The Ying and Yang of Rope

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I have a thing for rope.

I have a lot of rope pictures. There’s something about rope that resonates. It’s useful and dangerous both. It can be used to bind, a perfect metaphor for the things that hold us back in life, one of my recurring themes in my poetry and work.

But it can also be used to control the things that run amok.

I first fell in love with ropes when I was six. My father had bought a slightly wrecked sailboat, a Penguin class dingy. He worked on it through the fall and winter and we took it out in early June for our maiden voyage on the James River.

My father had never sailed. He learned all he knew, both to repair the dingy and to sail it, in books. This warm day at Claremont beach was not just the boat’s maiden voyage, it was ours.

I remember that first voyage. My only experience with boats was motorboats. You know, you turn on the motor, aim it and go.  And those had been larger boats. The Penguin is just under twelve feet long and, well, a little fragile feeling.

Off into the river we went. It was so exciting. And for a six-year-old kid, just a little scary. I sat in the front of the boat, taking it all in, when we hit the wake of a ship, some sort of big tanker kind of ship. The waves spilled over the bow, where I was sitting. According to my dad, I climbed the mast trying to get away from the waves. I suspect he exaggerates, but it did scare me to death.

We made it back to shore just fine. And despite that first frightening experience. I grew to love sailboats. When I was fourteen, and my father moved from sailboats to motorboats for a while, I bought my own sailboat, which I kept into my thirties.

I love sailing, even if I have not done it in a while. And ropes are part of that. With the right rigging, ropes give you the ability to capture the wind, to use it, to control the speed
and lean of the boat, to make it go fast as possible, or laze slowly. WIth ropes, I could harness that power.

Another metaphor. Ropes don’t have to be the things that hold us back. They can be the things that help us harness the power we all have in our own lives. It’s all in how we use them.

That’s how I see life. It’s rarely that the thing, event, or experience is inherently good or bad. More than the thing itself, it’s how we use them, what we do with the things that shape us. In my own life, I have done many things well, and some not well at all. But in the end, it was more about what I did with them. Even the bad stuff could be turned to good if I had the sense and courage to make them work for me.

I am the kind of guy who needs reminders. So my life and work are full of those reminders to help keep me on track and remind me of the things that are important, so I am not distracted from them. In my house, my office, even my old Isuzu Trooper, there are things sitting around to remind me. From the small bookmark affixed to my desk with Churchill’s words “Never, Never, Never give up.” or the rock from Michael Dooley that says “Thoughts become things.”, I surround myself with reminders.

Everything is a lesson. And when I see ropes, the biggest reminder is whether you are a person or an organization, that the very things that bind us, can free us. I need that reminder from time to time, and so I snap pictures of ropes everywhere I find them. I write poetry about ropes. I use them as a metaphor with my clients who want to move forward in their life and work.

So yes, I have a thing about ropes. And now you know why.

Have a blessed day. Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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