Lions of March

Greetings friends. It certainly seems like March has indeed come in like a lion here on the edge of the continent. Impressive storms bringing a deluge from the sky with high winds whipping up tumultuous seas have been the norm for the past month. Cody and I find it absolutely memorizing. When the ocean is churning, the crab and shrimp boats riding the swells look like bath toys.

The rain matches the sea and crests in waves against the windows blocking out the world and giving the illusion that I might be Captain Nemo gliding silently along alone in my version of the Nautilus deep beneath the surface of the ocean. When the storms pause, for there is more to come, and the wall of water tumbles to the ground revealing an endless horizon, I can’t help but think that this must be what Joshua felt like when the walls at Jericho fell. The renewed strength and peace of seeing what lies beyond with new eyes.

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Rainbow after the storm as seen from our back deck

This third month of 2018 has not only brought the sturm and drang of the open sea to our shore, but also some exciting changes for us here in our adopted home. Amongst the big changes in our coastal life is that we have added a new vehicle to our fleet. We have been a single car family since the early two-thousands. In Missoula we had our car and the bus system and my scooter and no real need to expand the motor pool. We discovered that this stretch of the coastline is a commuter hub. Most people live fifteen to forty minutes away from the town they work in. As our transportation needs have changed Cody and I decided to buy me my own car. A 2002 Mazda Tribute SUV, I call her Momasaurus. I have not had my own car in a very long time, and when I installed myself in the captain’s seat I knew she was the one.

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Momasaurus in our driveway

So, why do we need a second car now after all these months? Well, as many of you might know by now, I started a new job in Newport. At the end of February I accepted an offer to join Marine Operations at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences with Oregon State University. After a short period of negotiation and a mountain of paperwork, a background check and fingerprinting I began work this last Tuesday, March sixth.

My new role has me traveling into Newport every day and working alongside the OSU research vessels. It shocks me that I lack the words to effectively covey the joy I feel passing the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Each morning as I disembark from my car I look out at the Yaquina Bay, so close I can almost touch it. As I ascend the stairs to my office in Ship Ops the seals and sea lions are playing in the water. The bark of the sea lions is constant background music. The low discordant harmony of those sea lions reminds me of the quiet nondescript classical music in the background of some Italian restaurants. You know the ones, warm bread baskets and small glowing candles on red checkered tablecloths. This constant underlying music of the bay punctuated with occasional shrill sea bird objection is the soundtrack that plays me into my work space and a whole new world.

As for my actual job itself, just like anything else it will take a little time to get fully up to speed with all of the nuances. What I am doing is supporting human resources, finance and accounting, ships movements, foreign clearance and generally providing organizational support for the Maritime Superintendent, the Port Captain, the mariners and the sea going research vessels. When I began applying for work in Oregon I banked pretty seriously on the skills I developed as the registrar for the law school at UM. I just assumed that these were the kind of skills that could help me navigate into a new chapter in my working life. As it turns out I was just a little wrong.

In the interview process for Marine Operations, most of the focus was on my theatre background. My history of stage and production management were quickly identified as the skill set that was most desirable. Now that I have started the position, it’s like the storm has lifted again and I can see clearly now why my theatre background was so attractive. The most specific connection is simply that the ships, and the research that happens on them, are on a specific and tight schedule. In the same way that a show has to open on time, people have bought tickets and the curtain is going up so everyone involved needs to be ready . . . so too is the marine schedule. The vessels are headed out to sea and all the ship crew, supplies, scientists, and research equipment must be on board and ready to set sail. Every clearance in place and everything must be literally ship shape. Opening night on the Pacific Ocean is happening and just like in the theatre there is a whole team of professionals behind the scenes making magic happen.

Given this revelation, I am not considering this life development a career change. I am still working for a state university for one thing. I think of this as more of a return to what I have always loved about the theatre, the magic that is the compilation of parts and people to create something larger than the sum of those parts. There is amazing science happening on these vessels. There are remarkably skilled mariners and marine technicians managing to make that research possible on the open sea in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. I am in awe of their skills and dedication to their work.

On Friday I had the opportunity to tour the largest vessel, the Oceanus. I found myself scanning the ship schematics much like scenic elevations. I was drawn to some of the complicated rigging on deck and rope storage that looked much like an old school fly rail. The schedule of ship movements with the notes for and from each department were nearly identical to every production meeting report I have ever seen or produced. As I was taking in all of the strange familiarity I could feel my own tide shifting. There is a new trade wind blowing.

As this month literally Marches on the storms outside will abate. I am believing now that my storms inside are also starting to wane. I have been building a barrier since we arrived, a wall to protect me not only from rejection but also from over-reaching. I have spent so much time making sure I understood my own limitations that I actually created more than existed before. I am starting to understand that our new home by the sea, this job that combines the organization of skilled professionals that I loved so much in the theatre, my daily commune with sea lions by the ocean and even my new car, when considered together, are my trumpet. Like Joshua I am sounding the advance and piece by piece bringing down that wall of my own making.

So, March has indeed come in like a lion. A sea lion I think, happy in the bay, sunning on the dock and barking his contentment to the world.

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Yaquina Bay resident sea lions
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