Welcome to 2019. With the dawning of this new year, comes great hope. Hope that our lives will be better, that each of us, in our own way, will find a way to make our lives and those of others better.
Two thousand and eighteen was a good year. Before you decide to complain about how terrible it was personally or globally, let me paraphrase the curmudgeon Judge Judy. “You’re alive. Does it look like you’re losing?”
The state of South Carolina ranks close to last for things no one wants to write home to their mother about. Spousal abuse, economic well-being, and education and health. Yet it has a wonderful motto: Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” A lot of not so nice things transpired last year personally and worldwide that it would be easy to lose hope.
I discovered mold issues in my house which caused a major drain on my time, resources, and energy. I had a truck on its last legs, at least they looked like legs when the mechanic put it up on the lift. My wife struggled with bad knees and legs and has been reminded of the pain with every step. The international community saw one of the greatest countries in the world alienate all its allies and suck up to despotic regimes that the rest of the globe has been trying to neutralize for over 75 years. Catholics and Baptists have had their faith betrayed by child molesters and their leaders, leaders whom they trusted for guidance and inspiration.
But the news wasn’t all bad. My agent who recently moved from Boston to Texas, has continued to represent and guide me along with many other writers. I doubt anyone not connected to the publishing world can appreciate the challenges and sacrifices she makes.
My wife wakes up every morning with a hopeful heart and throws herself head on into activities she loves. She continues to create shell wreaths that adorn homes throughout the Grand Strand of South Carolina. My daughter in the Coast Guard has taken over a challenging job at Sector Charleston, managing critical areas in personnel and resources. She would be embarrassed if I elaborated on the impact her personal efforts are making on her fellow officers and her charges. With Donald Trump’s government shutdown, no doubt her job has been made that much more difficult.
My son continues to work as a teacher in the Toms River school district where he inspires hundreds of high school students. I doubt he has an inkling of the impact he’s making on those lives. When not devoting his time to his profession, he pursues a Master’s Degree in genocide studies. Perhaps the world would be a much kinder and gentler place if more people acquired the sensitivity that kind of experience brings.
My other daughter, Jennifer, is now in her fifteenth year working as a counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation in South Carolina. Her wide array of clients includes elderly folks recovering from debilitating operations and diseases to younger clients with a variety of needs. Some are just hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times. Others are former prisoners and drug addicts seeking a new start in life.
In the midst of all the chaos, one thing remains that will see us through the hard times ahead. Hope. The recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, who in her lifetime, barely traveled a few hundred miles from her home, put it best.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul.
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
Hope is like that. It’s quiet but real and will sustain you in hard times, no matter who you are.
As the new year, in its infancy, dawns, I wish you a fantastic 2019. Following is a piece I wrote last year that others have requested as a reprint, so I’m offering it to you as a New Year’s gift. May it help you reach deep into your soul where Hope lives and rediscover the strength and light you need to live the best year of your life.
The Uncommon Mariner
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We’re two weeks into the New Year and by now most people have blown their New Year’s Resolutions. Still working out every day? Missed two days the first week and the second week wasn’t any better. Showed up two days. That diet you’ve been on? Some have gained another pound or two trying to get rid of that holiday candy calling their name.
But I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.
And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.
The Dawn of a New Year has broken, a leap year none the less, and many of you still have no idea where you want to set sail.
To be sure, you want this year to be different- you want this to be the year to make deep and profound changes in your life. For some those changes are personal, for others financial; yet for others the changes are more spiritual. But beyond that vague ache in your heart, you’re not sure where to set your course.
I say to you, to set a new course in the new year, follow your Pirate Heart. “Follow my Pirate Heart?” you ask incredulously. Yes, and if you haven’t before, go to my website Uncommon Mariners and read the section “About Me.” It’s all about discovering your pirate heart and following your pirate dreams.
Pirates more than 200 years ago especially Caribbean pirates became pirates for a lot of reasons, only one of them being financial gain. Beyond money was the underlying hunger to regain control of their lives. In 2016, that’s what being a pirate is all about, at least on a more profound and symbolic level.
The quintessential question posed before you at the beginning of this new year is very basic. What do I need to do to reclaim my pirate life, the life I was born to lead?
Here are a few questions you should consider before you go to bed each night of 2016 or at least when you start each day: Continue reading →
It’s the birthday of Mel Fisher this week. Born August 21, 1922, Mel will always be remembered as one of the greatest treasure hunters that ever lived. This is quite an accomplishment for a lad who grew up in the hinterlands of America, far from the sound of the ocean murmuring on a sandy beach.
Raised in Indiana, Mel became a humble chicken farmer. He eventually made his way to California where, as the Beach Boys say, “All the girls get so tan.” Mel fell in love with the sea and opened up California’s first dive shop. But there was one beauty who stood out from the rest of those tanned beach girls, and that was Dolores Horton. Deo not only became Mel’s lifelong business partner and wife but was an accomplished diver in her own right. Eventually, Mel moved to the East Coast where more opportunities to dive wrecks abounded.
For Mel it was never really about the money. As a kid, he read Treasure Island and would be possessed his whole life by the dreams of diving and finding sunken treasure. Mel turned his eye to the Florida Keys where the Nuestra Senora de Atocha waited to reward that one persistent treasure hunter who didn’t know how to quit. The Atocha became Mel’s Holy Grail. It was a quest that called to him even in the darkest hour of his soul when he lost his son, Dirk, his daughter-in-law, Angel, and his dear friend, Rick Gage in a terrible accident on the site.
