24 September 2014 | Fiji
The Rose-Moments 04 August 2014 It's an old heavy brass combination lock, well greased and well worn with four numbers for the key. The lock has been in the family longer than I have. It was the lock on John's Dad's boat years ago at Pier 39 well before John and I ever met. The lock is now tightly shut and John's Dad is gone and his Mom and even his brother who are the people who might have known the combination. The lock holds its secret patiently. John has been working to open it, trying all the usual combinations he recalls his Dad using like 1234 or 0987 or 2468 and remembering how he would always change only the last number to open or lock it but today none does the trick and the lock remains smugly shut.
I knew this combination once. We used it. I remember thinking it an odd but easy combination and wondering what it was-a birthday, a phone number or an anniversary of some kind. I think John might have even used it once on a bike lock he got me during my college days at UC Davis. It was a good number but not a number from my own repertoire and I couldn't now remember it either. I did recall asking John years ago the meaning of the number and even then the significance had been already lost but it was one their family used. Maybe it was the quality of the lock or the depth of the memories which made John keep striving to open it. He kept it by the bed and fiddled with the rollers trying to find the door to the memory. It would be a shame to toss it-good metal and good craftsmanship but even better times spent on the boat when John's Dad created the first blue water sailing school in San Francisco Bay and John helped him with teaching sailing, repairing, stocking and of course his Captain's license.
Lying in bed lazily and pensively, I held the lock in the early morning light. John was considering printing out all the combinations and then starting through the list systematically at a rate of maybe ten a day. We pondered how many permutations there would be and how long that very thorough but pedantic approach would take. 10,000 possibilities all together I believe including 0000 which would be well over a year attempting even if one managed to stick strictly to the schedule. I held the lock, rolling the tumblers. 4268 kept rolling through my thoughts but time and again it didn't open the lock. I commented repeatedly that I really thought it was 4268 and we laughed as John replied with a grin "get over it" because it obviously wasn't. But the thought kept bubbling up like a clue and somehow not quite the answer but still important and my brain knew it and held the idea turning it to examine it from different perspectives like a 3D puzzle piece or like listening to a radio transmission with a lot of static and trying to discern the message or reading a sign just out of visual range and using the length and shape of the letters to decipher the word.
I thought I would start with 42 and then roll the last two through the 100 possibilities squeezing and pulling the lock quickly for each number. I laughed at myself as I started this process, realizing how frequently it takes me two tries or three pulls on a lock well known to me to get it to pop open. Just then I felt a subtle "click"-a gentle catch as though something slipped into a well worn but shallow groove. It was like re-finding a long forgotten memory or recalling an old friend long gone away. There was a pause so brief it wouldn't register a space on an everyday clock yet full of every universal possibility-perhaps a "pregnant pause"-and the old lock shrugged its shoulders and popped open as though it had been waiting with complete faith all the while. That was the start of this sure-to-be-amazing day full of infinite possibilities.
I suppose the most important part of this most insignificant situation was the gift of noticing it which required only sufficient mental space to allow the sneaking in of a bit of contemplation and wonder¬... I mean it's not as though we aren't doing anything but sitting around cogitating and ruminating over such trivialities. Last week we snorkeled with giant mantas and tomorrow we are scuba diving with hammerheads to witness the supposedly exquisite and secret ballet of their courting ritual. And all these adventures I will also share with you. But believe it or not, it is the simple contemplative moments such as I have just described for which I am most grateful. And that is one of the many joys of living life simply aboard The Rose. All is well. Pat and John s/v The Rose¬... somewhere in Fiji¬...