Thursday, February 20, 2014

Be Our Guest - Sherry Galey


by Dotti

About the time I was thinking about whom to invite to be our February guest, I read on Sherry Galey’s blog, Still and All, that she and her husband were getting ready to leave their home in Canada for points south in Florida to spend the winter on their boat. I don’t know about you, but this is a dream that captivates my imagination and I wanted to hear more about it so I asked Sherry  to be our guest today. Sherry is a longtime member of our FOL family and I think you’ll enjoy her story and getting to know her a little better. Please join me in welcoming Sherry to our pages today. {In addition to her blog which I’ve linked above, you can see more of Sherry’s beautiful photography on her Flickr photostream.}

Lessons from a life afloat...


She must find a boat and sail in it. No guarantee of shore. Only a conviction that what she wanted could exist, if she dared to find it.

                                                                                                                                  Jeanette Winterson

Lesson 1: Find a way to do what makes you come alive



For the past three winters, I’ve been living a dream on a 36-foot sailboat called Windsong II – and sharing it with Bob and Charles, our Westie. We’re not fans of cold weather so we’ve chosen to spend our time away from the snow, ice, freezing temperatures of our Canadian winters. Lately, this has meant going to Florida but we hope to explore the Bahamas, too.

Our dream didn’t materialize overnight, and it didn’t come easily. We took risks, We made sacrifices. We climbed steep learning curves. But without a doubt, it has all been worth it.

Everything started with a wake up call some 11 years ago. 

One hot summer day, Bob, the love of my life, suffered a sudden heart attack while painting. Happily, he recovered well, but the scare made us both take stock. We resolved to stop taking our life and health for granted. Neither of us wanted to reach the end of the line only to realize that we had failed to honour the deepest longings of our hearts. 

Soon afterward, Bob retired and started pursuing his boyhood dream of learning to sail. I joined him in that and also began to seriously explore my lifelong fascination with photography. These were passions we had both put on hold until "later." We launched an ongoing conversation about how we could spend more time together doing more of what each of us loved best. 

Luckily, sailing and photography are a match made in heaven. But I was still on the treadmill of a demanding communications job, and it wasn't immediately obvious how I could get off and we could make our dreams come true. I knew deep inside, though, that if we were 100% committed, with a bit daring, creativity and hard work, we could find a way. 

So we kept brainstorming, researching and crunching numbers until a plan was hatched. It involved trading a house in the city for a house in a small town and a sailboat.  

Fast forward to January 2012. I had retired -- which, after 30 years in the workforce, felt a bit like jumping off a cliff without a parachute -- and after an intensive search, we found the right boat for us in southeast Florida. 

Adventure beckoned in our new floating home -- and I was ready with my camera to capture it.

Lesson 2: Your real home is where you feel most in touch with who you are


Martha Beck says that "Heading towards your inner home will take you places—both inside yourself and in the external world—which your heart will recognize as its native environment, even though you have never been there before."

I'd never lived on a boat before. And it's not for everyone, that's for sure. Some people just aren't cut out for fitting a whole life into less square footage than a two-car garage, with only a fraction of the clothes, furniture, appliances, books, gizmos, gadgets, decorations and keepsakes that ordinarily surround us. And I get that.

But living a simpler life with fewer possessions gives me energy and makes me feel free. And what makes me feel free is what makes me feel most at home. This is my heart's native environment.

On a sailboat I'm also closer to nature. I can't help being more attuned to the environment. I practically live outside. My days are longer and slower so I am more present to my experiences. I delight in more sunrises and more sunsets than ever before. When it rains I feel the drops trickle down my face. I stand in awe of the power of the sea. I notice the phases of the moon and the tides. I gaze up in wonder at the stars and feel humbled. I feel the water supporting me as the boat rocks me to sleep. 

And I'm always acutely aware of the strength and direction of the the wind. Or I should be.

That leads me to Lesson 3: Pay attention to the details


Weather is everything on a boat. A few years ago we forgot that.

After a couple of beautiful days at anchor on the way to the Florida Keys we became complacent and failed to check the the weather forecast. The east wind was clocking to the south and increasing to gale force. I huddled in terror in the aft cabin, afraid that our anchor would let go and we would be blown God knows where in the pitch blackness, while Bob watched the GPS like a hawk to see if we were moving. Neither of us got a wink of sleep. I made peace with death that night. We stayed put, thank heavens, but needless to say we didn't make that mistake again.

Paying greater attention to details has helped my photography too. I used to think that it was enough to vaguely aim my camera at an interesting subject and just click. I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't even notice where the shadows were falling or what was going on in the background. I didn't look closely enough. I didn't see clearly enough. My senses weren't sharp enough.

That has changed some after much study, practice and experience. I'm definitely more aware of how details affect an image -- like the time of day, the direction of the light, the temperature of the light, the angle of a face, the tilt of a head, the softness of the background, the juxtaposition of the tones, the precise point of focus…

I understand better now that the overall feeling, mood, message, and story of an image are really the sum total of all the little details that make it up. And that my open, loving awareness can encompass it all.

These are only a few of the many lessons I've learned from my life afloat. I've also discovered the joys of self-sufficiency and community and letting go, but those are stories for another day... 

25 comments:

Sandra said...

Lovely to hear about Sherry's journey and that last photo is my favourite!

Sarah Huizenga said...

Look how far you have come. What an amazing journey!

AFishGirl said...

