Each evening, precisely at sunset, outdoor movement stops at Naval Air Station Pensacola as “retreat” is played over loud speakers and the national ensign is lowered. This is called Evening Colors.
The same thing happens at 8 a.m., when the national anthem is played and the ensign (flag) is raised. This is called Morning Colors.
It happens at military bases all over the country. To someone who’s never seen it, it may look odd. Cars stop in the street. Pedestrians stop on the sidewalk. Since I’m often on my bicycle, I disembark and stand to face the closest flag.
I’ve enjoyed immersion in this military tradition again, remembering that the purpose of “colors” is to both respect the flag and reflect on its meaning – even more so on this Veterans’ Day.
I’ve been reflecting on that word “retreat.” In a military sense, it means withdrawal after defeat … a depressing prospect for a military force. It also means to back away from something unpleasant or risky … as in, when experienced Loopers encourage new ones to back out of bad weather. And for reflective people and groups, it refers to time away in a secluded or quiet place.
So many meanings for the same word! Isn’t that how it is in our nation today? We’ve become fixated on certain meanings for certain words, but those meanings change over time. For example, the words “freedom” and “patriot” have such different meanings these days for different Americans.
Here at Bayou Grande Marina, we’ve enjoyed a retreat of sorts — from the daily decisions and planning and near-constant movement that characterize The Great Loop. This longest-yet stop in a single port has allowed time for reflection, which is something I’ve missed. But we are also doing projects and fun things. Jeff has recovered from his scary bout with vertigo early this week and is puttering again. He fiddled with the new heater and its odd Chinese-translated instructions until he made it work. He finally got a zinc anode onto the prop shaft, to protect it from corrosion – a necessary precaution in salt water and something he’s been trying to get done for weeks. I patched my paddle board, injured by multiple meetings with rocky shorelines. He repainted the anchor line, which needs marks for 50 and 75 and 100 ft to help us put the right length out, and was much-faded by many uses. I did laundry, again … and we’ve enjoyed some creative food. (Tonight, baked trout from Lake Superior, which has been in the boat freezer since July, along with a tasty hash of potatoes and carrots and beets.) We made another run to Walmart for memory foam to soften the hard mattress in the V-berth. I rented a Sunfish sailboat, after giving myself a refresher on rigging (since I’m out of practice on that), and then joined a Navy doctor on her odd watercraft that is part kayak, part outrigger, part bicycle and part sailboat. (A dolphin surfaced alongside, just a few feet away! 🙂 ) Each day, I enjoy a jog or bike ride or paddle or row – or maybe two of those. This has been a good stop, and a necessary one. We have no regrets.
In the midst of all this, we’ve been joined by three other Looper boats here — all military retirees, like me — and expect a fourth tomorrow. Nearly all of us are taking a long-ish time-out from “the road,” or just did so.
I’m grateful for this “retreat” at a Navy marina.
Boo the Boating Cat seems grateful too. She knows the area now, and I know I can trust her, so she gets a nightly outing off-leash. She jumps on and off the boat routinely – but only after sunset. She doesn’t go far. She comes back when I call. And she purrs more.
As I write this, well after nightfall, a bull redfish is making its peculiar sound nearby. This is a big fish, at least two feet long, that surfaces often and sometimes gives me “an eyeball,” and sounds like it is expelling air, but it has something to do with muscular contraction. I also hear the cra-a-a-wk of a heron. Moments ago, two Navy jets zoomed overhead in formation.
You can see why there’s no rush to leave.