Talking Suicide

September 10th 2018 was World Suicide Prevention Day. To mark the day from a personal point of view, I put up a post on my Facebook page and Tweeted too. A few weeks ago I was filmed by the RNLI Film and Image Unit for a short film they are making about my voluntary role with Tobermory RNLI Lifeboat and my accompanying mental health struggles. I recently had a long and helpful appointment with ‘my’ Community Psychiatric Nurse after a long period of not seeing her. This blog entry is a description of how I live with my suicidal thoughts. I hope by sharing this incredibly intimate aspect of my self, I will help increase awareness and understanding about deep depression and suicide. This is an account of my personal experience and cannot be read as a generalisation of suicide per se. I am confident though, that there are contextual similarities with others who struggle like me which will be helpful.

Recently, despite the many good aspects of my life and my uniquely privileged lifestyle, I have been fighting familiar intrusive thoughts that my life is worthless, that I am worthless and it follows that the most natural conclusion is to take my life. These are not constant thoughts which continue to eat away at me through the day and night. They intrude at the most inopportune moments, sometimes fleetingly but generally with enough force to stick for a good while. They are private thoughts, triggered by any number of interpersonal interactions, thoughts, memories and moments. An incredibly astute observer might see for a split second, a grimace of pain cross my face when these thoughts of death reach into me. They would also hear me emit a muted cry of pain or a deep, lingering sigh.

Since I’m so used to this happening, I find myself burying these thoughts and feelings, fighting them inwards and hiding them deep within me. I used to be a psychotherapist so ‘internal dialogue’ fits comfortably as a term which describes what’s occurring. The thing is, there is no voice attached to these thoughts. I do not hear myself or anyone else, actual or imagined. They are thoughts accompanied by powerful emotional and physical feelings. Essentially they are beliefs - basically an overarching belief that my life should come to an end because of my ineptitude as a person.

Whether these thoughts are serious enough for me to become worried about my intentions and I consequently reach out for help, depend on how I grade them. Because I recognise them so clearly now, I give them levels of seriousness depending on how they arrive in my psyche, into my being and how durably they ‘stick’. First off I have the fanciful thoughts. The ones which are romantic notions of taking my life. This could be anything from the day being a lovely and sunny one, when I might think, “this would be a nice day to die”. Or, “I could head out in my kayak, capsize and drift off towards the far horizon”. The latter might be a response to recalling a moment of embarrassment when I believe I behaved badly to someone in my past. This kind of fanciful thinking serves to assuage my painful thinking in the moment by being a distraction, where I fantasize about a semi-honourable death, drifting off towards slow oblivion in a suitably restless sea.

A level up from the fanciful ideations are the ‘thought punches’ into my head and the ‘body blows’ into my being. These are powerful enough to stick and set in train semi-serious thoughts of suicide. Unchecked they might build into more enduring beliefs that the most obvious solution is to take myself off to my chosen tree and hang myself. If they occur in the dark hours of the deep night when I ping wide awake, as I often do, I might consider slipping out onto the deck of our yacht and lowering myself into the night-time sea to eventually die of hypothermia. I would be clad only in my underpants because I never want to be found naked. These thoughts and feelings of powerful desperation are promulgated by the more entrenched self-beliefs I hold about myself. Examples of these being; believing I’m a feckless father, a life failure in employment and business, a wasteful daydreamer, an untrustworthy person, a poor friend, I have nothing of worth to offer, I am a burden, and so the seemingly inexhaustive list continues. These thoughts and feelings may present themselves at any time, whether life is going well or I’m struggling with a dose of depression. Generally of course, they are stronger and more present when my mood is low. I have learned to rationalise these thoughts, to attempt to see them for what they are and realise that it’s certainly not logical to act on them. If I think I’m struggling with this process I might express to Karen (my wife), that I’m having a tough time and “I’m feeling suicidal”. This one simple sentence, spoken out loud and knowing I have been heard, is usually enough to dissipate the strength of the feelings and/or the thoughts I’m experiencing.

