Adjust the sails

Sailing by Manhattan, May 2007

Sailing by Manhattan, May 2007

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” — attributed to Dolly Parton

Thirty years ago Jeff and I went sailing on the Santa Monica Bay with my lifelong friend and her roommate.  It was my first time to go sailing, and I remember being surprised at how much physical work was involved.  I suppose I had the idea that one just sat in the boat and let the wind do all the work, but learning the various ways to adjust the sails gave me a new respect for those who have mastered this sport.  It’s the sort of thing that could never be learned from simply reading a book; you have to get out there on the water, wrestling with the equipment in the face of real winds and currents.

Sometimes when I look back on my life, it seems to have consisted primarily of adjusting to unforeseen circumstances.  Few of the people I know have ended up exactly where they had planned to be, and there’s no way to fully prepare for what the years will send your way.  It takes a lot of mental, physical and spiritual stamina to get through the changing winds of even the most fortunate life.  But we can’t expect to sit still in the boat and let the wind do whatever it wants with us.  The sooner we learn to adjust our sails, the better equipped we will be to enjoy the trip and get where we need to go.

What are some ways we can adjust our sails so that the winds work for us, not against us?

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia,
    I’ve only sailed enough to know that I’m not very good at it! Perhaps it’s my impatience.
    The fastest way may not always be the best way. For example, you could set your sails one way and get near your destination quickly, but downstream and down wind of it … while setting your sails another way may mean a much longer journey into the wind, but you arrive just a little upstream, and can float in to your destination.
    Life is like that, in ways too numerous to count, where faster gets you pretty much nowhere.

    • Yes, as the old saying from the early 1970’s went, “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.”

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