Geeky readers will recognize the title of this post as the title of the fourth volume of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a smart and quirky exploration of what it means to be human and a part of the universe which is, of course, unimaginably vast and complex. In the book, Adams tells about the destruction of the planet Earth by a race called the Vogons – Earth being demolished in order to make room for a new hyperspatial express route through the universe. As the plot to the book unfolds, it becomes apparent that humans, (the third most intelligent species on the planet) are unaware of their impending doom, while dolphins (the second most intelligent species) are not only aware, but manage to get out before the planet is destroyed. To read more about the Guide, click here. To see a video featuring a song called “So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish”, click here. Warning: it’s really silly.
Here’s the reason that I’m thinking about this line right now: because I’ve left the friendly confines of the Blue Gill and re-immersed myself in life on Cumberland Street. As I drove back yesterday, it occurred to me that life on the water was really like living in a parallel universe. I was able to be in contact with friends and family, and I pursued my passions of reading, fishing, and boating…but all within the confines of a couple of square miles (and even more rigidly, on board the 44-foot Blue Gill). Except for swimming and a brief hike with Sharon one Saturday afternoon, I was never really off the boat for nearly three weeks. It was amazing!
In fact, when I was leaving the marina, Pam (one of the many incredibly helpful and gracious staff at Seven Points Marina) came around the desk and said, “Wait, wait, wait…let me see…Yes, he is wearing shoes.” It was the first time since my arrival on August 2 that Pam had seen me with anything on my feet – because who needs shoes when all you’re doing is padding around a houseboat, swimming, or buying bait?
First and foremost, I want to publicly thank all the folks at the Marina for a wonderful Sabbatical experience. From the time that Mike walked me through the operation of the Blue Gill and showed me all the ins and outs of navigating that craft to the time when Tom settled my bill on the 20th, those folks were eager to make sure that every second on the water was a blessing. And it was.
I also want to thank those of you who sent notes, called, or otherwise contacted me during the trip. Even though I was in a different place, it was a joy to be able to connect with people from various parts of my life.
When I got home last night, I experienced a little bit of “the blues”. I had been told to expect this as the Sabbatical progressed – a sense of mourning at the passing of various opportunities. Last night, I realized that even though I had not left the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the month of August, in many ways I was (like Adams’ dolphins) in a parallel universe. I was playing at house while on the boat – I had my own (rented) bed, a mini refrigerator and a small bathroom – all the comforts a guy like me needs…but it wasn’t really home. There was no mail, there were no bills to pay, no TV to watch, no news (yes, I went through an entire month without hearing about the Steelers!).
Yet there was also no real community – I was always seeking the most private and remote places to moor. There was no communal worship. There were no neighbors stopping by to help me pick blueberries. The absence of these things gave me the chance to reflect on how important they are in my life.
There will be a few more posts in the days to come reflecting on lessons learned on board the Blue Gill, but at this point, I do want to simply say how grateful I am to have been there, and how good it is to be home. So to Pam, Tom, Sis, Mike, Gary, and everyone else at the Marina: So long, and thanks for all the fish. It was a privilege to be on board with you.
And to Samaiya and Sheldon and Lindsay and Dani and Glenn and everyone else who is a part of my more “regular life” in Pittsburgh, thanks for your presence on the journey, and for helping me discover beauty in each of the sunrises and sunsets that God puts into our days together.