Steady As She Goes

Dawn was beginning to break. The woman and her dog were standing there looking out across the river. As I approached, she looked at me, smiled, then turned her face back toward the brightening sky.

The sun had already cleared the horizon, but water vapor and thin wisps of clouds were keeping the dazzle from being too difficult to look at.

She acknowledged my presence and said she generally walked the dog at the same time every morning.

Neither she nor the large and obviously old dog seemed to be in a hurry. On this particular morning, neither was I, so together we slowly resumed walking while chatting about several things, none of which had much importance.

In the meantime, the morning grayness was giving way to orange with splashes of bright against deep blue. In similar fashion, we gradually discarded the grinding and abrasive issues of the day — social unrest and political turmoil at home, war on the other side of the world. Lying in wait had been the usual sharp barbs of opinion, judgement, ignorance, intolerance, and injustice, ready to dump yet another heap of writhing residue into each of our brains.

We hadn’t allowed that to happen. Without saying it, we both believed it only logical that we let common sense prevail. That is, acknowledge that what had already happened wasn’t caused by us. By the same token, neither would we have the power to affect a favorable outcome. About all we could do was give ourselves credit for simply being aware of what was continuing to happen all over. Or if we had ventured an opinion, we would’ve quietly supported it with facts rather than plucked it from the flood of rumor, hearsay, or outright lies that had come to us from everywhere.

That’s how the conversation went as we were about to make the final turn beyond which, and only a few seconds later, I’d be reaching our driveway and saying goodbye.

Neither of us, however, had said any final words to reconcile all the troubles we’d talked about. I volunteered to do that by telling her we both needed to put ourselves at ease. Nothing would be gained by feeling guilty about what others might think as we appeared to ignore what they would consider as our “share” of worry and concern, and our unwillingness to place the blame on anyone.

As we slowed our walking pace, I had a sudden thought. I asked her if she’d ever been on a boat as large as a cabin cruiser. She said she had, so I told her she’d be able to appreciate what I was about to tell her.

“My wife and I,” I said, “were out in our boat when we were suddenly approached by an ugly and unexpected storm. I had to choose one of two options. I could either make a dash for a marina about two miles away, while hoping we could make it with enough time left to approach the dock and tie up, or we could reduce speed, secure everything on deck, put on life jackets, then get a good grip on the wheel and continue going forward. As soon as I had chosen the second option, four words flashed in my mind: Steady as she goes.

“The storm was even stronger than we expected. Battered by wind, high waves, and heavy rain, we had to repeatedly brace ourselves from being thrown off our seats. Not until after the storm had ended and the water was again calm did I realize that, yes, everything was fine. Just as I said as the storm was approaching, we had, indeed, kept a steady course through it all.

“So,” I said, “borrowing from that experience, how’s that for an utterly simplistic answer to the complicated predicament in which all of us now find ourselves?”

“Okay, maybe saying ‘steady as she goes’ does sound simplistic, but I get the point,” she said with a smile.

“I figured you would,” I said, “but it’s too bad that a lot of people won’t.”