However, there are times when these body blow suicidal thoughts stick like a ball of mud thrown against a brick wall. With sun, the mud might set rock hard and become insoluble. (It reminds me of when I was a boy in Africa, my friends and I used to have battles with clay lakkies - hand squeezed balls of mud on the tips of whippy sticks, which when flicked like a tennis serve, sent the mud screaming through the air. Brutally powerful and accurate. Great fun as well to plaster house walls with nasty splats of mud!) What happens is, I find myself unable to now rationalise my thinking with any certainty. The thoughts metamorphose into beliefs and these then set deep within me. The primary belief being that the time has come to end my life and there is no point in lingering any longer. It could be that I might be berating myself for being a horribly curmudgeonly husband or as with 2017, a useless sea kayak guide. The belief that I am eternally useless, worthless and a burden to others, takes root and instead of distracting myself from this belief, I find myself arguing, “why not kill myself?”

This is a dangerous time for me. This is when the thought of death has become realistically pragmatic. It has shifted from being an attractive desire, to one where it is now the most reasonable solution. When I am at this depth, I begin to make my plans. I have already chosen my tree. It is local, within ten minutes walk and hidden from public view. I know the type of rope I will use and its length. Being an outdoor instructor, I know the specific knots I will tie. The only unknown is whether to leap off the branch in the hope I break my neck, or lower myself off and hang until strangulation has done its work. More recently I have been considering immersion in the sea and dying of hypothermia but here, I find myself pulling up short, because I don’t want my Tobermory RNLI colleagues to be the ones who find me. In terms of being found, I have in the past prepared letters for the local police and coastguard with GPS coordinates of my suicide location. I have also written letters to individual family members.

When this is occurring for me, I am now in the grip of deep depression with a very strong desire for suicide.

Even in this state, with every fibre of my being now craving my obliteration, I find within myself a desire to hang on to life and I make my thoughts and intentions known, not only to my wife but my community mental health support network too. This may be the psychiatrist, the community psychiatric nurse or the local GP. I will do so knowing that I may be admitted to hospital and in some respects, this is what I desire for hospital is a safe haven for me. What I fear most, is that the final decision to take my life will be made beyond my conscious awareness. I know within myself from my adventure activities, that before a risky undertaking I have a propensity to weigh up all the factors, and once done, if they are in my favour, to suddenly act without a conscious decision to do so. It’s almost as if my body moves into action before a cognitive process has taken place. I believe that if (when) I take my life, this is how it will be. I will be in the firm grip of a belief that death is the only course of action to take, I will have negated the consequences and I will act on this - suddenly. I use the word courage to describe the motivating emotion which will literally see me release myself from the tree branch I will hang from..

Equally, it is courage which drives me to struggle against the forces raging within me. The belief that I must die is real - in that it appears very real. Any amount of dissuasion by concerned others does not seem to work. I hear their words but do not take them in. In a vain act of self-aggrandisement, I argue the reasons why I believe I have the right to choose my own path and it’s far better for me to end the pain I am struggling with - for pain it is! It’s a palpable emotional, cognitive and physical pain, gripping my thinking and emotions along with a agonised chest. My mind is a continuous maelstrom of self-destructive thinking and the dreadful reasons why this should be the case.

In these moments despite my firm belief that I must die, I do find myself making agreements to keep safe and to make contact with the health professionals if I’m feeling close to acting. In this regard, I’m thankful that I’m a person of some honour because I feel duty bound to keep my word. When I’m considering taking myself off to my death, I find myself agonising with the fact that I would be breaking my word if I went through with the act. However, even then, I have moments when the desire for death is more powerful than my reasoning and this is when I will choose to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. Here, cocooned in the warmth of the ward, I believe myself to be safe.

Recovery happens. Inevitably it takes root within the process of my struggles and inexorably I begin my long climb back to normal reality. Slowly and surely the light and colour returns to my world and to my thinking. Through dialogue and peaceful ‘time out’, I readily grasp onto nuggets of hope and my beliefs of the inevitability of my death are replaced with aspirations and plans for the future. Needless to say this process of recovery is not linear and there will be times when it seems as if I slip backwards. These moments or relegation become sparser as time goes by until at long last, I’m feeling like my happier adventurous self again.

Recovery does not mean an absence of my depression. This will always be there in my life and very recently, I have come to accept that it is an illness I will have to live with, rather than constantly seek a cure. Not having acted on my suicidal desires and thoughts does not mean that I do not have them or that they are not serious. These are not prosaic cries of help which I have often heard suicide referred to in the past. They are real for me and it is only through fighting hard for myself, that I manage to keep myself from acting on my desires.

