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Last Sunday 

'All men will be sailors' -- Leonard Cohen

The sky was brilliantly blue over the water. The moss hung heavy on the cypress over the bayou. In the rich, green-blue depths of the bayou infinity deployed her mirrors. My son steered the Wind Mistress skillfully past sleek new boats and gentle old barques with names like Reverie and Dream Catcher and Silvia's Daydream. Freshly mowed or overgrown lawns full of scattered toys and empty or full swings descended to boat piers. It was Sunday afternoon and some people had already left for the city. Others lived here, and their barbecues still smoked. The satellite dishes tied to trees were all turned to the game: the Saints were winning, hallelujah!

The Wind Mistress is a steady boat, built in 1969, a year when, Christine explained, boats were built better, sturdier and with greater care. Not so the world, if I remember right. The world was in tatters, its foundations shaken, our nation mired in a seemingly endless war. Many of us emerged from that time a bit banged up, our sails patched up, our hulls shabby, but some of us never came up. Boats may have been better constructed, but people were not, they never were.

My son and Christine brought the Wind Mistress into Lake Ponchartrain and unfurled her sails. A mild breeze took us off a bit over the dazzling blue of the playful water. Then the wind died and we rocked for awhile, talking about Sundays and how important they are. "Whatever you do the rest of the week," my friend Myron Katz once told me, "just remember to keep the Sabbath." For him, that was the whole of the Jewish religion. Keep the Sabbath. Take off one day every week and don't answer the phone, touch money, or do any of your usual business. Eat what you have cooked the day before, enjoy your family, make love, go sailing. A world without Sundays is grim indeed, we decided.

My son and Christine bought the Wind Mistress together, from a friend who went off to school in another state. They got her cheap. She needs a good scrubbing, a paint job, a new gas tank, and perhaps a new motor. But overall she's sound and you can just tell that she's a sweetheart, well worth spending a few Sundays fixing her up. The wind picked up some and the two young sailors got into it. The sails filled with wind and we started gliding over the water like we were meant to. We talked about pirates and Robinson Crusoe and fishing. I made sandwiches with feta cheese, tomatoes, fresh red pepper, avocados and red onion. There was smoked turkey, too, for the non-vegetarians. Two butterflies raced the boat. From a nest on top of a pole sticking out of the water, two pelicans watched us go past. The ribbon of the freeway stretched out in the far horizon, disappearing in the mist after awhile.

On the way back, we looked again on the gentle backyards sloping to the water and I said, "How well we live, how lovely life can be." It was the Sunday of Oct. 7, 2001. When I got home, the television said that we were bombing Afghanistan. We were really at war now. The Sunday of sailing was already receding in the past like a beautiful scene in a movie. It was the last Sunday before the war.


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