During the last wave of Gulf-bound tropical depressions, we grabbed our most precious belongings and temporarily moved into a motel on the far side of Biloxi’s back bay. We weren’t sure what Hurricanes Marco and Laura were going to do, but considering the vintage, we decided not to risk taking a swig of sour grapes. Jack took Shanti out to a sheltered anchorage and sunk our new, enormous anchor into the silt – an act that felt like abandonment of a loved one to us both – while I got us settled into our new one-room home away from home (and watched all three Sharknados on the large television).
The week before we left, I was stony. I’d already accepted the idea that we might lose Shanti. It’s hurricane season. We didn’t manage to get out of the Gulf as we’d hoped. We’re sitting ducks. It’s 2020. I’m aware of the implications. I felt numb for several days as I mentally prepared myself for catastrophe, making plans for what we might do if we were to lose the last of our few belongings and our beloved home to a storm.
The day that we packed up and left Shanti, I spent the morning out at the end of the dock, which had become my writing retreat throughout July and August. I’d sit in the shade of the little tiki hut and watch the cormorants and pelicans posing on top of worn pilings, the bony remains of other docks that had been razed by past storms. My sentinel there had allowed me to become so familiar with the environment that I could tell you which bird would sit on which post at what time of day, and realizing that I might not have that view again did finally break me down. I cried a while, but there was too much to do to cry long.
In the end, nothing came of it. We barely saw a spit of rain. Not even a gentle breeze passed through Biloxi, and I’m not complaining. I’ll take stifling heat over tempests and impending doom any day.
Once we were sure both tropical storms were past us (as well as any trailing rain storms), Jack returned Shanti to her slip at the marina; however, we decided to stay on at the motel for a while longer. Having a table and two chairs and mattresses that don’t deflate every time Dante gets a little too frisky is a welcome luxury after three years of living like extras on the set of Waterworld. The room also has a full-sized refrigerator (something we haven’t had in years now), which we promptly packed with sodas and juice and three varieties of ice cream, and there’s a microwave (another luxury to the Shanti crew), so we crowded TV dinners in among the ice cream. One night, I dumped bagged lettuce onto a paper plate with microwaved lasagna, and Fain said, “Oh, look at you. Give you a table, and all of a sudden you’re getting bougie with the salad.”
That’s where we are as a family. Bagged salad is bougie, and a table and chair is something worth blogging about.
Aside from sheer indulgence and amenities, staying on at the motel for a while makes it easier for me to work as we don’t have flat surfaces aboard Shanti yet. I have to balance my laptop on my lap (though, frankly, that’s clearly how it was meant to be used if you trust the name, and I’m actually not even at the table now – I’m balancing my laptop on my lap in bed a la Proust instead). More importantly, Jack can make greater headway on Shanti if he doesn’t have to work around Fain and me, and it’s motivating for him to have an air conditioned space away from work to rest at the end of the day.
As it happens, we’ve got more resources to put towards Shanti right now, so we’re hoping that he may be able to renovate Fain’s cabin while we’re holed up in the motel. This could be a month or two of real progress, which we haven’t been able to make in several years due to circumstances beyond our control.
It may surprise you to know that we’re kind of enjoying being all together in one room, too. Since Shanti doesn’t have much in the way of a communal space yet, we tend to hole up when it’s hot, each to his or her own corner. We’re having fun making fun of each other and playing with Dante and introducing Fain to all the classic 80s movies that have been playing on AMC and TNT and HBO.
All that being said, I’ll be glad to be back aboard Shanti. I’ve gone feral. I realize that now. I’d prefer to be outside all day, even in triple-digit temperatures. I’d prefer to sit and stare at cormorants than to sit and stare at the TV, and I miss the fresh air and the morning visits by the dolphins. Nevertheless, I recognize that this is a boon in many ways, so I’m going to enjoy it for what it is, knowing that coming back to Shanti will be all the sweeter after a few weeks away.
In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying the bathtub and the refrigerator and the table and the guilty pleasure of endless television.
Our intention (we’ve long since given up on plans) is to get Shanti prepped for anchoring out and for lengthier passages so that, come December, we can head southeast towards the warmer waters of Florida for the winter. There, we’ll spend a couple of months continuing progress on Shanti until spring, and then, we want to head up the east coast. Our goal, at this point, is simply not to spend another summer in the Gulf. We’d like to maybe even make it up the Hudson and to the Great Lakes after the spring thaw, where, after three summers spent suffering in the heat and stressed about hurricanes, we can maybe spend a summer not suffering and stressed. I know, a tall order and possibly wishful thinking given our past and the state of the world at present. Nevertheless, we’re thinking buoyant thoughts because they’re the only kind that keep us afloat.