Being open about my mental health struggles is becoming increasingly helpful for me. Each time I share my struggle (as I am doing here), I gain confidence in sharing more often because of the warmth and the love I receive when I do. My online community of friends and acquaintances are instrumental in this process. Twitter for me is a power for good! I hope that by being open I may normalising the dialogue around the subject of suicide. This is my hope, that increasingly, our society will become less offended or frightened by the subject and becomes willing to really listen to those who need to talk about their suicidal thinking. It is my experience that it is not helpful when I express my suicidal desires some people either change the subject away from the issue, or attempt to make it better by telling me of all the reasons I have to live. I term the latter a sticking plaster approach. Both responses are undoubtedly well meaning and I am grateful for any time I am given by those who have a desire to see my internal pain healthily diminished.

To bring this blog entry to conclusion, I want to say, at the moment of writing this I am safe. I am currently experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings but I have these in check. There is enough firm reality in my life for me to focus on and I have exciting plans to fulfil. Additionally, there are the powerful metaphoric insights I gained from my 3 Peaks by Kayak journey earlier this year to remind me that suicide is a permanent solution to an impermanent situation. The simplest and most enduring of the metaphoric insights being “live life” when I saw a tragically injured Gannet on the island of Ailsa Craig and “this discomfort will pass” when I was struggling across the eighteen long miles of Luce Bay against a strong ebb tide.

Finally, thank you for reading what I have shared and I welcome any responses you may have. If you have been touched by what I have written and my words resonate and have a personal impact on you, please don’t dwell and find someone you are able to chat to about what you are experiencing. Please take good care of yourself.

Thank you.

A Fresh Start

8th May 2106! That was my last blog entry and what a lot of water has flowed under my bridge since then. I'm not certain where to begin, so I think I'll resort to a hasty summary of what has happened since that last post.

I ended up staying in hospital well into the summer and returned to our home in the marina on Loch Fyne. My recovery was well under way and it was wonderful to be home again but I still had a way to go before I could confidently say this bout of depression was at an end. It wasn't long before we were making plans for a move to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull as well as making ready for the arrival of our new yacht too. Karen had found a job in Tobermory which suited her down to the ground and the opportunities for work there for me were far greater than they were on the Cowal Peninsula. So, in August 2016 Karen moved to Mull and I waited for the new yacht to arrive which it did at the beginning of September. It was a momentous moment when along with a friend I cast off from Portavadie Marina to sail our Colvic 33 to Tobermory. Four days later our new home was safely berthed on the pontoons in Tobermory Harbour.

There followed a period of settling in where I took time to establish myself in the community and sadly continued to struggle with severe bouts of depression. Thankfully I was well supported by the community mental health nurse and the psychiatrist. Despite the periods of deep lowness I found myself enjoying my new surroundings. The Isle of Mull is a lovely island with so much to explore and enjoy. The walking is second to none and the coastline is one of the finest to explore in a sea kayak. As the winter deepened we hunkered down in our boat and safely rode out the passing winter storms.

The new yacht has transformed our live aboard life. She is twice the size of our previous yacht and is well appointed with two sleeping cabins, two heads, a shower, hot water system, a lovely saloon and an excellent galley. She is also a lovely boat to sail - seaworthy, which is ideal for us. The extra space has allowed us to live comfortably with a sense that we are definitely in our home and not in a small yacht.

On our mooring in Tobermory Harbour.

On our mooring in Tobermory Harbour.

When the New Year arrived we found ourselves becoming accepted by the Tobermory community. I became involved with the local lifeboat fundraising committee and from this I was invited to become a Deputy Launching Authority for the Tobermory Lifeboat. An honour and a responsibility I'm proud to have taken on. In doing this I have found my social circle has widened to the point where I can't remember enjoying the company of so many friends for many years. It is a wonderful feeling to go about my business around the town and always be bumping into folks I know and who know me. Another important aspect for me is the fact that folks are interested in me and for the first time in a long, long while I feel acknowledged for who I am.

At the beginning of the summer I established a sea kayak guiding service in Tobermory with the generous assistance of Chris of Clearwater Paddling. Essentially I am working for him as a guide here on the Isle of Mull but without his generosity in agreeing to set up a Mull wing to his business, I would not be doing something I love - sea kayak guiding. So far the business is going well and there is a lot of interest. It is lovely to take people out and around Tobermory Bay, showing them the sights and sharing with them the joys of sea kayaking on the west coast of Scotland.

I am free of my deep depression at the moment and I look forward to the coming months with hope and excitement. There is a lot to be joyous about living here and there are many times when I pinch myself to make sure that I am where I am.