Bravo to living your dreams. I am going to see the blog now. Freezing rain warning in Nova Scotia (lol)....

Linda said...

Oh what a wonderful thing! Thank you for sharing it with us! Trophy husband and I are currently planning our own time to come alive! I am inspired to see how you made it work, it's a reminder that I can make it work too! Thank you for guest posting today! Enjoy your time on the water! And you know I love Charles!

Carol said...

Wow Sherry - not having followed your blog, I had no idea of the life you're leading. Good for you for making it happen. It's not easy at all - but it makes all things seem possible. And what glorious pictures, and what a serene way to start my day. Thanks for sharing your brave soul with us! Inspirational! (PS I signed up immediately - I am your new follower and I will be following daily!)

heyjudephotography said...

This is so inspirational. I know we all think about living our dreams! You show that it isn't necessarily easy, but definitely doable. I'm so glad you shared your story with us. I've enjoyed your blog and photos for some time now, and it's wonderful to have you here with us today. Smooth sailing Sherry!

Mary Lou van Schaik said...

Sherry, your lessons are thoughtful, insightful and wise and I loved reading back stories that led to each. Thank you!

Barb Brookbank said...

What an incredible story, Sherry. I know you've been living on a boat but I didn't realize what gave you the push. As my husband approaches retirement and we both balk at the very thought of "jumping off that cliff" (with no paycheque), in our hearts we both know that we should be doing. Bravo to you, and your husband. And I mustn't forget to say once again how much I love your beautiful photography.

Deanna said...

Bravo to you and your husband for recognizing the kind of life that fills your hearts with joy and total satisfaction. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life and your beautiful photography with us at FOL.

Viv@within the Frame said...

Fantastic not only are you living the dream, but you have had to fight for it which makes it all the more rewarding.....

terriporter said...

Sherry, I loved this post so much, I went back and read it again before coming here to comment. I've always admired your photography but reading your stories here was such a pleasure! We get to this point in our lives where it is so important to do what we truly love if we possibly can. So happy for you that you have been able to do that. Thank you so much for telling your story and sharing your fabulous photos here at FOL.

Kim Stevens said...

Oh Sherry, I was on the edge of my seat reading your story...I loved every single word of it. I actually just recently saw a post from a friend on Facebook of a couple who (no children) live in a very quaint and simple house that consists of 704 square feet. And the more and more I think about it, after the kids leave I could do that (well maybe just a tad more sq ft) but I love the simplicity of it. I'm a bit claustrophobic so I don't know if I could do it in the cabin of a boat, but I do love the water and the beach and am drawn do it by the very same reasons you posted. Your photos are just gorgeous, and thank you so much for sharing them along with your inspiring story! xo

Linda/patchwork said...

Such a great post!
It's true, that we sometimes get that wake-up call, and it makes us realize if we're going to do what we love, we better get at it.
I've admired your photography, for a while. And, I've enjoyed your blog, as well. (I'm not always good at commenting. :/) You have an enviable lifestyle.
And, I have to say....Charles is quite handsome.
Thanks for taking us along with you.

eyeonenvironment said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post!! Did I mention that I love it? Great message, beautifully written...and the photos are lovely too.

Dotti said...

Great job, Sherry - but you already knew I loved this post, your photos and your blog. Oh, yes! And Charles. Thanks again!

sherrygaley said...

Thank you so much, Dotti, for the opportunity to share here at FOL! And thanks to all of you for the sincere and encouraging comments. My heart bursts with appreciation.

leigh said...

What an amazing adventure Sherry! I love hearing about this. Thank you so much for joining us today!

kelly said...

sherry what an amazing story. i've been enjoying your beautiful photography on flickr for a while, but now to really know the story. so beautiful!

cheryl Crotty said...

Oh my Sherry...even though my contact on the web is limited while we are away, I always check to see what your up and and I was so happy to check in today...your story is heartwarming, brave and inspiring...
I think we all have a background story that leads up to where we are today...but the thing that keeps coming up for me in it all is how you "get it"...how you get and understand and then acted on...what life is all about...I get that also...life's experiences puts choices in front of us and only we can decide in which direction to go...now I'm never going to live on a sailboat...but I do understand that I need to do "my thing"...even if others don't understand..
And like you, photography not only helped me get through a very difficult time in my life, it has become my joy...and now, who knew, I'm teaching..(working on that now), a challenge for sure.
This was a beautifully written post, thought provoking and honest...I commend you for choosing life..over mundane...thank you for sharing your husband and of course Charlie...and keep on keeping on my friend...you are a true gift to all who struggle to see life in a more simpler way...
xoxo

Cathy H. said...

A beautiful story! I can feel your joy and happiness in your words!

Indigo Janson said...

And this is why you are a shining example of not just living a dream, but going out there and making it happen. Because when you do, what happens next is beautiful, as your photography shows. Thanks for sharing your adventures (and loved ones) with us in words and images, Sherry.

Helen said...

Your lifestyle sounds idyllic - I wish we could be so brave as to follow in your footsteps and live the dream.

kimmanleyort said...

And not just making it happen, but realizing what it's taught you. A wonderful post, Sherry. You are an inspiration to many, including me. My husband and I have definitely jumped off a cliff in a different way - now we just have to figure out how to find some respite in the coldest part of the winter months. This summer I plan to take sailing lessons in NOTL.

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...

Truly amazing.

Virginia Fobert said...

Love this Sherry. Great motivation for all of us to 'set sail'. Thanks for sharing.

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