What then can we average landlubbers learn from this old nautical expression, “sailing by the ash breeze”?
First, if ever we find ourselves stranded in becalmed waters, we might do well to pause and take inventory of our situation. Experienced navigators recognize the importance of being aware of their surroundings and assessing how the external conditions of their environment might impact their goals. All too often in life’s journey we become accustomed to traveling by whatever fills our sails. We should first attempt to understand what it is that we are counting on to move us forward.
Are we sitting idle, waiting for some external force to move us along? Are we waiting for our politicians, our boss, or maybe even our spouse to fill our sails with that motive power? While we are often fortunate to sail effortlessly along with the help of a strong breeze, the winds of fortune are not always there to move us in our preferred direction. Sometimes we have no other option than to move ourselves in the direction we want to travel. Instead of waiting for some external source of energy over which we have no control, why not look to our own internal strength?
The early travelers also knew the importance of finding the right balance between relying on external sources of energy for locomotion and creating their own opportunities. Fortunately, we know that the wind doesn’t stop blowing forever, but there are just some days when the wind refuses to cooperate. Often, we can afford to wait for the next breeze, but other times it is urgent to pick up the oars and start rowing right away. When the sails hung limp as the enemy was approaching, the sailors would not stand idle cursing the misfortune of poor external circumstance. They took action. There are simply times when we have to roll up our sleeves and put oar to water.
One final lesson we can garner from the early-day travelers who sailed by the ash breeze is that no single person has the strength to move the ship forward alone. It is when our individual effort is combined with that of others sharing the same goal that we are able to achieve amazing results. Moreover, we should also remember that during those times when it may seem that we are but a single vessel stranded in becalmed waters, our families, friends, communities, churches, and other organizations are there rowing alongside us; even when our individual strength falters. We are not sailing life’s journey alone.
Although we do not have a choice about the wind’s direction, we can control how we react. Instead of worrying about the things you can’t control, try focusing on the things you can. And, if you ever find yourself in becalmed waters, may you find the strength to sail by the ash breeze until the wind fills your sails again.
This article originally appeared in the 2012 Winter Issue of Peachtree Papers.