The tall ships have sailed away. One by one, they have slipped their lines and headed back down river, some to home ports, others to their next mooring far away. Only Sultana remains in Chestertown, and today or tomorrow, her crew will unstep her mast and begin all the necessary tasks associated with the seasonal maintenance of wooden boats, all those never-ending labors of love these lovely vessels require.
Me, too. Last week, I went to the dentist for routine cleaning and found I would need a cavity filled, perhaps a root canal, and maybe an extraction. Hmmmm. The week before I had visited my doctor—the individual insurance companies now refer to as my “health care provider”—and received an almost clean bill of health, only one little worrisome blemish requiring a follow-up appointment with a specialist. Hmmm, again, or, as we’re learning to say in our family, “that’s a bummer.”
When one reaches one’s seventh decade, a little seasonal maintenance is not to be unexpected. And yet, I was a bit unpleasantly surprised at the news from the health front. For better or for worse, I haven’t paid much attention to the passing of time, either preferring to defer my own routine self-maintenance or just sweeping a little issue or two under my own rug. Now mind you, I’ve been blessed with good genes and I maintain a reasonably healthy lifestyle, so I’m not looking for any sympathy here. I just need to unstep my own mast and let my crew get on with their thoughtful restorative work. By the time the ospreys return, I’ll be ready to head out to sea again.
We have a wonderful neighbor who enjoys spending time with us on our porch. The other day, she sneezed with a mouthful of oatmeal and blew out her back. She lay down for a minute or two, then, as is her want, she got on with her life, in this case, on the back for a horse for a few hours of chasing a fox over the hills and through the woods. By the time she got back home and came to sit on our porch to help pass out Halloween candy, she was, to say the least, in considerable discomfort. We provided an ice bag and a couple of Advil and something with which to wash them down, but when she hobbled home, I knew she might need a bit of seasonal maintenance, too.
But then again, don’t we all? I’m not about to preach here, but when it comes time to unstep your own mast, do it. As much as we hate to admit it, our bodies are every bit as finicky as wooden boats. Our bottoms need occasional scraping—I know, bad image—and our rigging repaired. If a little rot has set in, well, that needs to be addressed, too. The wee wife, who knows a thing or two about real estate, constantly reminds me that we live in a wood house and “you have to keep on top of it or the whole thing will come tumbling down” or words to that effect. I might roll my eyes at her endless list of chores, but I know she’s right. I just wish I had my own sprightly crew to do what needs to be done.
Downrigging is a magnificent spectacle but it’s also an annual call to arms. The foe is time. So make your own battle plan and stick to it. I’m learning that lesson…again. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report,
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com