With the help of family, friends, and investors, he searched sixteen years before discovering the mother of all shipwrecks July 20, 1985. Mel Fisher’s dream was realized.
Then the vultures came. Other treasure hunters. The state of Florida. The United States government. Even the government of Spain. All laid claim to the booty Mel and his coterie of friends, family, and investors sacrificed so long and hard for. Beleagured by a hundred legal battles, Mel, like the heroic Odysseus, stood his ground. Eventually, the Supreme Court came down on Mel’s side, noting it was Mel Fisher and his team who labored for years and invested millions of dollars to retrieve the treasure. Nowhere to be found during that time was the state or federal governments.
For anyone who has heard the story of Mel Fisher, the lessons are clear:
… Every dream has a price and you must be prepared to pay it.
… When it seems darkest, don’t quit.
… When the storms blow, don’t run for cover. Run for your wet suit.
… Mel redefined the meaning of persistence, attested to by sixteen years of relentless searching.
… Mel was also the master of laser focus. He would not allow himself or his crew to be distracted by anything.
… And to ward off discouragement for himself and his team, he kept a sign over his desk, reminding everyone of the need for faith and hope. TODAY’S THE DAY! became his mantra. You see those words everywhere today, but it was Mel Fisher and his crew who lived by those words in the face of uncertainty.
You may not have dreams of discovering treasure at the bottom of the sea, but no doubt your dreams involve untold treasure just the same. When you awake tomorrow, chart your course, set your sails, and check your compass. Your dreams are like the North Star. Follow them and you’ll never get lost. And when you climb into bed at night and every bone in your body aches, you can drop off to sleep contented, knowing you’ve come closer to realizing your dream.
The Atocha site still yields treasure. To learn more about it or to dive the site yourself, go to http://www.melfisher.com/ . Or better yet, stop by Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum and Gift Shop at 1322 Hwy US 1 Sebastian, Florida. When you’re in Key West, check out the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum at 200 Greene St.
Pirates have long enjoyed the notorious reputation of burying chests laden with treasure. Most of the stories are myth, but today I’m asking you, “What’s in your treasure chest? What kind of booty are you after?”
For some of us, it’s houses, cars, and fancy toys. For others adventure is the very touchstone of their soul. It’s why people travel, scuba dive, and jump out of airplanes.
For others it‘s health. Or a satisfied mind. It’s the reason both the Serenity Prayer of St. Francis and Buddhism have been so popular.
For many of us, family and friends are our greatest treasure. For others, it’s using their talents to make a difference. Van Gogh was hardly recognized in his lifetime, yet his treasure chest was chock full of good things. Sadly, only Vincent knew it.
Figuratively speaking, we’re all on the High Seas of Life, swinging our cutlasses, gleefully shouting, “Arrrgh!” Each day we set sail, striving to fill our lives with all the happiness, adventure, and contentment our pirate hearts can hold. Yet everyone’s chest has its own unique mix of treasure, and not one of us can tell another his chest is all wrong. That’s something everyone has to figure out for himself.
Once in a while, we need to drop anchor and dig through our booty. Lots of good stuff in there! But are you missing anything? A better relationship? A dream you left to wither in a shadowy corner of your soul?
Or perhaps your treasure chest has gotten filled with things that no longer work for you. Things that have become more of a burden than a joy. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “How does this serve me now?” Letting go of what we cling to opens our hands to new treasure.
Go ahead. Take a look inside that chest of yours before you drop off to sleep tonight. Do you like what you see? Anything missing? Time to make a few adjustments?
When you make that final voyage on the Sea of Life and the Great Mariner greets you, maybe he’ll be grinning more than you when you open your chest and show him what you’ve got.
Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all. When Helen Keller spoke those words, it’s not likely she was thinking of pirates, but they fit perfectly the happiest pirate this side of Margaritaville and his parrothead followers.
If there are three trademarks of a pirate, it’s these
1. The willingness to take bold chances.
2. The willingness to steal.
3. The thirst for adventure.
If this is true, then Jimmy Buffett is not only a pirate’s pirate, but he’s had school in session for over forty years, teaching parrothead/pirates the intimate details of how to pull this pirate thing off. Let’s get started by putting a few things up front.
Jimmy’s been shot down in Jamaica, crashed his plane in Long Island, been put down by critics, thrown out of sports arenas, and had his share of illicit taxi rides. Yet each time cannon balls fly his way, he’s found a way to “… jump up and smile back at …” us.
This is exactly what makes Jimmy Buffett a pirate’s pirate. Adversity is no stranger to him. It’s just that he’s learned to make friends with it. It’s hard to know whether Jimmy shines because of his resilience, or whether his resilience comes from his ability to shine. I’m convinced if given an electric guitar and Jimmy Buffett‘s example, Blackbeard would have turned out differently.
Let’s face it. No one would ever accuse Jimmy of being a saint, yet there are few people I know closer to God. When you make so many people happy in a world writhing in pain, it’s one of the most godlike things a human can do. More of us should learn to do that.
As for this whole stealing thing, Jimmy is guilty. For over forty years, he’s stolen our hearts while encouraging us to live our dreams. What‘s more, he’s taught us to steal our lives and our dreams back from those who stole them from us a piece at a time.
Though he seems to preach a hedonistic lifestyle, Jimmy is more of a Buddha than a sensualist. It’s all about the present moment. No matter what you were expecting, it is always now. Breathe in, breathe out. Move on. It’s a terrific lesson. Continue reading →