Many of you who know me have been asking me: “When are you going to write a book?” You have been asking me this for over a decade. Some of you for more. My own mother was my biggest inquisitor (and supporter). Unfortunately I have waited too long for her; she can no longer read and it is doubtful she understands what I read to her. Though that question is up for debate since there is no mere physical way, sans a PET scan, that anyone could proves she has an understanding of language any more. Her dementia is so advanced.
So here’s my response to your question. I have been writing a book, or books, since I was ten; or so I thought. But it turns out that all of those notebooks and scraps of paper which I have saved up that I now refer to as “the archives” are just that. Saved recordings of ontological growth. Some of them, the ones I was proactive enough to type into my word processor, have made their way through the craft of revisions into the book I have recently drafted. I wrote nearly 90 pages then froze. Then I went to sea for 53 days and met another writer (Rosemary McGuire has published two books). I started to revise my rough draft. I grew determined to get out a manuscript and publish a book. I made myself stop over analyzing the perfect genre, audience, and voice; I began focusing instead on completing something people could read. Then the ship came into port in Punta Arenas and I flew home to my beloved husband an emerging spring in Welcome Valley, Washington. What book!
Slowly, between the mountain bike rides and the hikes in the wilderness and the swims in lakes and salt water, I began to question my future. I have landed one of the best jobs on the earth working as a marine Technician for the Untied Sates Antarctic Program on one of their two research vessels. But a dilemma began to arise. I thrive on personal enrichment and professional growth. I had it set in my mind that I was going to continue developing my professional career as a merchant mariner. This means studying and gaining the appropriate sea time in order to test for my unlimited third mates license. The only problem with this is that I do not work in the capacity of an Able Seafarer. Marine Technicians only handle the science cargo and scientific gear. We do work on the deck but we do not stand as lookouts on the bridge. We do not moor the ship. So it can be very difficult for me to gain the appropriate sea time. By appropriate, I mean the kind that the USCG will accept to raise my grade. Also, I have had a change of heart. After only one cruise on the Laurence M Gould, I have fallen in love with the research sector. In other words, my original dream of “sailing” on container ships has disappeared in the prop wash. Though I would not turn down the opportunity to work aboard a container vessel, hiring out through the “nearby” union hall is a true drag. In addition to being metaphorically speaking, in the bottom of the bilge and so unlikely to get a chance, I would need to drive south on I 5 to Tacoma (a 2.5 hour drive one way in the middle of the night when there’s no traffic) every day until I got a ship.
A dilemma needs a counterpart issue. Mine is that I need to obtain at least five credits of classes in the next four years in order to keep my teaching certification. I have learned however, that teaching in the public schools (grades 7–12) is not my bag. And I have to be honest here. The pay is almost equal to what I earn working only 100 days as a mariner. I have decided that if I were to teach I would want to teach comparative religion either at a university of a community college. In order to do that I would need at least a masters degree. But unlike working on the ocean, being a professor requires moving to an institute that will hire you. We do not want to move. And if we did, the only places we discuss moving to are one of three coastal communities nearby so that I could work for the state ferries.
Wise advise has come down to me from you my friends and dear, pragmatic husband. It suggests that I embrace my work as a Marine Tech and spend my free time writing, running, gardening, sailing, being. It suggests that I work as hard as I would on getting my officer’s license, or a PhD in Monotheistic Ontology, at being happy (and publishing a book or tow or three).
I have to map things out. Steve thinks this mapping out or diagramming of my dreams and plans and workings and wonderings is a sign of subdued madness. I find it helps reveal my true character flaws and genius. So I decided to devout the time I was at sea to my personal writing because I am least distracted and most inspired there. This frees up a lot of time for me to read seriously and in greater depth on one of my favorite subjects: the history, evolution and ontology of Abrahamic Faiths. And if a logical opportunity presents itself for me to pursue my officers rating without having to spend the equivalent of a masters degree in cash, then I will simply have to make room for more readings from the Rules of the Road, Bowditch, and Dutton’s Nautical Navigation.
Soon I will be posting either here, or on on a new WordPress site which I am currently building, the rough draft of my memoir. I only need to revise a final 20 pages. I am not sure in which format I will post it. Most likely it will be by chapter. It does not even have a name yet though many have been suggested.
Thank you Steve Zellerhoff, Rosemary McGuire, Karl and Loussia Gerstenberger, Carl Franz and Lorena Havens, Mom and Dad, Tomi and Kiyo Marsh. And Malcolm, wherever you are.