There are fresh calendar pages stretching out for twelve months ahead. What will we do with those empty days? It is amazing to me how simply turning the page from December 31 to January 1 has such an air of importance, of a fresh beginning, of something being different from the 365 days that went before...of turning a new leaf with promises made to follow this year's resolutions.

We have all been touched in some way by the power of nature just displayed in the Asian basin. How fragile is life and the structures that make us feel so secure. I am reminded in all of this how precious are the human connections which surpass structures, politics, culture, and world economies. People reaching hands across all of that to touch and remember how much we are the same. The faces keep passing through my mind of friends in Sri Lanka, shop keepers and acquaintances in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and fellow cruisers throughout the region. I pray that they and their loved ones have survived.

For me this time of year is one of spiritual renewal, as I look for sources of inspiration. I found it in a couple who are traveling the Middle East. In each place they stop they learn the special sounds of the local music and surprise the inhabitants by playing familiar pieces. Through their music they have built a chain of friendship bridging the cultures, making the unknown familiar, and putting individual faces on the names of countries. Cameron, with his oud (a Middle Eastern stringed instrument) and his amazing knowledge of languages, and Kristina, whose beautiful voice takes on the cadences and nuance of strange exotic vocals, stop crowds on the street as they begin a well-loved local song in Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, or Turkey. They bring back their photos and songs to North America to open our eyes and ears and complete the bridge. Check out their Musical Missions for a schedule, information, and ways you can join their effort.

I found renewal in the holiday spirit of the Mexican neighborhood in which I live, too. Each home put up their decorations, even if it was only one string of lights, to add cheer to the street. Each family gathered to share a huge turkey dinner on Christmas Eve, with chairs and people spilling out into the street and tantalizing aromas lifting to open windows above...like mine. Lines were strung across the street from house to house and the pinatas were brought out one by one and smashed to a scramble of kids searching for the goodies. Christmas in Mexico is not about giant piles of gifts, but about being together...old and young...visiting, eating and remembering special times shared before. As the evening went on the giant speakers and the DJ arrived, the street was blocked off and the dancing began, going until the wee hours of the next day. Six year old boys were testing out all the Latin moves while older brothers, uncles, and grandpas grabbed their sweethearts and guided them over the cobblestones. Overhead brightly colored papel picado (rectangles of paper with fancy hand made cutouts) fluttered in the cool breeze. The 25th was a quiet day at home recuperating.

The incredible spirit of a special friend in Santa Cruz, Tom—the storyteller, who is preparing to face surgery for pancreatic cancer, has been another source of inspiration. His humor, humility, gratitude, and honesty in sharing the inner journey as it is happening has been a beautiful gift to everyone near him. Join us on January 3rd and after to add your healing energy to the rest of ours for a successful surgery and a perfect recovery. Tom has many more stories to share with children in the Santa Cruz area and infectious smiles to pass on to strangers.

Coming About celebrated the graduation of three students at El Arrayan, PV's most unique Mexican restaurant, on December 18. Watching these tanned, relaxed, smiling new sailors reaffirmed for me why we are teaching sailing to women. I was privileged to watch their growth over 9 short days from uncertainty to confidence, to certainty and understanding. Parts and pieces of Southern Cross that had lacked names and functions became familiar tools in such a short time. That smile that spread across her face on the way to Punta Mita as the boat heeled over and the spray leapt across the deck said it all. It was an honor to deliver those certificates in recognition of their hard work and personal commitment. Congratulations to you.

To all of you happy, contented sailing couples: I am building a seminar—Tales of a Reluctant First Mate...or something close to that. I want to share ideas from you on what you did to make it a real partnership on board your boat. I would love a bunch of beautiful smiling couples to show that the cruising/sailing life can be a fantastic "couple experience," truly a shared dream. Please drop me a note with your thoughts and attach a photo or two with permission for me to use them in my seminar. Thank you....

And my best wishes for a joyous and peaceful year ahead,

---Pat
 

Cameron trading Arabic songs with people on
the street in central Bagdad in April 2003



The feast at El Arrayan
 

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