The Wind Sits in the Shoulder of Your Sail

by winteryder


Saint Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco    02.24.2016


I don’t make many promises or guarantees. I believe in both of those things, though. I believe that we set a process in motion when we give voice to what we know to be true, when we acknowledge aloud the things we truly believe in, when we speak our intentions and translate the motives behind our actions.

Words are my stock in trade, but in order for them to have meaning- I first have to experience life. Have to live it. I go silent and wordless, sometimes for days or weeks (and there have been spans of entire years when I had no words to share in written format). Doing the work sometimes requires “going dark” for a season.

I didn’t learn life’s lessons simply from reading books, though I’ve read my share and some things have stayed with me long after the dusty book jackets have fallen apart. These few lines below are the sum of much of my personal belief system- the bedrock of my own life choices in relationships, in financial decisions, in my approach to friendship, to connection, to love, to conflict, to conversation.

As you sift and mine the Old English vernacular, slow down.


See each tiny sentence and translate it into your own words, your own language of thought.

It’s easy to discard the unfamiliar, to discount strange words or speech patterns without harvesting the meaning richly layered and textured between the lines.

(I could have offered the Cliff Notes version, but I’d be doing us both a disservice. Chew on these words and see if the same light begins to break at the edge of your own horizon.)


Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail

And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee.

And these few precepts in thy memory

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.

Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.

  • Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, Page III