Travel journaling has a long and illustrious history that stretches way back before blogging. Early examples are depictions of human exploits and tragedies depicted on smoky cave walls, such as petroglyphs of spear bearing hunters trying to bring down big hairy mammoths for dinner. Some of the would-be diners ended up as toe jam after getting stomped by the big hairy beast. More on toe jam shortly.
Such hunting scenes qualify as travel journals because they were usually done by cave dwellers who were frequently evicted by big nasty bears, sabretooth tigers or even their prehistoric notions of sanitation: occupy, pollute, then move on. Well, considering what we’re doing to our planet, I guess those notions aren’t all that ancient.
Fast forward a few millennia to Marco Polo’s accounts of traveling from Italy to China, then jump a few more centuries to Mark Twain’s hysterical accounts of touring Rome as an innocent abroad. (Actually did a typo back there and typed “hysterican,” which spellcheck squawked at. But I think Mark Twain was a hysterically funny American—so why not hysterican?)
But I digress.
I began journaling back in my college days at the University of South Dakota, circa 1971. I filled several blank books with musings, commentary and accounts of people, places, events and things as I traversed my 20s and travelled on-third way around the world and back. I mostly recorded my reactions to seeing and doing things I never saw or did before—and I was big into doing things I had never done before.
I dropped journaling with my first marriage, and my need for creative expression got funneled into my career as my magazine work took off. After a nearly 10 year hiatus from my journals, I came across them in storage and began to read them. I was struck by how vividly the times and circumstances returned to me. I can’t credit the writing for that, but the memories and emotions somehow resonate from the page—probably exclusively to me.
About that time, I came across a book about illustrated journaling. Julie and I were traveling a lot and just learning to sail, so I began sporadically journaling about–and drawing scenes from–places we were visiting. Then we bought a cruising sailboat and began planning an extended cruise through the Great Lakes, along the Eastern Seaboard and into the Caribbean. Friends, relatives and acquaintances began lobbying us to share our experiences through social media. Julie dragged me kicking and screaming onto Facebook last year as we prepared for our first summer of living on the boat. Then she took a class about setting up a personal website and suddenly we were in the business of blogging.
The problem is that despite liking to see my name in print and projecting my personality in and by writing about things that interest me, I am essentially a private person. My journals were written for an audience of one: me. Blogging requires that a curtain be pulled back to reveal the interior person—Oz-like.
So it’s been a couple of weeks since we steamed out of Pikes Bay and the Apostle Islands, and Julie has been leaning on me to blog about something. Anything. So long as it’s about our trip so far. Since she has posted a couple of things about getting underway and about our time on the Keeweenaw Peninsula, I want to write about toe jam.
The first evening we were in Munising, MI, I saw a motorboat coming into a slip across from us. It looked like the people on the deck had no idea about docking and handling docklines, so I sprang to their assistance. As I finished cleating off their stern line, I took a couple steps back up the narrow finger pier and in acknowledging their thanks, I failed to see the cleat in front of my left foot. Now I am a big advocate of boating safety and keeping aware of possible dangers, but I missed seeing that cleat and jammed my left pinky toe under the cleat. I was not wearing my usual cruising footwear—Keen Newport sandals, with the big rubber toe bumper—as we had just returned from a stroll about town. My strap-in Chaco sandals are comfortable, but they provide no protection. Wham! I hit that cleat hard and while there was no blood, just some scraped skin on top of the toe, it immediately hurt like hell. As I limped back to our boat, gingerly stepping from the dock to the deck, I was swearing a blue streak under my breath and remembering Mark Twain’s observation that nothing is more repented than a good deed.
We put an ice pack on the toe and I took some painkiller that as also supposed to curb the swelling. In short order the thing ballooned up and turned black—looked vaguely like a dead seal. Or what I imagined a dead seal looks like after a day or so in the sun. And it still hurt. I could move and bend it, so it didn’t appear to be broken, but it has continued to throb and is still a swollen little piggy days later.
Anyway, the lesson to learn from this, boys and girls, is to pay attention to where you are stepping when in a marine environment.
So that’s my slow jam to toe jam—a long arc from mammoth hunting to cleat ramming. Probably more information than you really needed, but hey, that seems to be what blogging is all about.