A few blocks from my house, there is an abandoned boat in Lake Washington. It has been there for several weeks. I can see the boat from where I am sitting now, leaning slightly more towards shore than it was yesterday. It's raining, but not enough to raise the level of the lake and maybe help that poor boat off of the land where it ran aground.
Everyday I walk my dog to that boat to look at its status. There were several days when the boat first ran aground the the owner made attempts to move the boat. One day, very early in the morning, the man who I'm assuming was the captain of the little ship, put on a wet suit and waded out to the boat. I watched him climb aboard to do some kind of boat related fixing. Another day I saw a little raft and some big white barrels, but no man. Some days I'd see him sitting in his purple car in the parking lot, motor running, watching the boat. For a time there was a generator and I could see water being pumped out of the hull.
My family teases me about my obsession with this boat. My daughter Lucia rolls her eyes as she tells my partner Nancy, "I heard about the boat again on the way home from shopping." I am obsessed. I think about that boat everyday. But why? Last week I did a writing exercise designed to tap into our subconscious thoughts to try to explore my overwhelming interest in the boat and I uncovered a few things.
I'm worried. I'm so worried about that man who is sitting on the sidelines just watching as his boat tilts a little more everyday. There is a big pile of debris on the shore--tools, a bike, a blue tarp, random pieces of wood, different lengths of rope---abandoned from the attempts to right the boat in the water. Has the man moved away and left all that stuff along with his boat or will he be back when he has another idea? I worry about the geese and the coots and the cormorants, and the turtles and otters who hang out there. Is this trash slowly infiltrating their habitat?
If this man has abandoned hope, why? I think it's because he needs help. He made a mistake. He took his boat into waters that were too shallow and he got stuck and now the man needs help. When I am down by the boat, watching it, waiting for something to happen-- the man to reappear, the coast guard to come help, a miracle of heavy, heavy rain---I hear people walking by and commenting: "This is a disaster." "If we were in North Seattle, this boat would be gone by now." I cannot believe how irresponsible this boat owner is." But even when the man was there, working on saving his boat for many days in a row, he was alone. None of the passersby, including me, reached out to the man and asked, "How can I help?" I feel bad for not offering help, even just checking in with the man. I saw him as a problem, unrelated to me and I watched like a voyeur, waiting for someone else to be the one to help, waiting for him to figure it out. This is not what I want for my community or my planet. It's so sad to think about this little microcosm of our world-- his boat, not my problem.
I understand now that sadness is where the root of my obsession lies. I am heartbroken at the aloneness of this man and his boat. I cannot believe that, in this community of boat owners and people who live along the lake (including me!), there has not been a groundswell of energy and support, a little group of boat movers, like the Amish barn raisers, who gather together to give a big literal or figurative community push to save the little boat.
It's pouring now and I wonder if the rain will help the man and his boat. I haven't seen him in several days. There have been lots of comments on our neighborhood blog about what to do about the damn boat. Call the police, some people say. Call the mayor. I finally piped in yesterday adding that I think the man needs help. I hope the man reappears to save his boat one last time. If he does, I will ask him if he needs help.