I am a little introspective this morning about my life and the meaning and purpose of this group supporting women in love with the water and boating. I’m involved because of a commitment since my 20’s to supporting women and improving their lives, their rights, their abilities and their images of themselves. That, I see, is the essence of Feminism and I am a proud Feminist. I was pondering this morning if, at this age and place I find myself, I am doing enough toward my long-time passion, if I’m living my life well enough.
I thought about what I had said in my opening comments to our last Seattle Boat Show panel discussion that our involvement with boating gives us opportunities “to be role models of confident women in a traditionally male-dominated aspect of society. Just by being an engaged and informed woman boater, you are helping to change another aspect of society where treating women as second class and limiting their opportunities has been rampant.”
Because I chose a boating life I’ve been led to some special women over the years who’ve inspired me and taught me important, sometimes subtle, lessons. One came to mind as I pondered the state of my life and activities this morning. Jeri Callahan passed sometime ago. She was a woman who made an interesting life on the water. As I wondered if what I am doing in all aspects of my life is ‘good enough”, I smiled at a something I remember learning from her.
“People should consider an appropriate shingle to tack above their front doors,” Jeri said as we laughed over lemonade on the shelf-sized deck attached to her ‘shack on a raft’ as she’d dubbed it, one of Seattle’s older floating homes. “Mine would read, Jeri Callahan, Philosopher Queen”. No ego, it came from a thoughtful woman willing to share openly of her thoughts and her life and thoroughly happy with the path she had taken.
She’d raised a family in a traditional suburban life. Alone after a divorce, she chose to pursue a new life adventure. Calling on a rental aboard a floating home, it was taken, but this gregarious, interesting woman made such an impression on the gal she reached, she received a call the next day saying that an old, very small barge was for sale and would she be interested. It was a scary commitment to make, but she jumped at the chance.
Jeri regaled me with antics from the annual New Year’s Eve swims with her floating home neighbors across Seattle’s Lake Union; and of ferrying tourists on historical tours she’d created to celebrate her water-based corner of the world. We celebrated the book she had written about the floating home community in Seattle. None of these things would have happened had she not been draw to the water.
A goose, in a planter next door was part of our social moment. It, like Jeri, felt safe and welcomed “nesting” amidst a community that not only looked out for each other, but the wildlife in their midst. Flo, who lived next door, did her laundry on Jeri’s barge. Jerry didn’t see it as a favor. “How lucky we are”, she’d say “to have that special time to chat over tea.” She ultimately helped the aging Flo to stay onboard her barge longer offering more “sharing” as Flo’s abilities diminished.
Values – it was a word that floated around in Jeri’s world and conversations. Studying philosophy in college had strengthened her sense of the underpinnings of thought and life but had not diminished the whimsy so much a part of her character. There was an interesting crack along one wall where she lived. It occurred when she had work done to straighten her little floating box. “It’s sort of like life,” said Jerry, “Sometimes when we strive too hard for perfection, we are reminded that imperfection is a part of everyone’s life, how we handle it says a lot about ourselves.” She enjoyed that crack on her wall keeping it as a reminder not to try to live life too perfectly.