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Jack Zaleski, Published March 03 2012

Zaleski: ‘Come sail away’ … from politics

The other day I walked from our home on the wooded Sheyenne River to the open, snow-covered croplands west of the river. The sun was low, the wind blowing across the fields and churning the snow into rills and swirls. The fading light created the illusion of waves on a lake. The lyrics of the Styx song “Come Sail Away” sailed across my mind.

I’m a sailor – or was. I learned as a Boy Scout on Connecticut lakes. I did some serious ocean sailing on the Atlantic between Long Island Sound and Bar Harbor, Maine, while I was in college. When I settled in Devils Lake, N.D., I was a member of a group of former and wannabe sailors who resurrected the Devils Lake Yacht Club, which was founded in 1903 but had gone dormant when the lake dried up. The lake was coming back in the 1970s, so the club came back. Within a couple of years, the club had a large membership. We sailed every summer weekend, either racing or cruising – and always partying.

Whispers of snow blowing across the frozen flat land are not the same as feeling the song in the rigging of a perfectly tuned sailboat. But the wind-sculpted patterns on the snow pulled the Styx lyrics out of my memory, and for a time I was back at the tiller of a sloop on Devils Lake.

More importantly, given the focus of my work these days, the unpleasant tenor of the political season faded in the imagined spray and splash over the rail and the satisfying sense of taut sails powering the boat through the waves.

I have an old friend who hates his job, dislikes his co-workers and finds no satisfaction in his work. I often counsel him to leave the job on his desk at the end of the day, find a place to walk alone, conjure up a song he loved as a kid and just drift for a while. It’s working for him, he tells me.

I’m not him. I still like what I do. I enjoy the company and professionalism of my colleagues. After 40 years in this business, I still relish every day in The Forum’s lively newsroom.

But sometimes the news is bleak or tragic or just plain stupid. It’s hard to stay upbeat. There is plenty of bleak and stupid to go around during this political season, and it’s certain more is to come.

So, a diversion – a way to protect mental health and emotional stability – is to give in to imagination and memory, like that walk in the snowy field. I resolve to occasionally embrace Styx’s lyrical wisdom: “Come sail away” – from politics …

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.