merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

September 10, 2013

a lesson in humility...

Have you ever had one of those monumentally humbling moments?  You know, the kind where you're usually feeling pretty good about yourself, the way you're life is going, more specifically the way you're handling the way your life is going, and then all of a sudden you get a snowplow to the face?  Yup, that happened to me this summer when Beady turned my way and said, "Hey, Denise asked if we wanted to hike Gulf Hagas with her this week, what do you think?"  

A must read, loved it!!
Now hiking isn't something I do a lot of, however I really, really like it and since we were up in that neck of the woods (Northern Maine) I figured why not take advantage of the beauty absolutely everywhere?  It wouldn't be too difficult, I mean, it's not as if we're climbing a mountain, and it certainly wouldn't be Cheryl Strayed, Wild difficult, so I was pretty confident the day would be fairly safe.

Okay, this is where the humbling begins.  Sometimes, being the wife of a merchant mariner gives me an inflated sense of self.  I often think  how incredibly strong and independent I am having to manage the house, the bills, multiple crises, our family life, and my own world when Beady's gone.  Yes, it helps me get through the tough times and I'll never stop doing it, but it also, occasionally, sets me up for massive nose dives that hurt like hell when I finally get back up off the ground.  And so it began as we headed out on a gorgeous Tuesday morning to meet up with Denise.

Fun times!
A little background here...Denise is one of the perks that came with marrying Beady.  A friend of the family, she and her husband Jim have given me so many incredible moments of 'pee in your pants' laughter over the years, I almost always have to buy new unmentionables when I travel to Bangor.  (I'm really not kidding.)  Case in point, here's a pic (taken by Jim) of Denise and I manning the grills at my sister in laws wedding last month during, what felt like, some sort of Ft Lauderdale wet t-shirt contest gone horribly wrong when hurricane strength wind meets monsoon season moved in.  So you can imagine the prospect of spending an entire day with her was exciting to me.  Yes, I was a little nervous about hiking for 8 miles, but Merchant Mariner Wife took over and stuffed those feelings down, writing them off as sissified and childish.  Oh dear...

 It began as it should, I guess, Denise picking us up in her Professional Hiking Vehicle.  You know the one, you've seen it on the highway a million times and thought, 'Those people must be on their way to a terrific hiking adventure and then they'll probably come back and have some really great coffee at a secluded, out of the way coffeehouse with other fabulous hiking people.'  Yup, that vehicle.  When she alighted (love that word, not used nearly enough in this day and age) from said car, my smile dropped and I began to feel as if I was significantly under-prepared for the day's upcoming events.  Denise was the epitome of hiking chic in the best way possible...without even trying.  From the tips of her well worn hiking boots to the refined dignity of her pixie cut, 'no mess no fuss' hair, she struck a chord of fear in my heart as I realized my Sears brand capris and super on-sale, discounted at least 3 times sneakers from Kohl's probably weren't going to cut it in the great outdoors.  As she opened the trunk of her car, my fear swelled to even greater heights when I noticed her appropriately sized pack and  mentally compared it to the one we brought.  Yup...that's right...we brought one for the two of us.  And not just any old backpack, but one whose size was fit for a pre-schooler.  You see, we found it at the Salvation Army the day before for $3, with enough room to carry a few bottles of small water, some lunch, and bug spray because that's all we rationalized two grown adults would need on an 8 mile hike.  As I unsuccessfully tried to self-soothe, my eyes also wandered over to the walking poles she brought for safety.  'Walking poles?  Walking poles?  Why didn't we think of that?!  There weren't any of those at the Salvation Army store!  We're gonna die!'  I smiled more than a little idiotically at Beady, then at Denise, then back at Beady and ran frantically for the toilet inside.  At least I wouldn't be caught on the trail with my Sears capris full of poop!

