Boxed In


Life in Portland is good. It’s real good I tell myself objectively. I try to remain positive, grateful, upbeat even. But deep down inside a black cloud lingers in my mind. It is the long nights, cloudy days, and cooling days of fall? Is the prospect of more time inside and less time outside getting me down?

Maybe a little of each, but right now I’m feeling the loss of the endless daylight of summer and the wandering; the unparalleled freedom of movement that comes with the changing nature of water. Alive today with rippled texture, dark and steep tomorrow, still and oily black first thing in the morning, gunmetal grey and choppy by dusk. The land, tamed like my life on it, seems static. Boxed in.

I sit at my desk listening to the rain splatter on the skylight, staring at the white void that is my paper and I try to relive my favorite moments of cruising. Some of the drawings turn out as total junk. Multiple layers of watercolor on expensive paper pool into muddled colors and misproportioned shapes.

Some of the junk slowly reforms with a sharp X-acto knife, like a wave regaining pace in the shallows. It transforms from paper and colors into mountains or a curling fog bank. Soon vast landscapes are re-created in tiny wooden-box dioramas. My boat and my memory become quiet scenes and scary moments, small enough to hold in the palm of my hand, big enough, I hope to keep me going until I can wander again.


  1. I love the dioramas! On December 6-7 I got to do an overnight backpack on the Upper Dungeness river in the Olympics in the rain with a friend. I had never done that before and it was so empowering to go out in weather and a time of year I usually wouldn’t consider. I highly recommend it!
    All the best, Scott

      1. The temperatures were probably in the mid 30s as it was raining, but the ground was frozen just below the surface. My friend had a tent. We cooked a meal and made tea over my little pop can alcohol stove and got in the tent early, as it was dark by about 5. I brought two backpacking quilts that I stacked. Bill Mason of canoeing fame recommended stacking three sleeping bags and you can always sleep on top of the ones you don’t need for warmth. Also make sure you have an insulated sleeping pad. I used a short thermarest over a closed cell foam camp mat. I was toasty. There wasn’t much wind, so that was nice. We only did one night, so we figured if we had a miserable night we would just be hiking out the next day anyway, but it was nice, even though my friend’s tent leaked a little. I had a tarp too, that I could have set up, but the sleeping quilts were warm and the leak wasn’t too bad. In a boat you could take even more warm stuff easier than backpacking, so, as long as you plan your weather and anchor in a sheltered spot, you could go any time of the year around here. It sure opens up the possibilities! Go with someone you like to have conversations with or bring a good book, because the nights are longer, but that can be a real advantage if you want to relax.
        Will winter camp cruising become a new PNW fad?
        All the best, Scott

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