What is it we really need to live?

Gray days seem to make it easier to write. The outside isn’t calling me quite as strongly as a beautiful sunshine filled one. Spring seems late this year but the small hepatica flowers tells me it is about to explode in a wave of freshly unrolled leaves and black flies! ha! Where is the face net that goes over my hat?

I’ve been exploring my youth, as I’ve said and writing, with the help of my daily diaries I kept for over a decade while we were sailing around the world, about our adventures and misadventures. We are just about to arrive in Tahiti and I stopped today to proof read the Galapagos, the Pacific crossing, the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands. Something has been nagging at me all week and it just won’t leave me in peace. How much we have in our current world, and how little of it we need to survive and be happy.

To the many local people we met along our travels we must have seemed quite wealthy, sailboat equaled money to many but we had no home to go home to, that sailboat was our home. We had minimal conveniences, no television, just a radio. Most nights we had no lights other than a kerosene lantern to read by as our batteries were always in need of charging, or water, or replacing. The radio took us places, sometimes as far away as the West coast of Oregon to listen to a nightly music show, that was a treat when you were in rough anchorage in the Marquesas with the wind howling outside.

No devices, no phones, no computers, no GPS, no Google maps! HOW did we survive? Hahahahaha! We DID have typewriter (!) and pens, and paper and we wrote. To myself in the diary and to the many people we met along the way and kept in touch with. We did have a calculator! ha! We were happy. We met people who had little but everyone shared what they could. In Hanaiapa Bay on the island of Hiva’Oa we helped clear a field for planting and went hunting with a local farmer for wild pig and goat. We shared meals, laughs, gaffs in languages we didn’t understand, we played the guitar and ukelele and danced. No one had a phone at any meal, no one needed that badly to talk to anyone that wasn’t seated near them, we were independent of all of that “convenience”. Maybe it isn’t all that convenient after all?

My mother didn’t call her mother or father in California. She would write them, as we did. In an emergency, a telegram was sent, anything else would seem extravagant! Have we become a society of instant gratification? I think so. In doing this we have lost our tolerance to slow down to enjoy some of the finer things in life that take time. Everything must be faster, speedier, arrive more quickly. That equates good, slow seems to equate bad. You understand my ill at ease feeling now?

I might add we had no shower or bath, our running water was from a foot pump in the kitchen, only used for cooking and drinking, and no hot water as well. We bathed on deck with a bucket of sea water or if the opportunity arose and a squall came by we all had a fresh water shower! So yes, we were in the tropics and some folks shouldn’t try this at home in January!

Is it every generation looks back and wonders how the current generation would survive if it all went away? A family member once couldn’t figure out why they could not fill the gas tank of their car at the gas station when the power was out. What happens when there is huge solar coronal mass ejection? It will happen one day, not if, just when and we will kiss our satellite systems goodbye along with communications, navigation, banking, internet (ye gads! NO internet!).

The largest known solar flare took place on August 28, 1859. It was observed and recorded by Richard C. Carrington, and so it’s sometimes called the Carrington Event. The accompanying coronal mass ejection traveled to Earth in only 17 hours, rather than the usual three or four days. The largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae, or northern lights, were seen in many parts of the world. Telegraph systems throughout Europe and North America failed.

I know who will survive all this, people who slow down. People who understand that there are so many things you don’t actually need to survive and be happy. Do you need a new phone every year? A new car? A huge closet full of new clothes because a magazine dictates what looks right and what doesn’t? Do you need your Siri or Netflix that transfix you in front of a screen day and night? Do you really need access to shopping 24 hours a day and get irritated when it doesn’t show up in 48 hours delivered by a guy earning a $1 a package to do so? Ok, take away my computer you haters! I can still write, and it might still be here in another hundred years. Will this digitally recorded work be? The photos? The words? I don’t think so. The technology will be obsolete…

I was raised without “marketing” other than what I saw in stores or on signs. I never knew I was supposed to “buy” this cereal because I saw it on TV or look a certain way because a women in a magazine did selling products you were supposed to apply to your face to be beautiful, then just wash off? Where was the sense in that? The ladies pictures in National Geographic seemed just fine to me, maybe topless sometimes, but I guess I was used to that! ha!

It’s not the lawyers we have to kill Mr. Shakespeare but the marketers! hahahahaha!

I think of all the mediums of music and film I have seen in the last 50 years than now languish in peoples garages and in boxes in storage, or in dumps and landfills. Imagine the pile of this stuff you have tossed out if it was all in one place, film, 16mm and 35 mm, records, cassette tapes, eight track tapes, Beta, VHS, CD’s, DVD’s, Bluerays. That’s just the pictures and music, where does it stop? It seems we are gluttons for the latest invention, supposed to be better, quicker (yup that again) finer, more “convenient” damn I hate that word.

I’ve had friends tell me their kids don’t want their stuff, or their grandparents stuff, they want NEW stuff. More marketing at work? Why did I treasure what once belonged to my family? I’m not sure, why would I throw it away or sell it if I needed a couch, or dinnerware, a rug, or a bookcase? Am I a pragmatist?

You know what really got us excited as kids. Food. Butter, jam, peanut butter, flour, things we could make cookies out of…and sharks. Well yes! Sharks were always exciting!

and wrecks to explore, tikis to find in the jungle and moray eels were always a cool find. I was more worried about them than sharks. A local man once told me they could hold you down with their incredibly strong jaws until you drowned, you stood a better chance if you were just bitten by a shark.

I wrote down every meal we were invited to and exactly what it was. From our first goat stew, then dog stew (yup! Yikes! Why ya running away Spot?) to fried breadfruit, poisson cru (ceviche made with coconut milk) all the fruit. We ate so many mangoes we developed rashes around our mouths from the urushiol in them! Did you know: mangoes are part of the Anacardiaceae, or sumac/cashew family, which produces a liquid called urushiol when the skin of the tree, or the fruit rind, is broken. Contact with urushiol can cause contact dermatitis! We still ate them, just more carefully, not shoving them in our mouths and letting the juicy juicy mango run everywhere but careful nibbles!

Was my childhood idyllic? No, it was often stressful, full of calamity, stupid ideas, like letting your kids swim with shark researchers while they are chumming for sharks in ten feet of water? OK, that was really cool. It was full of problem solving, it made you aware of how and why things worked. It made you think and question many things, often the so called “grown ups” decisions! ha! It made us think. Not book think, memorizing things for a good grade think but actual think. Does that make sense? Reasoning maybe is a better word.

My husband hates it when I reason…hahahahaha!

I just blame my upbringing on how things should make sense:) In the last few weeks I have wondered what have become of the three guys that sailed from Panama to Tahiti with us. We did look up to them, fought with them, were comforted by them. To my brother and me they WERE family! I have kept in contact with quite a few who graced our decks but the first three, well, maybe one day I’ll find them. Dave was in Hawaii, Tim was from Santa Monica and the last I heard of Lindsay he was working in the oil industry in Canada, his family were from Fergus, Ontario.

So, food and people, that is what is the most important. Not a clean house (add cats and dogs, it’s solves both those things! Really want a lot of hair around, add horses as well) not a new phone, or car, a new experience maybe! A shared meal, a glass of wine, or several;) ha!

Remember, we really have no one to impress except ourselves. There are no Jones to keep up with, and even if there were, why would you even care to? If your friends judge you solely by what you have, find new friends. We have a finite amount of time here on this gorgeous amazing planet with so many kind, interesting, caring people, and of course…the marketers. Avoid them, eat well, live long and prosper. I have to tackle the Tahiti diaries starting tomorrow which involves a tremendous amount of change and of course, lots more irresponsible adults…stay tuned!

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