Monday, September 6, 2010


I'm back! I survived my week long sailing trip and no one fell off the boat. More importantly, none of our four adult, four child party succumbed to homicidal rage and killed one another cooped up in the cabin together. This is quite a triumph considering we were wind bound in the boat for about three days during a gale. Can you say family togetherness? I'm writing a special prayer as we speak to use at nighttime for the purposes of increasing the odds your mooring lines will hold and your boat won't go careening into the other boats around you and shatter on the rocks. I worked out the rough draft during sleepless nights on Odin listening to the gale winds and riding the rocking waves. But really, given the circumstances, the trip went incredibly well.

Above is the view from the back of our 41 foot Ketch named the "Odin". And we did get good weather the second half of the adventure. I didn't become the perfect sailor, but I did participate letting out lines as we raised or lowered sails, shouting wind swallowed orders between the Captain (my hubby) at the front of the boat and our friend who did most of the steering, passing sail ties, helping to bunch up reefed sail, and doing some minimal steering of my own, not to mention some food prep for the sailing crew and running intervention with my kids in between. You know, the parenting gig.

Most interesting was living in close quarters with another family. We were blessed to have a lovely couple sail with us. Our kids even got along. I'd worked with the woman of the couple years ago, so we had a lot in common. Reflecting on our shared space, my thoughts strayed to places in time and to other cultures where groups of people lived together constantly. Not like the nuclear families in the US today. It makes sense to me, this communal living. You know the saying, "it takes a village...." I believe it. Unfortunately, too many people are lacking their village nowadays. Here's where I hook my vacation back with my storytelling.

I write about alternative lifestyles and often about groups of people falling in love. (No, our boat trip was not like that. We were simple friends sharing a week together.) And fantasy is lovely and well worth indulging in as writers explore multiple realities. But my writing also reflects my value system. I respect the multitude of choices people make about love and the combinations that takes. I believe creative expression opens one up to a world of possibilities. Like a permanent hit of some drug, it reduces anxiety, reduces depression, opens up thinking, loosens and stirs everything inside. Families might do better living together, making up for one anothers weaker areas, relying on one anothers strengths to create a whole that is richer, more varied and more interesting. Quite apart, even, from considerations of sexual partnerships.

It's not like the idea is new. It's only the modern age which brought the limitation to our thinking about what family means. So as much as I write about romantic love between non-traditional partners, I think it's just as important to think about what happens after the fun sexy parts. The kids that are born or adopted into those units. The way adults share a life and support one another and their offspring if they choose to have them. What that means as the members age. Our extended family, when we're lucky enough to live close by to them these days, are the remnants of this old style group living. The most recent examples of group life include everything from those with grandparents who lived with them when they were kids, to the kibbutz movement in Israel as it used to exist (or any of the other commune experiments of the recent past). I know I'm discounting other examples, but you can include those in your comments.

So what do you think about the realities of alternative lifestyles apart from the romantic version on the pages of books? I know the topic could be controversial, but, heck, I write about BDSM. I'm not averse to a little pain.

All this from sailing. Wonder what I'll ask if I come back from a camping trip?


Wynter Daniels said...

My former neighbors were a lesbian couple with three kids (One's eggs, the other carried them) and one partner's older (teens and twenties) kids. They didn't differ much except for the two mommies thing and are one of the most loving, accepting families I know. I'm all for happy families, whatever that entails.

Michelle Polaris said...

I agree Wynter. Living successfully in a committed relationship is a difficult enough thing. No one type of combination has the corner on the market of success. As long as it works for that family, I'm all for it.

Jina Bacarr said...

Thoughtful post, Michelle. In a world growing ever more technological, it's important to have strong family commitments. You've done a great job explaining the importance of that.

Dalton Diaz said...

Our parents lived in the village scenario, growing up with lots of brothers and sisters and extended family all around. I grew up with one brother, tho we did a the holiday get togethers, etc. These days, kids are scattered across the globe and holidays are split between families. My kids didn't grow up with cousins.

I miss the village, even the little piece of it I had growing up.

Michelle Polaris said...

My extended family is now scattered as well, and I believe it's been within my lifetime that the last major shift to fragmented families has happened. It's very sad. And it challenges me to figure out ways to provide some of what is missing to my family. Thanks for the comments.