From Australia to Chicago and Miami to Rhode Island: A Week of Variety in Books and Boats

I spent yesterday on the couch reading “Dreamlines, A Story of Australia” by Barbara Wood. Instantly transported to nineteenth century Melbourne, I basked in the dry heat while swatting at imaginary flies. It was the perfect accompaniment to a rather dreary Sunday, with an easy to follow story and character arcs.

A placid barefoot day drifting south with the ebb toward the Jamestown Bridge—what could be better?

Last week I read Elizabeth Berg’s “Dream When You’re Feeling Blue,” also fiction and also full of engaging characters. But 1940’s Chicago made me shiver, not sweat. And Berg’s characters asked tougher questions about war, women’s rights, sacrifice, and the strength of family ties. I couldn’t have possibly plowed through this book in one day; it needed several nights of digestive thought.

And that’s what I love about reading: we can choose our preferred climate, century, and depth of engagement. If we hit it right (as I did yesterday), stories enrich our solitude and take us outside our own lives. If we hit it wrong—well, we can always pick up something else. That’s why books on the nightstand are as valuable as money in the bank.

Two weeks ago I raced Snipes with a skipper who quietly stated that he wanted to rip out the heart of every other competitor on the race course. Of course on shore he loaned tools, boats, and brute strength even before he was asked, offering that unique mix of cooperative competitiveness I so love about small boat racing. Wanting to win should encourage us to help our competitors improve; the better they are, the more they challenge us to sail our best.

Five days later, I found myself alone in the middle of Narragansett Bay, drifting south with the ebb tide. I spent the leisurely cruise consciously savoring the first-sail-of-the-season, the gleaming varnish, the early shimmer of seabreeze—and the rare sunshine. I felt lucky to be on the water, and quite content—even with a complete absence of competition.

In less than a week, I traveled from one end of the competitive spectrum to the other—all without setting foot in a boat with an engine. No matter what my psyche demands—solitude, heart-ripping competition, or something in between—I can find it on the water.

So here’s another place where books meet boats—they each provide a seemingly endless variety of experience. I can escape for a day or a week, to a harbor down under or a heartland city. Best of all, I can travel light—my imagination will be all the baggage I need.

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