As soon as my bowels recovered, we were off and it wasn't too long until the beautiful Maine countryside began to ease the nervous tension throughout my body, allowing room for a thimble-full of self-confidence to return, after all, I'm Merchant Mariner Wife, I can do anything!  So I finally started to relax, laughing at Denise's stories, anticipating a truly pleasant day with a funny lady and my man.  About 45 minutes in, we stopped at a gas station to wait for the rest of her friends to arrive, get a quick snack and use the restroom if needed.  Having purchased a few items, Beady headed back to the car mentioning he needed a quick change into more comfortable clothing as we were nearing Gulf Hagas.  Barely listening, I nodded my head and continued to look around admiring the fact that all a person really needs to get by in life was scattered throughout the tiny store.  After using the restroom, a mere precaution, I stepped back outside and looked around the small parking lot, feeling peaceful and more than a little bit grateful for the wondrous summer morning, when my eye spotted an attractive couple off to the left.  The man was tall, good size, and in the process of shedding breakaway pants and a light sweatshirt to reveal hiking shorts and one of those breathable t shirts which had a flattering, masculine fit.  He was laughing casually at his partner as she talked animatedly in between sips from her water bottle.  She was stunning in a very natural way, no makeup, petite build, pixie hair cut...wait a friggin' minute!  It was Beady and Denise!  Where in the hell did he get those clothes?!!  We've been away from our home for a month now and had brought the bare essentials, as far as clothes went, on vacation with us.  Why does he look like a model from an L.L. Bean catalog who just arrived on set to begin the photo shoot with his counterpart for the Hiking/Camping section?  (In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have been surprised at the Chief Mate, always prepared, I'm guessing he had scuba gear in our adolescent back pack, just in case.)  My capris suddenly began to feel tighter and I wanted to run and hide so no one would see the Disney t-shirt I had on underneath my windbreaker.  I reluctantly headed towards them, feeling not only that they made a great looking couple, but that somehow, Mickey Mouse and I were intruding on the hike/photo shoot, whatever.

Money Shot
Action Shot

By the time I reached the photo shoot car, Denise's friends had shown up and were ready, just itching to get started on the hike, so we packed back into the vehicles and made our way to the entrance of Gulf Hagas in a matter of minutes.  At the check-in, Denise handed over all of our pertinent information, in case one or all of us didn't make it back, to a lovely, older woman who finished up by asking for Denise's plate numbers.  I settled into the office, expecting to have to wait for her to return to the car and retrieve the necessary info, but no...Denise rattled off the digits as if they were the obsessively studied phone number of a high school crush.  'What?' I thought, 'How does she know that by heart?'  'Where did she come from?'  and, 'I want to be just like her!' raced through my mind as I recounted the embarassing number of times I'd had to step out of a hotel lobby and walk the shameful steps to my jeep to get my own license plate number.  By the way, here's what I was transfixed with, actually considering the color crayons I'd use to complete my masterpiece, while Denise was arranging our little expedition with the caretaker.

Okay, look...I'm not going to bore you further with the details as there were many more little stories like this that occurred for the rest of the day.  Denise saves the day...Me color.  I think you get the picture, right?  DENISE IS AMAZING.  Yes, she had the requisite compass, GPS device, camel pack for water, snacks to feed the masses crammed into two tiny bags and the added bonus of mace that Jim had recently bestowed upon her for the solitary hiking she frequented.  Denise was the picture of safety, responsibility and preparedness and it was surprisingly disarming to me.  She was the real deal, the girl they send in to rescue chics like me who don completely inappropriate attire and bring two small water bottles for what turned out to be a 6 hour hike.  She was the kind of woman I aspire to be in many ways, if that even makes any sense.  Yes, I think I'm amazing at times, yes, I think there are lots of people out there who couldn't live as a merchant mariner spouse, but yes (and even more importantly) there are lots of people who could do what I do and Denise is definitely one of them.  In fact, I know she'd be a lot better at it than I am...ouch, that hurts.   

Oh...if you're curious, it was a beautiful day and I made it (barely) through the entire Gulf Hagas Trail, mostly from shame as we had an 11 year old along for the hike with us, but that was okay because I was with Denise and there's more than enough room for two amazing women in this world.     

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner


  1. I carry a little pack with water and makeup. That's it. Hub carries everything else plus anything we would need in any situation, including a first aid kit. Now that we have an inflatable kayak, he's happy to add any water fun/emergency to our hiking and camping. And yes, we have walking sticks, which really helps! Since he's taught USCG approved celestial navigation classes, I never worry about getting lost ha ha. He can just shoot some stars or whatever he does. Now that you know, go to REI and get some cute clothes and shoes and sticks and have fun! Oh, and a good hat.