My parents have been married 50 years and fourteen days. I’m not sure what impresses me the most, longevity or change. I read somewhere that the average person in contemporary times deals with more change in a year, than their grandparents did in a lifetime. To imagine the depth of change that 50 years brings to one married couple is quite frankly an “uber” big deal. Impressed and intrigued, the Captain and I for sure didn’t want to miss out on my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, so we battened down Seamore Pacific’s hatches and trekked to mid-America, also known as dairy cow capital of the fine US of A. Standing back and eying the experience, celebrating 50 years with the couple that raised me, brothers who endured me and everyone else who allows me to meander back and forth from pasture to sea, is nothing short of special. Metaphorically, going back to the Ozark’s feels like I’m glancing down at a scattering of cardboard jigsaw pieces, only to have my eyes lock in on one peculiar shape and know in an instant, where it fits. With just a bit of rotating, the edges align and the piece snaps in place. A trip constructed for the purpose of celebrating my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary inadvertently turned over a stone I have stepped on before….I just didn’t know it at the time.
How a country girl figures out when or how to live on a boat in a warm sunny place is not a puzzle, but rather a convergence of pieces which fit together quite naturally. A simple way to picture it is to imagine a girl crossing a pasture, climbing up and over a gate, then walking southeast down a rural road; eyes peeled for palm trees. She doesn’t stop until she feels soft sand rising between her toes and intense UV rays bouncing off her hair. She trades her fancy pretender sunglasses in for a quality pair of Costa Del Mars. They are beauties made for being on the water and will give her years of refractory-clarity and superior eye protection. In other words, “better to see you my dear.”
Whether I’m sitting at the beach, sailing on the boat, or being Captain Chameleon’s passenger seat driver as we make our way along I-44 to Missouri, I’m sure to have my Costa sunglasses on. Driving, not flying is our preferred method of travel to Missouri because we like to absorb the scenery along the way. Over the years we have settled into a routine of stopping at Blake’s in Gallup, New Mexico for a Green Chili Burger and Steak-N-Shake just outside of Oklahoma City for burgers, fries, and malt. But this trip was not destined to be routine. Passing through Gallup, we remembered it was Friday of Lent…no green chili burger this time. We would have to catch Blake’s on the way back. At least we still had Steak-N-Shake the next day. “Wonder if Steak-N-Shake has a green chili burger? A big juicy hamburger, fries, and chocolate shake is what I’m going to have.” That changed several hundred miles down the road
Taking a break from reading, I glanced out the window to reconnect with reality. Like a magnet, my eyes locked onto the eyes of a calf. Peering through a rectangle window of his temporary stall on a stockyard cattle truck,, as our car passed in the left hand lane,I was looking into his eyes and he was looking into mine. Moving 75 miles an hour, time stopped. A piece of life’s jigsaw puzzle again lay before me. Deep down inside, I knew instantaneously where that piece of the puzzle belonged.
“What are you gonna have sweetie?” Asked the friendly blonde waitress.
“I’ll have a veggie sub,” I replied, purposefully not making eye contact with her or Captain Chameleon.
What the waitress didn’t say, Captain Chameleon did. “Who in their right mind comes to Steak-N-Shake and orders a vegetable sandwich?”
I understood his confusion. It has become a way of life to eat our way across Mexico and America on carne asada and hamburgers. Despite being vegetarian for a couple of years when we first married, ordering a carrot, cucumber, and tomato sandwich at a Steak-N-Shake in mid-America/Cow Country USA was puzzling to the Captain….and irritating to our waitress. “Are you not feeling well? Did you not see their list of $4 hamburger meals?”
“That cattle truck that we passed, well, there was a calf in the truck and our eyes met.”
One of the many things I love about the captain is that he lets me be me. His response to being vegetarian is, “Nope. I can’t live on vegetables alone.” But on the other hand, he knows that locked up deep inside, I’m meant to not eat cows, chickens, or pigs. He has heard my stories of growing up on a hobby farm.
When I was in the second grade my family moved to the country and started what I fondly refer to as a hobby farm. We had a calf. Some chickens. Two guineas that later turned into 80. A pig named Peter Piper. And, a pair of ducks and geese, gifts that I received on my birthday. One autumn day, our little calf wasn’t feeling too well and winter was at hand. Because the barn was cold and drafty, my parents thought it wise to keep our little buddy warm and safe in the basement. By the time spring came along, he had grown into quite a big fellow. Surprisingly, he didn’t much want to leave his digs in the basement but it was getting harder and harder (sillier and sillier) to take him outside each day to graze, clean up his bed, and then lead him back down the steps. In other words….it was a stray puzzle piece….one that didn’t fit with the rest of the set.
Back for my parent’s anniversary and going over pictures with my mom and dad, I came across the picture of me bottle feeding that little calf. I don’t know where the lines blurred where I could bottle feed a little creature, unknowingly fattening him up for the meat market. But in all honesty, it’s has been an arduous journey contempating a vegetarian lifestyle. For one reason and another I struggle. I go through phases of foregoing meat, only to reluctantly return to it. Just as I don’t rely on a measuring tape and right angle ruler to discern which piece belongs where in the jigsaw puzzle, this is a personal journey where I need not have all the answers in order to set out to cross the pasture. Perhaps putting on my Costa Del Mars will help me gain some clarity.
- When I told Captain Chameleon about keeping a calf in our basement, he responded with; “Honey, I wouldn’t repeat that story. It’s not normal to keep a cow in the basement.”
- I buy into whole food ideology now. But the first time I heard someone talk about the cons of drinking orange juice over pealing and eating the entire orange, I thought to myself, “Honey I wouldn’t repeat that. It’s not normal to speak against Florida orange juice.”
- The Captain isn’t into a vegetarian lifestyle. However, he supports me and proved it by driving us all over town to find a pressure cooker to take back to Seamore Pacific. Brown Rice, dried beans, millet, and sweet potatoes will taste really good with salsa and guacamole.
- Just before leaving on our trip to Missouri, I stumbled on an old favorite in a used book store; Laurel’s Kitchen. Eighteen years ago in Florida I was completely naive to a vegetarian lifestyle. With the recommendation of a nice lady at the Natural Foods store in Marathon, Florida I purchased a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen and poured over it. Binder barely holding together, one copy is in my kitchen in Phoenix and now I have a copy on Seamore Pacific.
- I worked with a nurse in Key West, who never in her life tasted meat. She and her husband had sailed from Europe, lived simply, and started a family on their boat. She was a joy to be around. I often wonder where she is today.
- After a lot of thinking and not thinking, I decided to approach my vegetarian conviction like I’ve done with other endeavors in the past…don’t over think it and don’t postpone starting the journey while waiting for the “right” answer to appear. It’s in the actions, the failures, and the movement of living that I’ll arrive at a “right” answer.
- I’m so fortunate. Boat neighbors in San Carlos are lending their experience and knowledge with keeping and using sourdough starter, making yogurt, and sprouting alfalfa seeds for greens.
- Stay tuned for stories on how Seamore Pacific bridges Carne Asada and hamburgers with bulgur wheat and seaweed. Better yet, please share your own stories or words of wisdom of figuring out one of life’s convictions. Jackie Blue, by Ozark Mountain Daredevils came to mind as I wrote this post. Enjoy.