Perhaps the single lesson that defines our entire last five years -- which I should have engraved on my forehead so as to never forget -- is the following:
Your things own you.
It is a mistake to believe the common myth that you buy things and then you own them. In reality, you work very hard at some task and then convert that effort into stuff which then consumes your very reason for being. You pile and store and stash. You organize and inventory and display. It lives in your basement and under the bed. It sits in the driveway or hangs on the wall. And every bit of that stuff has ties to your soul, your reason and your sanity. It requires effort to keep it and money to sustain it. It needs a place to live, and it builds friends and a following and a life of its own. Your things are alive in your life, influencing your behavior and decisions in ways that even your family frequently fails to achieve.
I remember walking down the long Marina de La Paz dock a year ago with two distinct thoughts warring in my mind. First, I will never live in a house as nice as Don Quixote ever again. Second, I never want to own another house or boat again. It was simultaneously sad and freeing -- the depressing realization that the era of free money and living profligately as only two young professionals with very high salaries in the early 20 oughts were able combined with a sense of elation that we were now only responsible for the clothes on our back and the bags we dragged banging along the dock with us.
In New Zealand, we didn't have much in the way of material goods. In fact, arguably we started with nothing. We brought those few bags of things and then some ass hat stole them. Some of it was found; Thanks to insurance we replaced a lot of it, but we had the new versions sent to my Mom in the States. And as a side note having now said "Hello, how are you?" to these new things, they are not the same. The binoculars, in particular, look and act just like the old ones but don't have a whiff of the fine people who worked for me and with me for seven years and gave me the original pair. I don't like them, and they don't like me. We can tell we're not going to get along. But to the main point… We had a few beds, a table, some smelly couches and a pressure cooker. A stack of boat cookware I couldn't part with and a cast iron skillet. That cast iron skillet was DrC's first priority purchase on our arrival, by the way, which speaks volumes for his priorities. On those infrequent occasions when we would have people visit us in Chicken House, I remember a vague feeling of embarrassment. I'd wave helplessly at the battered dining room chairs and invite my guests to sit down and drink from the Kiwi equivalent of BamBam glasses and jelly jars. With just the family, however, it didn't feel empty. We tossed our clothes into misshapen piles at the bottom of built-in closets and considered it well stored and well cared for.
That moment was probably the nadir of the trajectory of Conger Family Ownership. We will never be associated with such a small number of things again. When it came time to leave, we gave a bag or two to Debbie for her church, delivered a box of condiments and spices to Deb, and sold five things on TradeMe. Then we flew away.
Don Quixote was waiting. She missed us. On our arrival, she was dusty, dry, and petulant. It's taken me nearly two weeks just to get all the basic systems to a point where she'll admit that she is a boat and not simply a large piece of semi-white plastic floating in apparent relationship to a dock in Mexico. She's always been a cranky bitch, so it comes as no surprise that getting her engines going has been a herculean effort. Every day, Don Quixote reminds me that she didn't like being left alone. She complains. It's in the sticky shackles and the squeaky hinges, the clouds of dust that poof up when I sit on her cushions or the way all the really important tools have managed to settle into the bottom of the back end of the deepest part of whatever locker I look in.
We've spent more in the past 60 days prepping this boat to cross the Pacific than we did during our entire year in New Zealand. We arrived in Mexico with a van full of stuff, more stuff then we ever possessed while living on the hard last year. Why spend so much? Why so many items? You could say it's because we need all these things to cross the Pacific safely. Arguably that's true, though no doubt purest sailors would point out that Kon Tiki made it across in a raft so all of this expenditure is superfluous. In reality, we bought all this stuff because Don Quixote is a really expensive lady who requires boat jewelry. Our mistress exudes dominatrix level power over our submissive, awed and beaten selves. We bow down before her line wielding superiority. We are pwnd by the boat we call home.
I don't really like it. I like being here in La Paz. I actually love being back on the boat. We all snapped into place, the girls noting within days that it felt as though we had never left. I'm comfortable here at a bone deep level I never achieved in Chicken House. It is possible that I might actually BE a sailor and not just play one on the interwebs. So the thing I don't like is that I am constantly spending money now to take care of this place, this house, this boat, this thing. Money pours through my fingers like mercury in a glittering torrent returning in the form of more things to take care of, more items to stow, more bits to keep track of. I'm not sure this is an improvement. The verdict is out on whether or not on balance being owned by this beautiful, French, production, plastic catamaran is a boon and salve to my sailing soul or merely another pile of bricks in the backpack of life.