I look forward too to writing many more blog entries with a more upbeat tone to them.

Digging Deep - A Sea Kayaking Parable

A few days ago my wife took me to the beautiful wee beach at Kilmory on the Kintyre coast between Loch Sween and West Loch Tarbert. It feels like a secret idyll which involves a ten mile journey through some of the finest wooded and coastal landscape that Scotland has to offer. The lovely white sandy beach faces west with the panoply of the Islay and Jura skyline dominating the view across the breezily ruffled Sound of Jura. We had taken a picnic and we settled back to a wonderful few hours under the strengthening early summer sun. It was glorious.

Proaig Bothy

Looking across the ten miles to the Isle of Jura I was reminded of the day last year when I kayaked forty seven miles from Proaig Bothy on Islay via the lifeboat station at Port Askaig, back down the Sound of Islay into the Sound of Jura, across to the mainland and then northwards to Crinan. The day before I had kayaked forty five miles from the Mull of Kintyre to the bothy on Islay. These were to be the longest mileage days of my trip.

I had set off from the bothy at six in the morning and paddled against a gusty wind and the makings of a strong opposing tide. I hopped through the eddys along the shore delighting in the sculpted cliffs mottled with intriguing caves. At my passing, seals sloshed off the rocks into the sea and inquisitively trailed in my wake. Slipping neatly through the swirling tidal waters into Port Askaig I arrived alongside the lifeboat. After a quick scramble ashore to visit the lifeboat station I was soon afloat again keen to make the most of the eastward tide down the Sound of Islay.

With a strengthening following wind and a favourable tide it took me only an hour to paddle the eight miles to the tip of the island of Jura where I turned northwards into the Sound of Jura. Now, as I kayaked along the eastern coastline of the island the wind was on my port beam and as I emerged from the shelter of the various skerries I was almost bowled over by the gusts. The forecast was for strong winds reaching twenty five knots. What had been plain sailing now became something of a struggle, maintaining steady headway while coping with the forceful gusts. Reaching the Small Isles which guard Craighouse Bay I drew deep breaths while I rested and smiled at the antics of the Common Terns and the eponymous Oystercatchers. My plan was to kayak along the Jura coastline to the narrowest point of the Sound and find a camp spot. The next day I would hop across to the mainland and make my way along the north Kintyre coast to Crinan where our yacht, my home, was moored on the canal - and where my wife was waiting.

By the time I reached the open mouth of Lowlandman's Bay the strength of the wind was beginning to really dog me. I began to lose the will to continue and I debated with myself about pulling ashore at the earliest opportunity and calling it a day. There would be no shame in doing this especially while the conditions were like they were. From time to time fierce rain squalls would sweep down on me from the Paps on my left and make life pretty miserable. I plodded on - slow paddle stroke after another. By the time I reached Lagg four miles later, I was about done in and ready to stop.

Then, seemingly from nowhere the decision to make the six mile crossing to the mainland occurred. It was rash and possibly unwise given the strength of the wind but I went for it anyway. I had a desire to spend my night on the mainland with only a few remaining miles to complete before reaching home the next day. What followed was an exhilarating (if frightening) hour and a bit blast across the Sound of Jura to the safe haven of Keill Chapel harbour. The sea heaped up around me and surfed me along. From time to time the odd wave collapsed onto my stern deck and at times my spraydeck causing me to reach out in an urgent brace. I couldn't relax for a second wary of rogue waves which threatened to slap me over. It doesn't do to look behind when kayaking in a large following sea - it is ominously frightening! I made it safely across and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I was finally sitting in the calm waters of the harbour. I set about scanning the shore for a suitable place to camp but could only see watery bog fringing all around. I was worn out but there lay within me the desire to keep going. Looking out I saw the sea smashing itself furiously against the natural rock harbour walls. It seemed fearsome and I really didn't want to head back out into it. I sat still and pondered my situation.

I could camp here. I had camped in worse places. I could paddle further and stop at the next most suitable spot but this was likely to be five miles away. I could keep going all the way to Crinan and then I would be home. I tussled with these choices while around me the wind and the sea roared their advice - egging me onward.

Then it happened - I dug deep into my resources, executed a purposeful sweep with my left paddle blade and headed back out into the wild seas.

Within me the desire to reach home had strongly outweighed my weariness and my respect for the conditions. It was going to be a demanding few hours but I knew I had it within me to cope. I set off for Crinan, counting each mile as I completed them and realising that I was relishing this particular challenge. I was paddling along a lee shore so the conditions were incredibly rough. Despite this I made excellent progress and three hours and ten miles later I was pulling into the relative calmness of Crinan Bay, eventually landing on the slipway at nine in the evening. I unloaded the kayak and was enjoying a welcome glass of beer with my wife in the hotel bar by last orders!

I recalled all of this while sitting on the beach under the warm sun with the light glinting off the calm waters. Before me now, lies another challenge of sorts. I begin my series of ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy) treatment for my depression and an extended stay in hospital. However I feel I have reached the end of my tether with hospital life and I am definitely ready to return home. It feels to me that I can't take much more of this - the confined space, communal living, regemented routines and being indoors instead of out. Yet the goal of recovering from my depression is extremely attractive and seems after such a long time (years in fact) to be within my reach. It's there if I can stay the course - if I will stay the course.

I'm sure you can see the link - all I have to do to achieve this is to dig deep, head onward and take my chance while I have it. The reward is plain to see.

"One Flew Over..." Life On a Psychiatric Ward

My Space                               Photo: Nick Ray

I clearly remember the first time I was admitted to a psychiatric ward. It was 1998 and I was in crisis with deep clinical depression, very thin and underweight. Then, as I walked onto the ward with the Community Psychiatric Nurse who had brought me in, I remember two emotions flooding my limbic system. The first was fear - a fear of the unknown, the fear of becoming mad, the fear of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". As the loudly alarmed door to the ward closed behind me, the second emotion then enveloped me and this was by far the most useful one. The sensation of safety and the relief of no longer being totally at the mercy of my depression.

Eighteen years later and this is my fifth psychiatric admission. I wouldn't say that I'm now an old hand but I do know what to expect and the fear of the unknown - the fear of entering a world of madness from which I may never escape, has long since disappeared. It's an odd experience for me to feel a sense of normality in an environment where 'normal' is a concept which many folks here are struggling to determine. However being here does seem familiar and comforting. This comfort is largely due to the healthily warm therapeutic atmosphere created and embodied by the staff team. The ward is a safe environment where apart from physical and verbal violence, anything goes. Expressions of human emotion in all its guises are OK here which is a psychological release for many - like myself. In our society we filter how we express our core emotions of Joy, Fear, Anger and Sadness because we may harbour shame and reticence in doing so. Here on the ward, my tears of sadness are unapologetic. My anger is not extinguished but allowed to burn out naturally. My fear is not quashed but encouraged to be faced and somewhere amidst all these, there are increasing moments of pure joy which burst through the vacated chinks in the emotional armour I have created.

We are a transient, sometimes ragged band here on the ward. Each of us carries our own wounds and we require healing in individual ways. There are unwritten and unsaid laws of existence here. We do not delve into each others lives apart from asking where we live and what family we may have. Any other information which is offered up by a person is warmly received but even then we do not unpick at any loose threads of information for fear of unravelling more than either party has bargained for. We accept each other for who we are no matter what behavioural traits we exhibit. In a way, we are a model social community where each person is met with openness and trust and where no unfair judgement is meted out. Nevertheless tensions do arise and we can choose to interact less with folks we have little in common with.

There's an awareness too of the intimacy in how we live and share our lives on the ward. Sleeping space is shared four to a room, meal times are shared, there are two television rooms and a quiet room and the seating in the entrance hall is a favourite place for folks to hang out. Many on the ward are not allowed off the premises either at all, or unaccompanied. This means that for many of us we are living together 24/7. We learn the valuable lesson of tolerance very quickly and in doing so we accept we each have our personal foibles.

