept a private blog for their friends and family. Leslie has now made the blog public. From the blog I learned something new about Rob. I learned that many of us connected to Rob through books we shared or an author we enjoyed in common.
In a recent post, Leslie shared a story and a quote from Rob's favorite book. The author is Edward Abbey, the book is Desert Solitaire and this is the quote Rob wanted to share:
I met Rob through Jim Gregory, who was a friend of Rob's long before I met him. The author that Jim shares with Rob is Joseph Conrad, the story is Youth and this is the quote:
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
The author that Rob and I admired in common was Jim Harrison. I was surprised and delighted when he immediately noticed my Harrison collection on a cluttered bookshelf. During a Morpheus delivery from Mexico we talked about Harrison's focus on Michigan's Upper Peninsula and we discussed our mutual appreciation and occasional frustration with his writing.
"By all that's wonderful, it is the sea, I believe, the sea itself--or is it youth alone? Who can tell? But you here--you all had something out of life: money, love-- whatever one gets on shore--and, tell me, wasn't that the best time, that time when we were young at sea; young and had nothing, on the sea that gives nothing, except hard knocks--and sometimes a chance to feel your strength--that only--what you all regret?"
And we all nodded at him: the man of finance, the man of accounts, the man of law, we all nodded at him over the polished table that like a still sheet of brown water reflected our faces, lined, wrinkled; our faces marked by toil, by deceptions, by success, by love; our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone--has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash--together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions."
Since the diagnosis, while reading his blog, my mind would often turn to the topic of miracles, specifically the big miracle I hoped was in the offing for Rob. I recalled a quote on the topic of miracles from Jim Harrison. The quote is from "Returning to Earth":
"... there are no miracles except that we exist... we ride a big horse to the east and then it`s over."I guess I share that view. If existence and life are the only miracle, then it is certain all of us will come up short on that score, with less "miracle" than we would like. It also follows that how you use your miracle is more important than how much miracle you get. Rob had less miracle than he deserved. But from my perspective, Rob lived life as well or better than anyone I know.
He approached life openly and honestly, with kindness, without guile, writing about what he knew, sailing through oceans and life with enthusiasm and competence, with a heart open to nature and embracing new experience. Along the way he found friends, love, adventure, beauty and he found his soul mate. One cannot do better with this miracle called life.
I'll wrap with another Harrison quote:
I'll probably still die a smartass, but perhaps less of one because I met Rob.“I like grit, I like love and death, I'm tired of irony... Irony is always scratching your tired ass, whichever way you look at it. I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”