An international voyager finds safe harbor in Cuenca, Part 2

Jun 25, 2023 | 2 comments

Editor’s note: This column is the second of a two-part series. To read the part one, click here

On the day Kane Flambures retired, he packed his duffel bag with salty clothes and dragged them down a grungy gangplank to a dumpster where the grease-stained overalls and bleach-starved grey t-shirts he wore as religiously as an industrial-grade cassock were discarded to make room for nicer duds.

On the day Kane departed, he sported what appeared to be a swagger but, in actuality, was merely the way some sailors learn to walk when rolling in rhythm with the water. His hair was mid-length, wisps of oarweed kelp waving over a narrow forehead. His deeply furrowed crow-footed eyes betrayed years of squinting into glaring sun and sinister waves.

He said he was ready to be anchored for the duration of his tour.

His new berth — a pleasant Craftsman-style bungalow on the outskirts of San Diego — included a bedroom with matching six-foot closets framing a waist-high dresser and a large window overlooking a neatly trimmed backyard. The first-growth redwood flooring that lay from stem to stern, was polished as shiny as any brass bell; when walked on, the planks creaked as if it were a clipper ship weathering a tumbling, wild and unbroken sea.

The memories he carried from his 40 years as a merchant seaman — including the year he spent as a stevedore serving backwater villages from a rust-crusted tramp steamer navigating the coast of Africa — were stowed safely away. He figured he had plenty of time to draw them out over a backyard campfire or share them among friends around a dinner table.

Kane learned that among the most important tools for survival at sea is the ability to pay close attention to the cultural lens through which his fellow crew members view the world. Almost every conversation stemmed from a perspective that was as unusual as it was captivating; and they always began on lands in faraway places with unpronounceable names and strange geologic features. He noticed something else, as well.

Many of his shipmates included instructions on naturopathic practices when sharing stories of native families’ lives on land. He wanted to know why this knowledge was considered so important to pass on, and why it was shared with such eagerness and reverence.

He was astonished by what he learned: the Swahili, long regarded as among the strongest tribes inhabiting the coastline of the African continent, depend almost exclusively on the healing power of indigenous vegetation to protect them in times of illness or distress and have done so since their prophets walked among them on the Earth.

As a result of these revelations, he expanded his horticultural studies to incorporate new approaches to understanding the beneficial qualities of natural medicine everywhere.

He set his course for the future.

When Kane came ashore in San Diego, the market for medical marijuana facilities was rapidly growing. Full legalization was a near certainty, but it was also clear that opposing political interests were wailing as if the world would end if they did not have a strong hand in sorting things out properly.

What developed in the meantime was a mutant hybrid that served three important purposes: it was incompatible with Federal law, was of little or no help to someone suffering at home or clinging to hope in some sterile waiting room, and it opened the door to unmitigated greed and corruption. Kane was pissed.

It was here that he broke the first rule of seamanship: he became impatient.

Kane’s attempt to rapidly grow a proper medical marijuana out-patient business combining public activism and practical application was simply too much for some to bear. It was frowned on by civic boosters and was drawing a bit too much attention in the press.

When word reached him that the feds wanted him to come downtown for “a little chat,” he skedaddled.

Flambures has lost none of his enthusiasm for naturopathic medicine and the role marijuana can play in the collage of ingredients and applications natural medicine provides. He is tireless in his support for alternative therapies and believes that Ecuador is an ideal country to lead the way in furthering naturopathic medicine as a sustainable means for the community to maintain optimum health and vitality. He has lost none of his admiration for Western medicine but understands that a multi-faceted approach that incorporates both tradition and science will produce better long-term results.

Marijuana reform remains a passion for Kane, and he closely monitors global legislation to chart successes as well as failures. Although he was disappointed in Colombia pulling the plug on meaningful marijuana reform recently, he understands that both Columbia and Ecuador are facing an irresistible force due to the savage destruction the cocaine trade is imposing on society, and in every corner of the country.

Still, he remains upbeat, “Our cause is just,’” he said, with all the confidence of a man who can read tea leaves. He steadfastly offers support for comprehensive laws that allow for the legal distribution of marijuana for all who enjoy the benefits it provides and hopes to see the day when Ecuador, as a leader in all things organic, carries the flag of free access to all things natural and proven to be effective.

When I pressed him on his cause and how long he would pursue it, he said that there is an old axiom followed by sailors since the time of the barquentines and brigs.

“Secure where you are, mark where you have been, then turn to the open sea and let go.”

Robert Bradley

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