Sunday, July 27, 2014

Timing is of the Essence

While out rowing the other evening on the Miami River, a couple of familiar fisherman, older Spanish gentlemen, sat in their usual perches on a dead-end road, casting their lines and hooks out into the river.  As I got closer, they began to shout and make gestures, trying to point out something in the water. Neither of them spoke English, and their gestures confused me. Each of them stood with an arm extended on front of them, making a snake-like motion. A python? I know they’ve been taking over the Everglades at an alarming rate, and are often found in surrounding canals and rivers. I scanned the opposite side of the river where they were pointing, and saw nothing. I figured they must have meant a dolphin, manatee, or something else common, and so I shrugged my shoulders at them, and with my best attempt at sign language, tried to tell them I didn’t see what they were seeing, and I continued to row.

And then I spotted him. The fishermen had been saying "caimán”.

It was the first time in months that I’d taken my good camera with me along for my evening row, so timing was perfect. I rowed closer, for a better photo and an adrenaline rush. At first, he held his ground, before turning his tail to me and slipping away.  I followed him, until I saw he was slowing down, and as he turned his head to see what I was up to,  I stopped and drifted to get a few photos.  He spotted a Santeria sacrifice, a rotting bloated chicken, and swallowed it in three gulps, his eyes rolling back in his head in supreme satisfaction. I know, gross.

I rowed a little closer as he glided away, until again, he stopped, calculating whether or not I was a threat.  I stopped, took more pictures, and waited for him to lose interest so I could get a little closer.  When he started off again, I rowed towards him, when he suddenly whipped around and made a bee-line for me, with terrifying gusto. Just at that moment, a young boy, who I hadn’t even noticed was there, shouted from the dock behind me, “LADY! YOU’VE GOTTEN TOO CLOSE!!!!”   

The timing of his holler left me with the feeling that everything was about to culminate in an overturned boat, and me in the alligator’s jaws, being rolled to a death-by-drowning not far from my own front doorsteps.

As I sat there trying to decide whether it would be smarter to go with the flow, so to speak, and hope the river’s current would take me away from him, or stick my oar back in the water (giving him something to grab onto) to steer away, the current pulled me toward him, and I felt him brush along the edge of the dinghy, before he retreated below the surface.  Then, all became silent. I sat, frozen, knees slightly buckling, waiting for something to happen, waiting for him to surface. I looked at the little boy watching from the dock. His eyes were fixated on the water around me.

“Do you see him?” I asked.

“Nope, he’s hiding now. That was stupid to get so close to him, Lady.” 


But some of life’s greatest moments are simply the result of being in the right place, at the right time.

Of all the contributing factors that bring us to such moments, whether with nature, or our personal relationships, or a personal achievement, I have come to believe that no combination of positive factors can overcome the effects of bad timing. You can be an amateur photographer, and catch a great shot as a result of good timing. Conversely, bad timing can turn otherwise perfectly good efforts and intentions into something forever unattainable.

Of all the little things that can effectually change the course of a life, being in the right place at the right time is sometimes just a result of being in the mood to get out of your pajamas on a given morning. Life is fickle.

After three weeks in Halifax reconnecting with family and old friends, sailing the RNSYS Wednesday night race, taking in Jazzfest on the waterfront, attempting to surf with my brother and his family at Martinique, my now-traditional wine and lunch with Peter at the Royal Artillery, my first swing dance lesson (!), hiking and getting left behind for the coyotes (thanks, Ian), proudly completing a 50 km bike ride to Lawrencetown with Cheryl, camping on the South Shore, being home for Canada Day for the first time in years, randomly bumping into old friends at the Farmers Market (nice to see you, Michael), listening to the bartender tell creepy ghost stories of the little girl who haunts Henry House, a Bluenose II crew reunion (along with other fine young sailors) at The Old Triangle and finishing out the night in true Scotian-sailor style at the Middle Deck… and sushi, sushi, and more sushi, watching Ross dance during a Gypsophilia performance (holy cow you have to see that guy dance!) and an unforgettable evening on the pier by the HMCS Sackville with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, I have predictably come back to Miami suffering from a touch of post-time-of-my-life depression. I feel like I did more living in the last 3 weeks than I’d done in my 3 years of marriage. I desperately want to relive every single moment of those three weeks, and make some of those moments last a little longer, or never end at all. 

When Halifax sends me notification that it has canceled winter, I’ll gladly get my little ship ready for a voyage north, and put out a call for crew. Until then, I’ll take Miami as it is. Yes, even its summer.

While on one hand I have sometimes felt like life is infinite and everything that happens will somehow have an opportunity to come around again, in reality, each precious moment is singular, and should be treasured. I’m learning to avoid putting off experiences, assuming I can have that experience again later when I feel ready, when in reality, that moment may only have a single shot at existence. Yes, in other words, I’m learning to live in the moment.

Timing may not be right, but it may be the only time you’ll have.