Missing Bo, an Irish flute, and the Dana 24

It’s been over a month now since Bo passed away. I’ve stopped counting the weeks (well, I know tomorrow is five, so I guess I haven’t stopped yet), but I still feel it, every Sunday afternoon. The kids have done incredibly well. Beth had a few tears in the week following, and Miles was very quiet for a few days, but otherwise their live went back to normal quickly, and for that we’re all grateful. The adults, on the other hand, have had a much harder time. Bo occupied different spaces in each of our lives, and wherever we have had to face these spaces without him, we’ve grieved, deeply.

Even small things set us off. On Sunday evenings, when Jason finishes his tai chi class, he brings me home a bean burger wrapped in lettuce (gluten-free; no bun) and some fries. By the time the lettuce makes it home, it’s soggy and a bit unappetizing, so my habit was to place the burger on a plate, and give Bo the lettuce. Bo loved this routine, and would look forward to Jason coming home every Sunday, smelling that bag of food through the window before he had barely made it to the door. This past Sunday, I unwrapped my burger, was smiling and talking to the family about something, and then lifted the lettuce off my bean burger, and turned to…..oh wait….he wasn’t standing there. And then I cried.

I’m grateful to the ends of the earth for the people in our lives who have been so understanding. Not everyone has had a special pet in their lives, or has felt what it’s like to lose one, and I know that to them, crying over a bean burger a month after your dog died, might look a little strange. There just isn’t enough thanks for those moments when someone tells me that they get it, and they’re sorry. “Bo was like a person,” they say. I’d like to write more about grief at a later date, but for now I want to move on to more current, happier topics.

Irish flute – because I needed a new instrument?

I didn’t need a new instrument. I met F at Dusty Strings a few days ago, because that’s the spot we always meet when we’re going to go have lunch or get coffee. Dusty Strings is musical heaven, and I call it “my other home”. For years I’ve joked that REI is “the mothership”, and I’m trying to find an equivalent nickname for Dusty Strings.

On this afternoon, while protesting to everyone that I didn’t need anything new, I was forced over to the flute case by Molly (she may be a foot and a half shorter than me, but she’s strong), who used a lightning-fast ninja move (since when does she take ninja classes?) to press my face against the glass. “You can’t leave until you play the flute,” she said. Only to stop the pain did I finally relent and agree to play a flute.

Okay, this story is a total lie – except the part about Molly being shorter than me. And I haven’t measured her strength myself, but considering she plays the harp beautifully and carries those huge suckers around, she probably could kick my ass at arm wrestling.

The real story is that I walked in, picked up and played the usual suspects. The mandolin is first. I still can’t seem to enjoy playing the mandolin, even though the tuning is the same as the violin, which makes it familiar. You’d think any instrument you can just pick up and play a jig on would be instantly beguiling, but mandos feel too much like my fiddle; gorgeous and delicate and fussy. I like instruments that you can accidentally drop without damaging them.

Next are the mountain dulcimers. Oh, they’re so lovely! As a teenager I was friends with a wonderful, funny, creative woman, whose apartment was filled new age books and crystals and celestial-themed curtains and decor. She used to make me tea and focaccia bread, and we’d sit and read books, and journal together, and talk about what made life as a teenage girl so infuriating and amazing and boring and passionate and crazy. Every young woman should have an adult woman friend like that. Hanging in that funky apartment she had a mountain dulcimer, with hearts carved into the body, and every time I visited I’d play that thing and wish I knew what to do with it. I still don’t know, but maybe I’ll figure it out someday.

I play ukulele regularly and semi-well. I’m an advanced beginner. I could have been an intermediate/advanced player by now if I practiced more – that ought to tell you something about how little I need a new thing to play. I can play a few chords on my guitar, and I also play beginning pieces on the recorder. I have a drum that isn’t getting beat upon regularly. My harmonica, well, where did that go? Point is, I didn’t need anything else.

But the Irish flute has been calling to me for ages. I gave up playing the “regular” (Boehm) flute years ago (my old teacher Sarah Bassingthwaighte has gone on to some interesting projects!), and have always missed it. The recorder has been fun, but I’ve been wanting something I can take to Irish jams – not that I go to any Irish jams, or even know of any Irish jams, but that’s only because I don’t play an Irish instrument anymore (oh did I mention I gave up the fiddle a decade ago? I miss those jigs…). Clearly I’d play something at Irish jams if only I have something to play. And my need for something to play at Irish jams conveniently lined up with my upcoming birthday, and I’m convinced Greg’s favorite thing to get me on a special day is an instrument (hence my Christmas Morton resonator uke and my Happy Anniversary Pineapple Flea).

