by Miv Schaaf

Sailing Alone Around the World, printed in gold on a black spine, in the used-book store catches my eye. It is in the upper left-hand corner of the shelf, sort of alone already by itself, off to sea. I've read that book. No, I haven't. Why, Schaaf, did you think you'd read that book? I don't know, it seems familiar, at least sailing alone around the world -- well, that is something I have done, mentally, something I intend to do. You, Schaaf, you are going to sail around the world alone? Why yes, I had always thought I would do that. When? Well, I was going to do it when I was about 20 and then other things came along. I don't know when exactly; some day when Gia is at school and Alfred is at the office and my desk is clear I just thought I'd ...

Right here in this bookstore is the first time it is really clear to me that I am not going to sail alone around the world. Not ever. It is something I will never do. A great grief followed by instant rebellion -- but I will; I may be a strong, tanned, wiry 70-year-old. You do see those people around.

Not you, kid; you aren't wiry now, how do you expect to be a tanned, wiry 70-year-old? You know perfectly well you're going to be flopping there on the sofa, reading instead of doing push-ups. You must face the fact that, in all probability, I mean almost certainly, you will not sail alone around the world.

Oh gosh, and that is something I really did want to do.

When you pull yourself up short like this, you think of other things you won't be doing. Ever. I don't know why, but I surely expected some day to get a new pair of roller skates. I still have not admitted that I will probably, well almost certainly, never learn how to cartwheel. I had thought water skiing was something out there yet to do. All during the Olympics as I watched those people -- ah, to jump a hurdle like that, yes, sir, and those jackknifing dives -- it seemed, well, almost probable that one day, when I got around to it, I would be leaping off the high tower just as gracefully. Of course, I wouldn't go into competition or anything like that.

Funny how we refuse to relinquish our daydreams -- no, stronger than daydreams -- expectations. Never to sail alone around the world -- kind of saddening to have to be so practical about things, isn't it? But still, we sensible adults come to solid understanding about things "in real life," as Gia says. Hmm. Let me move around the corner and see if they have any of those old botany books I like to look at.

"Muck Crops," a sober little dark green volume, discourses on muck farming: how to raise beets, cauliflower, early and late celery, onions, peas and other vegetables in muck, mud, black soil or peat. (One has to buy special muck shoes for the horses; the best kind are iron, concave on the lower side, with adjustable clamps.)

By Jove, that would be interesting. Now this might very well come in handy some day; I could conceivably have a little land somewhere and, if it happened to be near a marsh (and I would certainly like it to be near a marsh), why, there's no reason at all I couldn't do a little muck farming, is there?

Miv Schaaf, a resident of Big Lagoon, wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years.