21 Jun How a mountain girl became a sailor
It’s Father’s Day, and I’m thinking about my dad. He’s been gone a few years now, but I still miss him every day. My father wasn’t a sailor, and we only sailed together once, but it’s when I’m sailing that I feel his presence most.
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, right at the foot of the Skyline Drive. It is a spectacularly beautiful place. My father was a passionate outdoorsman who loved fishing and hunting. I think it was a surprise to him that he ended up with three daughters. Even though he loved us girls fiercely, I’m sure he sometimes wished he’d had sons. Ones that wanted to go to the woods to hunt and fish like he did with his father.
But that didn’t stop him from getting outdoors every chance he got, and taking us along when he could. He bought some land that had belonged to his grandparents, and it became his sanctuary; 75 acres where he could roam the woods to his heart’s content. He took us out in the woods and showed us places he’d explored as a boy. He taught us to fish with bamboo poles and made us bait our own hooks with live nightcrawlers. Once a year, our family ventured to the coast where he taught us to swim in the Atlantic ocean waves. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, he instilled in us a love and respect for nature that eventually played out for each of us girls in unexpected ways. For me, it was sailing.
I moved away from my hometown and started working my way up the corporate ladder in cities across the country. Somewhere along the way, I lost touch with my roots in the mountains and appreciation for the outdoors. But when I moved to New York City, I took up sailing on a whim. Something in me craved a connection to nature, and sailing filled a need I didn’t even know I had.
I can finally understand my Dad’s love of the outdoors. His example showed me how enriching a connection to the natural world can be. I would never have taken up sailing if he hadn’t shared his love of the woods, water and outdoors. These days, I find the same thrill, challenge, quiet, stillness and reverence in sailing that my dad found in the woods. When I’m on a boat with the breeze on my face and the sound of water rushing by the hull, I know exactly how my dad felt walking his land in Floyd County. And that keeps him close to me. Thank you, Pop, for that gift. It’s made my life so much better in ways you could have never imagined. Happy Father’s Day.