All of which means I’m now in possession of a black (Boxwood) Casey Burns folk flute, and next week have a lesson set up with Susan McLain. I can already play a couple of tunes, as the whole embouchure stuff translates very well from traditional flute, and it’s a D scale and you can throw almost any Irish music onto a D scale. But if I’m going to get past “good beginner” – which is where I tend to stay with most things – I’ll need lessons. Really, the expensive part of an addiction to visiting Dusty Strings isn’t so much the instruments, it’s that with virtually everything they sell, they can line you right up with lessons in their adjoining music school. They are such enablers. And that’s why I love them.

The Dana 24…..


I’ve fallen in love with a new boat. It happened a couple of months ago. I was looking at Flicka 20’s, they’re so stout and charming, and then I found Dana 24’s, and just……..what’s that internet meme? I CAN’T EVEN.


I love romantic comedies. There’s a line in the movie While You Were Sleeping when Joe Jr. says to Lucy, “I seen the way you look at him.” Him being the guy Sandra Bullock’s character, Lucy, is starting to fall in love with.

Lucy says, “What? How do I look at him?”

Joe Jr. replies, “Like you just seen your first Trans Am.”

I remember watching that movie a hundred years ago (I’ve seen it a hundred times since) and thinking, “Man, my gender conditioning  was well done. I can’t imagine feeling the way about a car that Sandra Bullock feels about Bill Pullman.” Maybe a boat isn’t exactly a car, but a couple weeks ago, when I went to the docks at Pacific Seacraft and saw the Dana 24 for the first time, I heard Joe Jr.’s voice in my head. This is my Trans Am.

I had gone to the docks hoping that I wouldn’t love it, hoping that it would be too small and not that charming in person. When Ray, one of the brokers, led me over, I took one look and said, “Ohhhhh, crap.” That was it, I was in love. With another boat. Now what?

Jason, who is not a fan of boats (“They sink,” he’ll say), came with me on that visit (Greg said, “I’ll go see the Dana later, if you really love it”). Jason had nothing but positive things to say about the Dana, too, which is quite shocking coming from a guy who spends every moment on my boat fearing that we’re about to hit something and die, or get whacked by the boom and die, or lean the boat over too far and die, or get run over by a container ship and die. But he loved the Dana. It’s so roomy for so small a boat! The boom is high enough not to kill anyone! I couldn’t believe it. The Dana had his blessing.

Today I brought Greg down the docks for Seacraft Day, where they open up all the boats and let us boat-hungry people come fondle all the teak and drool over the bowsprits. Greg liked the Dana, and graciously said, “I can see what you see in her.” I was very grateful for this. One of the wonderful things about our marriage is this dynamic where one person can say, “I get why you want this,” without the other person thinking it means, “And so let’s get one”. I knew he liked the boat, and he said he thought it would be great to have “when we retire”.

And then he said, “But if we could switch out Lehua for this boat right now, today, I wouldn’t do it.”

Well, an hour later we got to take a Dana out for a sail. One of the Danas, which had just sold today, was being piloted around Lake Union by its seller, who was taking folks out on trips. Greg and I, and another couple, got on, and pushed off from the dock. This was it. This was my moment. This was when I really got to feel whether it was everything I hoped.

It was EVERYTHING I HOPED. Oh, how can I count the ways? A tiller is a thousand times better than a wheel, there is no arguing about this it is simply TRUTH. I sailed her for half an hour, it was brilliant, it was the best thing since anything that was ever wonderful, ever. She flies downwind just like they say, she’s so smooth through the water, she doesn’t bounce and chop all over the place like Lehua (bless her beamy little hull). And then I gave the tiller to Greg……and Greg got sucked right in. I could see it on his face, watched the transformation happen, right in front of me. All I had to do was hand him the tiller.


On the way home, in the car, he said, “Okay, well, if we could switch Lehua out for the Dana right now, today, I would totally do that.”


Problem is, they’re expensive. So we’ll be eating beans and rice for a few years while we save up. I was going to finish my degree, but now I’m thinking I’ll put that off until I’m older (they say 50 is the new 40). But I have a spreadsheet! And we’ll still be sailing the heck out of Lehua, getting our skills up. It’s nice to know what your dream boat is, even if you can’t sail it away today. Dreams can take time. I hope this one doesn’t take too long, though.

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