Neighbors: A Course in the Slipstream

May 17, 2010

There are many ways of approaching this idea. I read recently in a letter from a loved-one, “When we believe in something, we give it power, and it becomes our reality.” Having been inland in Northern California for two weeks now (arrived by Camry), and having spent a few hours last night bobbing in the New Age, I feel compelled to connect this idea to manifestation– or whatever laws which seem fit to govern such metaphysics.

However, as a sailor, a fluid adventurer, and someone in constant motion, the notion of this force as a “slipstream” is growing on me: When you spend your energy and resources pushing an idea or a plan out into the world, may it be an education, a vacation, a project, or a journey, eventually a flow of events will come along that carries you in the direction you’ve been pushing. This flow seems to come from behind, from nowhere, and is full of surprises…and lessons.

The ideas and plans I have been pushing at for years- sailing south, writing, and inventing- have been curling around since my departure from Leschi, and sweeping me up in their flow, ushering me forward, like a river or a strong breeze. During my seven months in Dockton the flow of characters, connections, and events rose to a level which ultimately overwhelmed me, for better and for worse:

  • Minglement Roundtable

    Tag, center-right, leading the Minglement Rountable. photo-KLC

    Through my dear land-based neighbor, Tag, I was hooked-up to some of Vashon Island’s most inventive folks- and hence the process of invention- at the weekly Minglement “round-table” meetings. These folks are working on incredible projects such as electric car manufacturing/conversions, shippable subterranean village construction modules, and a Vashon Island credit union.

  • Ris

    Dear Ris

    Through my neighbors at Green Man Farm, Jasper and Will (and the workshop-turned-WWOOF‘er-cabin I built on their farm in 2003), I met a talented and beautiful traveling-artist-farmer-writer-woman, Karisa. Surprise! I fell in love, the slipstream turned benevolent hurricane, and I learned the deepest meaning of “crazy about her”.

  • In my neighborhood, I ran into two vegan under-water film-maker/divers and helped Dan and Paulthem find two shipwrecks. Dan and Paul, great guys, I made them a lunch of Green Man Farm produce with rice and beans while they were under. They just finished editing their Quartermaster Harbor film , co-starring….me.
  • My otter underwater Dockton neighbors began leaving fish heads in my dinghy in the morning.
  • I met more interesting people on the water

    Tex - Catamerman

    as the Dockton liveaboard neighborhood rapidly increased in size, friendliness, alcohol use, and depth of drawl.

  • From this neighborhood flowed parties, stories, a fight, arson attempts, cheap beer and gasoline, investigations, low-grade piracy, someone went to jail, a boat sank and was raised,
    and a multi-fuel stove was invented.
  • Catamermen Floatilla

    The Catamermen Floatilla

    The Bruja Dulce was nearly annihilated one night during a storm by the neighboring 70,000lb four-boat Catamermen Floatilla dragging on it’s single, freshly dropped,  ad-hoc mooring.

As the stream flowed more intensely, I spent more hours writing about my Dockton neighborhood and liveaboard neighbors. Their caricatures alone made a 2000 word post, not to mention their stories, their inventions, their wild dreams, and my unique experiences with them- like towing the 9000lb catamaran with my little Zodiac dinghy when the Catamermen were about to wash up on shore, or listening to my combustion-enthusiast neighbor talk about his clean-burning sheet-metal stove creation and how he dreams of mercifully dropping successful production models from the air (with parachutes) on 3rd world countries in need (a good idea).

Just mentioning it all opens a flood gate from this slipstream.

As I left Dockton, I wondered how all this would fit into “Point of Sail”. But one stream led to another and before I knew it, the Bruja Dulce was flying north at top speed on a strong Spring wind (forthcoming!) to her new home in the San Juan Islands. And within two days of arriving safely in Deer Harbor I had met some new neighbors:

  • Lee- preparing to go offshore in his 38′ Cheoy Lee, a retired Boeing engineer- my instant buddy
  • Victor- a successful violin maker whose workshop is his 80-foot mid-1900’s wooden fishing trawler
  • Joe- who cynically awaits the imminent demise of the US dollar and is a successful online gold trader
  • John- who goes by Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien… the 3rd” (reincarnate) and who told me a story about young Queen Victoria’s tantrum during a piano lesson, his voice low and serious, his eyes intent behind his thick, scotch-taped glasses, his red face only a few inches from mine, the moral of the Royal story morphing into Carlos Castaneda’s vision of human beings as distinct orbs of energy with tentacles extending out……

It was then that I began to realize two things:

  1. On a boat, in the slipstream, neighbors are often very interesting
  2. The details of my neighbors’ stories are necessarily beside the point…of this sail

Deer Harbor, my new neighborhood

What is to the point, is a notion which makes sense of all the insanity, all the invaluable connections, all the benevolence, and all the intrigue I have experienced with my neighbors thus far. This is the notion I take with me from Vashon. It is best sketched with this story from my Vashon neighbor, Bill:

20 years ago, Bill had a neighbor who was deaf. This neighbor was a farmer and over the years he had learned to communicate very well with Bill over the fence- reading his lips and body language with uncanny precision. When this neighbor decided to teach a sign language class on Vashon, Bill saw his chance to reciprocate.

On the first day of class, all the students were asked to introduce themselves and say a little something about why they were taking the class.
Bill said,

“Well… our teacher is my neighbor, and for years he has been working hard to understand me and speak with me, so, I’m here to learn how to speak with him.”

Days later, a woman from the class sees Bill in a public place and walks up to him. Having only just met him at the first class, she greets him and breaks the ice, asking,

“So, I know you’re a good neighbor, what else do you do?”

Bill replied quickly, instinctively,

“Isn’t that enough?”

Isn’t that enough?

As Bill tells it, his response came from deep inside, a surprise, and it took him years to be able to appreciate it’s profoundness. Broadening and flexing the definitions of “good” and “neighbor” you cross paths with religious tenets, foreign policy, and social paradigms. Believing that it is enough simply to be a good neighbor both brings and offers peace, in it’s many forms.

For the moment, for me, this 20 year-old idea from Bill’s subconscious has released me from endless toil in search of a way to tell every interesting story as they have flowed forward. Yes, I was a good neighbor. Yes, it is enough.

From this idea I have found a stable (more or less) and centered state from which to my sharpen focus on more central plans, and a solid place from which to push forward more to-the-point ideas.



  1. My Dear Tim: Where do I start? You continue to blow my mind with your insight, your beautiful words, your imagination, etc., etc. My admiration for you continues to grow. I think you must be living every mans dream. I am so very, very proud of you and love you more than you will ever know.

    Love, Grandma

    • I’m so thankful and so fortunate to have the kind of support you give me! I was living a dream for sure. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’ve been living something a little more intense and realistic lately. I’ll get back to dreaming as soon as I can though!!
      Love you so much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: