Netty and I spent July 4th on our friend’s 45′ sailboat in Marina Del Rey. Jim’s actually the person who “launched” my fascination over a decade ago with the idea of learning to sail and taking the helm one day. He was new to sailing at that time and his excitement for the world of all things nautical was infectious.

As most of  you know, my sailing obsession culminated with me and Netty moving to St. Thomas, getting our own sailboat, and learning the ropes ourselves, literally and figuratively.

On board for the 4th were new friends and old, a comfortable and interesting grouping of people. One new face was Kornelia Takacs, whose passion for antique compasses was fascinating to me. She’s written a book on the subject called The Compass Chronicles. It’s a beautiful book, and I’ve ordered a signed, limited edition.

Jim’s invited me and Netty to sail to Catalina for a few days, and I hope to start reading the Chronicles while at anchor in Two Harbors.

Here’s the thing, though, the reconnection with Jim, the rekindling of sailing passions, the meeting of Kornelia and being introduced to her excitement about the world of compasses got me to thinking…

Where do a person’s interests spring from? What is it that gives direction to our lives? What turns on one passion over another? How do we navigate the possible paths to our future?

Yesterday morning at the Trader Joe’s parking lot I stayed in my car to listen to the end of a segment on the Prairie Home Companion show. Garrison Keillor was interviewing a 15 year-old soprano who was about to perform an aria from an arcane opera. He asked how she got interested in operatic performance. She said her parents had taken her to see the opera Hansel and Gretel when she was 10 years-old.

“Were your parents opera buffs?” Keillor asked.

“No,” she said, and then added with humor, “but they are now.”

Keillor laughed and the audience laughed. Then he ruminated a moment on this very idea of how we choose direction in our life, how one passion can orient us and become our charted destiny. He offered no answer.

Kornelia Takacs also sells a selection of antique compasses on her site. I already imagine myself holding one of these compasses in my hand someday, watching the needle tremble as it settles on True North. I lift up my eyes and scan the horizon. Then I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and move in the direction that tugs at my heartstrings




5 Responses to Compass and Direction

  1. fz says:

    Thanks to all of you for the great reaction.


  2. Barbara Witten says:

    Did you forget that you used to like going out with Gary and me when I was pregnant? 4th of July 1976.

    • fz says:

      No, I remember it clearly and the fun we had and the pleasure it was to be on the water. Hope you’re doing well up there.


  3. Steve Roth says:

    Frank – This is very thought provoking. I’ve been thinking back on this now that I know what else I want to be when I grow up and I don’t have an answer to the question either but until you try many different things it’s hard to know what will kindle your passion.

    I’ve always been good with numbers but as far as writing goes, the one thing I remember crystal clearly is being in grade school and sitting in a gymnasium at one of my sister’s many gymnastics meets and scratching out a ‘space opera’ on a yellow tablet, complete with humans, aliens and spaceships. It saddens me that I lost that passion but I am so happy that I found it now rather than five, ten or twenty years from now. I say keep looking until you find what it is though or you’ll just be going through the motions.

    I also sometimes wonder what our boys will ‘grow up’ to be, as I’m sure you did with your two. The answer to that age-old question is that there’s no way of knowing. But it’s fun to watch them try new things and find our what their strengths and weaknesses are, and their passions.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. kirsten says:

    that is a wonderful thought. I have pondered direction so many times in my life. I always feel that there has been some expectation of which direction I should be headed. Ultimately, most of the time I go where I really believe I should be. The times I have tried to follow protocol and plot a course toward something “stable” or expected, I have been let down and burned out. We each have a unique destination to be sure. Thank you for your blog!

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