A study showed that in food tastings, such as chocolate, when the host announces that the next morsel will be the last of the tasting, the taster’s senses heighten, the level of appreciation swells, and thus the last candidate chocolate scores higher than were it elsewhere placed in the line up. In short, knowing something is the last, the experience becomes magnified, more memorable and savored.
When sailing through the Hawaiian Islands in 1990 with Leslie, we tended to see proportionally more of a given location when we had only 7 to 10 days to spend than when we had six weeks. The more time we had, the less we saw.
I suppose with shorter time windows, we are more deliberate and comprehensive with our efforts to encapsulate the experience of a given place. These concentrated experiences are more intense and memorable than when we are time complacent.
This past weekend, we held an “Open Boat,” a chance for friends and family to see us and Kandu before we head out in a few weeks. They came from as far as San Diego and Yucaipa: friends from our former workplaces and friends whose lives intertwined with our children’s, friends from lives before kids, friends of our parents, friends recently made in Ventura, and yachtee friends living aboard neighboring boats, and more. It was terrific seeing so many supportive faces and getting a chance to share our plans. It was a bit like a wedding, not able to spend as much time with everyone as we would have wished, especially considering the distances they traveled to see us and the months since we last met. It was intense.
The experience set off a bout of deep sadness for Leslie. The intensity of what was in large part a farewell celebration brought forth an acute awareness of just how much love there is between our friends and us, and that we will not likely be seeing most of them over the next several years. In cases where older friends or family members are of deteriorating health, we were cognizant that these days could quite possibly be our last together, bidding adieu was especially heart-aching.
Among those included within this list would be my father. Last winter, my father barely survived a bout with the flu. Although he didn’t attend the Open Boat, we visited him six weeks ago at his place to celebrate his 80th birthday. He lives alone in a small studio apartment in Tehachapi, near my brother Tom and his family. Driving from Ventura to Tehachapi , understanding the visit may be our last with him, I had intended to share with my father my thoughts of growing up and of my life’s course. I suggested to Bryce and Trent that they ask questions of their grandfather. On seeing him, having such dialog or asking such questions seemed contrived and melodramatic. “Let’s just be,” I told myself, “The past is what it is. Our relationship is what it has been, and one weekend isn’t going to change the past or make for a better future.” So I just enjoyed my father’s company as we celebrated his landmark birthday together with my sons, with my brother Tom and his family, and with my brother Nick. I went for a glider ride over the mountains of Tehachapi, something I’ve wanted to do since I was 6 and saw it on the Disney Sunday television show. We witnessed Tehachapi’s world renowned train loop in full action. We lunched on ostrich burgers. And we spent quality time playing with my brother’s children for the first time in 6 years, horseback riding, archery, tractor driving, and more. In short, with little time available and sensing we may not have time together for a long time to come, if ever; we lived with intention and thus baked many wonderful memories of family and of Tehachapi.
This is what the cruising circumstance does. It offers an opportunity to live with greater intention. We, the people we meet, and those who visit us from afar are keenly aware of the limited time we have together. A little voice reminds us that our time together may be the ‘last time.’ Under such circumstance, we all naturally focus on creating wonderful experiences by which to fondly remember. As a result, we often get to experience the best of people. Of course when we leave, we are all very sad, but it is this fore-looming sadness that spurs us to magnify the living while we are together. Living land-life, I tend to be more complacent because I have time to meet up again later. I squeeze loved ones into a busy schedule to catch up, spending spurts of time here and there. But when I see a friend for what may be the last time, for many years to come, it stirs a feeling of intense appreciation, of greater awareness of the present . . . life is magnified.
The cruising life comes with many rewards and many prices. This past weekend in saying farewell, Leslie and I felt deeply the toll cruising places on friendships. In saying farewell, we experienced the heightened sensation that comes with tasting ‘the last chocolate,’ . . . for now.