Henri the painter is one of Steinbeck’s quirky characters in Cannery Row. He’s known for the unique and intricate boats he builds, often taking years to work on each one.
But there’s something odd about Henri. He never finishes a boat. When it’s almost completed, he takes it apart and begins anew, having no intention of ever putting the boat in the water. Two of his friends discuss his behavior:
“Every time he gets it nearly finished, he changes it and starts all over again. I think he’s nuts. Seven years on a boat!”
“You don’t understand. Henri loves boats, but he’s afraid of the ocean. He likes boats, but suppose he finishes his boat. Once it’s finished people will say, ‘Why don’t you put it in the water?’ Then if he puts it in the water, he’ll have to go out in it and he hates the water. So you see, he never finishes the boat – so he doesn’t ever have to launch it.”
Isn’t that what happens with so many of our dreams? We become afraid of what might happen if our dreams become a reality. The risk simply feels too great. And so we move through life, playing it safe. Rather than dealing with our fear of the water, we work on boats that we never plan to finish.
What is it that you’ve dreamed but never really pursued?
What has been simmering deep inside of you that you’ve not been attentive to?
What’s the boat you are building?
Perhaps it’s time to take that boat down to the water, launch it, and hoist the sails! The Wind will take it from there.