I meant to write a New Year's post. I really did. But while the rest of the world was nursing a hangover on New Year's Day, I was in a Nyquil-induced fog as I battled a nasty cold.
Luckily I was able to slip in a little partying the night before. Jay and I spent New Year's Eve enjoying cracked crab, a little bubbly, and great company on my friend Kellee's houseboat.
There's just something about boats (and champagne) that brings out stories and we got to talking about the king tides that winter brings to the S.F. Bay and the things we've seen wash in under the Gate. I've mentioned a few encounters with unlikely floating objects in earlier posts, but I failed to mention one very important one: A message in a bottle.
It was about fifteen years ago. I was rowing to the Golden Gate when I saw it – a barnacle-encrusted bottle floating on the water's surface. Inside was a scroll of paper, tied with a red ribbon and beckoning to me like a siren's song. Of course I picked it up and took it aboard my narrow craft.
The cork was firmly stuffed into the bottle and try as I might I couldn't open it. So I tucked the bottle in front of my foot stretchers and began the long row back to the dock while my mind spun stories.
Maybe the bottle held a treasure map. Perhaps there was some sort of reward for finding it. For god's sake, it could be a trans-pacific missive, a confession to a unsolved crime, or a note set afloat with the hopes of reaching a long-lost love.
By the time I got back to the dock, my mind was whirling with possibilities. Kirk, one of my rowing friends, brought me back down to earth. "Eileen, someone probably tossed it from a party boat in Sausalito during a flood tide and it never made it past the Golden Gate." (He also told me that if there was a number to call in the note, that I should play a little Don Ho music and pretend I was calling from a seaside hotel in Hawaii. Gotta love Kirk.)
I got home, wrenched the cork from the bottle, and read the note.
It wasn't a treasure map. There was no reward to be had. The note was written by a woman and it told of how, together with her daughter, she'd enjoyed this very fine bottle of wine in honor of her husband who'd passed away. Kirk was right. The note was only a few weeks old; they'd tossed the bottle into the bay just a mile from where I'd found it—and it had a number to call if found.
So I did.
The woman was grateful to hear from me—even if I was a local. Her loss was new and raw and she wanted to talk. She told me of her husband's love of the bay, his life, and good works. She laughed and cried a little. I listened. She thanked me and we hung up. We've never met. We've never talked again.
So it got me thinking. And because it was New Year's Eve and I was in a sort of resolution state of mind, I made a resolution for myself.
Life sends all these little messages in bottles. They float past us, some as big as cruise ships, others barely noticeable as they bob along. Some of the bottles might hold a treasure map. Others might be a cry for help. Every message in a bottle, real or metaphorical, offers its own chance for change or connection.
So for 2014, I'm going to be on the lookout and if a message in a bottle floats past – I'm going to do my best to pick it up and bring it onboard.
Here's hoping that your year brings you possibilities, connections, and opportunities for adventure. Thanks for joining me this past year. Wishing you health, happiness, and calm waters. And if the water gets rough, remember to angle your boat just so and ride the swells.