Walking among the Shrimp Festival art booths yesterday, I saw one of those things that just makes you stop and take stock. And no, it wasn’t the very cheesy “antique” lamp with what looked like Egyptian mermaids surrounding a big fish bowl and faux candles for the light. I really should have taken a picture, but I just was in jaw-dropping awe.
I’m sure you’ve seen the plaques people make to hang on their patios or in their homes. Bits of fence or plywood painted with sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes inspirational phrases. The one that caught my eye was simply:
We can’t change the wind, but we can adjust the sails.
As a sailor, I know this instinctively to be true. There have been many days under sail when I wished fervently that we could change the wind. Some days, the barest zephyr would seek to propel us across the bay. On others, a near gale and 3-4 foot short choppy seas had us scrambling to shorten sail just to stay safe. Then there were those perfect days when the wind blew fresh towards the course we wanted to steer … and the boat settled easily into a broad or beam reach for a perfect day of sailing.
We’ve had a lot of ill wind the past 6 months. I won’t bore you with all the details, but in that time, we’ve lost my mother in law, I’ve lost my job, and now my wife has lost hers.
It just is. But rather than stand and curse the wind, the sailor in me knows that it’s time to adjust the sails.
What is daunting, or course, is that it’s very difficult to know where to trim. Life doesn’t have a little green or red slip of yarn to let you know you’ve found your course. When the wind tells on the main or head sail lie flat against the canvass and parallel to the water, you know your boat is at it’s most efficient. An airplane is like that too. Trim just so, and take your hands off the controls and let her fly or sail her self. But as we adjust life’s sails, there is always that twinge of uncertainty that even those who charge ahead full of confidence feel from time to time. And, like a sailor, we have to stand ready to re-adjust the sails as the winds change. If you’ve ever been dependent on just the wind to get you home, you know that the wind can be fickle. Strong and steady one minute, a swirl of confusion the next. And the captain needs to be alert to the signs of a coming gust that can knock the boat down, and stand ready to adjust the sails.
We can’t change the wind.
That doesn’t mean that we have to stand by and blindly accept what the wind brings us. Sails are no more than fabric, but when properly shaped and trimmed, they can take the wind and bend it to our will.
Occasionally, though, the wind can’t be entirely bent. Then, you fall off, take up a new course, adjust the sails … and tack back towards your goal. Sometimes in life, as in sailing, you have to point away from your destination to reach it.
We can’t change the wind, but we CAN adjust the sails. There have been days when I’ve wanted to will the wind to change, and others when all there is to do is toss out the sea anchor and hunker down from the storm. And as surly as I know that the storm will pass and the tide will turn, I know I have to stand ready to find my goal, choose my course, and once again … adjust the sails.