Routine is key to our happy existence here. Very quickly I slipped into being governed by the times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between these are set times for tea and coffee breaks. I soon identified what is important for me and I established a routine to meet my needs. I rise at six for my first coffee of the day and to watch the morning news. Often I will be the only person up (apart from the night staff) and I enjoy the calm and solitude. I enjoy the time between getting up and breakfast at eight because of the relative serenity around me. Our time on the ward is very much our own - we are not compelled into any activity though we are encouraged to participate in what is on offer. I enjoy the pottery sessions on a Thursday and the art and craft sessions on a Tuesday. Other than these two I entertain myself with reading (avidly) and teaching myself watercolour painting through the university of YouTube. Very rarely I will allow myself to sleep during the day and when I do it is a delicious luxury. Even more rarely I will sit and watch daytime television knowing how alluring "Homes Under the Hammer" can become after a while. You'll pleased to hear, I hope, that I avoid watching "Jeremy Kyle" at all costs! Dinner is at five in the evening. I find the time after this drags a little where I drift in and out of the television room or sit and read. I sometimes watch a film or programme on BBC iPlayer. After the tea break at eight I then begin to count the minutes to 10pm when I get my medication and a sleeping pill. I need this fast acting sleeper (as we call them) to knock me out before the snoring commences in the room I'm in. My three erstwhile companions are pretty loud and it's impossible for me to fall asleep if they tune up before I have dropped off.

So the routine of life here marches on. Days blend into each other and the weeks slide by just as effortlessly. It's certainly not an uncomfortable existence but neither is it one that I hope to continue indefinitely. It is serving its purpose. I feel safe, I feel cared for and importantly, I feel acknowledged. There is power to be gained from living in the moment - the power of now. I am healing - there is no doubt about this.

I think that in general society is far more aware and more accepting of mental health distress than it was when I first encountered the service nineteen years ago. The view of mental health hospital provision has moved way beyond the one portrayed by Jack Nicholson and his cohorts in the renowned 1975 film. I am confident of openly sharing my mental health experiences and not hiding them away for fear of judgement or shame. However I am less confident about making an admission of my mental health history when it comes to seeking employment and I find this very sad.

I am ready to leave hospital now. The routine has begun to grind and I am missing home terribly but I have to accept that I'm going to be here for a good few weeks more. My ECT treatment is due this Friday and so begins a new phase of treatment for my depression. I can put up with my life on the ward in the knowledge that I am tackling this weight I have carried with me. However I look out of the windows at the budding plants and trees longing for the freedom of the open seas and the cry of the Gulls above. It won't be long now.

The Storms

As I type a heavy gust has slammed into the starboard side of the boat and we violently heel to the port. Instinctively I lean my body to counter the sudden movement and quickly glance at my mug of Lemon and Ginger tea to check it isn't spilling. All is well.

Around me the noise crescendos with the halyards flogging on the mast and the wind howling through the rigging surrounding us. It's all discordantly tuneful and I'm used to it. The fierceness of the gust eases as quickly as it arrived and the boat rocks back to her upright position with a couple of slight wobbles before she settles. My body easily rides these subtle movements. A screaming whistle from far away tells me that another gust is on its way and seconds later we are thumped again by the invisible force of the powerful wind.

Storm Henry is now on his way north, dissipating as he trundles across the ocean towards the Arctic Circle. Before him Gertrude paid us a visit a few days earlier and before her it was Frank who dropped by. Frank was particularly devastating for much of the country and we were glad to see the back of him.

Our stormy visitors arrive uninvited but not unexpected. We see them girding their loins way out west in the Atlantic, their deepening low pressure and their isobars ferociously narrowing as they relentlessly trundle towards us. They turn away from landfall at the last minute almost as if ensuring that the maximum force of their accompanying gales will hammer our coastal landscapes. The rain they carry with them is mercilessly dumped in almost Biblical deluges which our natural watercourses cannot cope with. Each time we find ourselves hunkering down, battening the hatches and clearing up afterwards - like cleaning the living room after a particularly boisterous party.

These are natural events which it seems are becoming more prevalent. A consequence of the poor care of our planetary life systems. We are reaping what we have sowed and as such, really, we cannot complain. It is not a case of nature pitting herself against humanity or us fighting back to survive the wrath of her dark moods. It is a case of us living with the consequences of many generations of Human mismanagement of Nature's perfectly balanced and fragile life systems. Collectively we are responsible for the havoc that is wreaked each time our now named winter storms wander across the Atlantic to visit us. These storms are not malicious. They do not purposefully intend us harm. They exist with all their ferocity because somehow we have projected into them the greed and avarice of our species - our insatiable and unstoppable desire to devour the very planet that provides us with sustenance.

These storms are merely a reflection of our collective esurient nature.

In the meantime, I learn to prepare for their arrival by placing extra lines on the boat, checking all fastenings and stowing all loose items. As an individual of our species I live in a manner which I hope shows respect for our fragile life system but I know with a heavy heart that I am as responsible as we all are for the regular arrival of our uninvited fearsome winter visitors.