Not our bird-don't worry.
Lil' Pippy the Tern with the most astonishingly regular bowels on planet Earth, is just fine.
Captain Jon even bought her a nifty, purple, plastic bucket, which the kids fill with leaves and twigs,
so Pippy can sit out on deck, listening to all the other terns and seabirds, while watching the clouds roll by.
( Jon may grumble about us adopting things but he usually turns out to be the biggest sucker of all)
No, the "Bird" i'm talking about, is metaphorical.
The saying, which was a new one to me,
came up while sitting around Muktuk's galley table one night,
sipping a potent, home-brewed, hooch from Chile.
We were chatting about life, adventuring and cruising.
Listening to Muktuk talk about sailing, is what I imagine it would have been like, to chew-the-fat, with say, Jon Muir about hiking, or Godel about mathematical theorems.
There is so much experience, deep understanding and "in the bones" knowledge of the subject, that it gets kind of elevated into the realm of the mystic.
Not that Ali and Karl see themselves that way-but I might.
Or it was the made from hay and chocolate, Chilean moonshine that made such an impression on me;
it's hard to say.
In any case, we were on the subject of building boats.
Jon and I were marveling about what a totally rad, boat Muktuk is.
They didn't build her from scratch but rather "customized " her by rebuilding and redesigning from what she was when they found her.
"Would you guys ever build a boat from the ground up?" we asked.
"We used to want to..., "
began Ali as she and Karl traded knowing looks.
"But, for sure, we would never do this now..."
Karl leaned forward, refilling our tiny glasses with the magical Andean potion.
"It's a big job, you know, several years of your life, to do this..." he said in his somber, Austrian accent.
"We have friends, couples, that spent years, making a perfect boat..." adds Ali,
"a dream boat, absolutely wonderful, but by the time they finished it, their kids had grown and their relationship was..."
"Phhhht " says Karl, shrugging his shoulders.
"The cage is finished...but the bird is dead".
I was so struck by this.
How easy it is, to spend our lives,
building the perfect cage,
thinking IT will bring happiness,
and without realizing it,
we end up sacrificing what was the soul of the venture in the first place.
Finances, careers, houses, boats,
you can broaden the theory,
to politics, social and personal development...
The list of Golden Cages is a long one.
Maybe it's Western, cultural thing;
raised in America, we are taught from an early age, to STRIVE.
It's how "more" ends up getting equated with "happiness".
In a recent, State of the Union Address; "What makes us exceptional," President Obama said, "Our allegiance is to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'"
Good stuff, no doubt.
Liberty, equality. Heck, maybe even health care someday....
It's the ideology behind, "what makes us EXCEPTIONAL" and the "PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS", that confuses the issue and leads people to the "unhappy" belief that their lives oughtta be governed by constant improvements of some sort.
Maybe our collective tendencies to construct "CAGES',
(ideals of a perfect future that will hold our heart's desire)
stem from misinterpreting, this notion that, striving for happiness is, somehow, in itself, the thing.
I'm going out on a limb here, but, i believe that most people already have what they need to be happy.
(If we are lucky enough, to have the basics, like potable water, food and shelter)
Happiness shouldn't be far off.
Chances are, it might even be closer than we think.
While searching for Bliss,
we may have already tread on it,
and its simply stuck to the bottom of our shoe.
In the past two years, we have lived around people that have the BARE minimum of what it takes to survive on this planet-
and they are some of the happiest, most generous, playful, people I have ever met.
It takes them most of a day to find, catch, pick or gather the food they need to eat,
or the water they plan to drink,
but once they've got that covered-
they simply enjoy life.
I haven't seen a lot of "wish lists" stuck to people's refrigerators.
Maybe thats because they don't have refrigerators.
They don't spend their free time buying more curtains for the hut, or searching for the best way to treat split ends or whiten their teeth.
-No one has ever made them feel that any of these things are important.
What is valued here, is generosity.
You are judged by how you behave in the world.
Are you brave, kind, tough, do you sing, remember the stories of your people, do you have a good heart?
People talk, if someone is too serious, about "making money" -it is frowned on as a "Western" affliction.
Holidays are taken seriously.
You don't see people mending their fishing nets on Sundays-
what you do see, is huge gatherings at houses and everyone has a barbecue and singing drifts across the valley,
from the Churches in the morning and peoples' front porches all afternoon.
Work sustains Life-not the other way around.
We have met people with two pigs to their name,
who would happily kill one for you on the spot, just because you said you like bacon. From these people, we have seen first hand, that generosity makes people happy...
that, and playing the spoons.
Polynesians, have this cultural thing, that took us awhile to figure out.
When they invite you to dinner, everything is already spread out on the table, ready to eat, when you get there.
But no one eats anything for a really long time.
Everyone sits and talks and laughs, tells stories, plays some music, sings some songs, has a little dance, plays with the babies, the dogs or the pig...
When it starts getting late, someone will finally say "grace"( usually sung, a beautiful call and answer-type deal).
The hosts will not touch the food until you ( the guest) have taken as much as you want.
They will wait until you have eaten at least one plate and refuse to eat until you take another.
(of course, we make sure to leave plenty, knowing that everyone is hungry)
After they are completely certain that you are happy and full and have enjoyed everything they made for you,
only then, will they eat.
Not talk and chit-chat over the food,
Afterwards, its pretty much a given that everyone is gonna go to sleep, like in the next ten minutes (sometimes, right beside the table) as soon as everything is cleared up.
This is the way of people who know it makes no sense,
to build a cage for a bird.
to build a cage for a bird.
That in order to be happy,
you have to actually spend time BEING HAPPY...
not just "working" towards it, like a goal.
Enjoy what you have in front of you.
Don't rush to the next thing, all the time.
I think, with practice, I can take a lead from these people;
unlearn, my Western preoccupation with "what's next?",
see it, instead, as an extension of "More",
a subconscious drive to build "cages" all the time.
So, when I wake in my bunk, with the sounds of exotic birds chirping outside ( or from their little purple bucket),
and I find myself, lying there, fretting about future scenarios;
what I will do for work when I get back home in a year,
anxiety about if the spare parts will fit when they get here,
strobing about if we will run into bad weather on our next crossing, brooding about how much I miss our friends and family...
I'll remember to take my cue from the people i've have met on these travels:
Open the cage,
set the Bird free.
I'll just get up, make coffee, sit outside with my poopy Tern, and thank my lucky stars.
Then, go about my day,
doing whatever work is on my plate,
engage in the active pursuit of doing good for others,
with a goal of ensuring the well-beingof my fellow man,
protecting my planet and all its miraculousness,
for future generations,
and maybe, if there's time...
Learn to play the spoons.
|Tahitian kids going bananas at the bike park|
|I'm pretty sure this was intentional...|
|so was this...|
|crazy awesome kite boarders on a windy day in Port Phaeton|
|Pura Vida's princess|
|Gravity feeding our American propane tanks from a french bottle.|
Hey all you cruiser kids, at home...
make sure you build an adapter before you come to French Poly!
|Pippi checks out Hunters report on White Terns...|
|Laundry day at a tap on shore and yes, thats a Betsy Johnson dress hanging over that tree...|
A little Hollywood, in Port Phaeton, baby.
|The view from my laundry room. That's Hunter and Kai in the dingy fishing for Pippi's dinner.|
|Rare albino, Tahitian tree monkeys|