I was going to call this “Winds of Change,” but I have Martin Amis’s The War Against Cliché on my reading list, and decided to preemptively stop myself at its potential behest. This may be equally unoriginal, or at least uninspiring, but I’d rather go with bland than have it titled like a mediocre prog album by trying to jam the word “entropy” in there. “Winds of Change” would probably have given me all the wrong sort of SEO anyway, when the famished Scorpions fans came sniffing around for hot gossip.

Not that I have anything against the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change.” I just listened to it for the first time in a long time, and had zero recollection that the singer is obviously a non-native speaker of English. Admittedly, I was likely hearing it from a boombox on a school bus or my weird Realistic® AM/FM non-Walkman, neither of which provided the most high-fidelity listening experiences, but good job, man: I didn’t even notice for the first 30 years. Way better than me trying to pull off a purely phonetic karaoke of “Neunundneunzig Luftballons” in the original German.

The Scorpions song is not to be confused with The Animal’s “Winds of Change,” which is mostly Eric Burdon listing a bunch of bands over a sitar and a ream of blotter.

And, speaking of cliché, those are both distinct from Jefferson Starship’s “Winds of Change.” This may be the Rosetta Stone of 80s video tropes: not the originator, but the one place where they all wound up so that we can try to make sense of them today. Hint: we can’t.

If anything, sailing on Saturday was more like a sparsely arranged, wistful Joni Mitchell song. It’s late October, deep into autumn. A classic time of transition. Jenn and I took my mom sailing, who has been working through her own changing winds in addition to the pervasive chaos that’s impacting us all.

At this point in the season, I would normally expect blustery winds, crisp cool autumn air, and the foliage at or near peak color. I didn’t get any of those. I was comfortable in short sleeves, partially because there was almost no wind, and most of my photos look like they were shot in black and white.

Gray Sky over Gray Bay

Even in the creek and along the more wild areas of the shoreline, there was little fall color. Part of that is to be expected—I sail in the Pine Barrens, or at least where the pinelands intermingle with the coastal wetlands, which (as the name implies) are known more for their coniferous evergreens than their deciduous trees. But there are plenty of oaks, maples, birches, sweetgums, and other trees mixed in that I expected to stand out.

Distant Sails

Despite the substitution of blues and grays for reds and yellows, there were other details that gave away the season. More boats had been moved from their slips to stands on land at the marina. There were few boats on the bay, and most of them were sailboats, limping around in the spotty wind trying to push the season as long as possible. I couldn’t tell you what the difference was, but the sky didn’t look like a summer sky. And it wasn’t merely the chevrons of cormorants migrating south across it.

Cormorants Flying over the Mainsail

We mostly had enough wind to move around. I chased another sailboat for a while and couldn’t convince my mom that they were also moving, just even more slowly than us. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. Powerboaters always seem to treat us as if we’re static targets, even when we’re at hull speed. From enough distance, we and that other sailboat would have both appeared to have been stopped, but we were definitely stopped at a slightly higher speed.

The weather forecast had boldly claimed that there was a 0% chance of rain, but I assume that’s like an ad for “0%* financing” where the asterisk could imply anything up to and including blood sacrifice. I was pretty sure that I could see the smudge of rain falling from some distant clouds.

Changing Winds

It’s possible that the rain would have passed us to the south, but the wind had dwindled to nothing, so I started the engine and motored back.

If I were asked how I feel about change, my default answer would be “No, thank you.” I think about the scene in Wayne’s World all the time when Garth says “We fear change,” and then beats a robotic hand to death. In reality, it’s more complicated than that. Autumn is frequently associated with transition (changing leaves, pulling your boat out of water for the season, etc.) and it’s still my favorite season. I suppose that it’s easier for me to accept when it’s part of a reasonably predictable cycle. There are also plenty of absurd and unreconciled things going on in the world right now that I’d like to see changed, and while those are deeply personal to me, it still feels like they’re on a different scale. For the stuff that I’m most apt to shy away from, it takes effort to embrace the change. The winds of autumn may be volatile, but that doesn’t mean to expect 35kts. The nature of volatility is that some days will bring a gale and some will bring nothing at all. I’ll sail it either way. It’s just a question of reefing down or not.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

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