Wellfleet Harbor

IMG_9694“Utterly at peace.” Suzy mentioned this morning, talking about our recent weekend on the Cape, how relaxed she had felt: listening to the radio, knitting, sitting in the chair in the sun in between helping me when I needed a hand. We had hit some warm water for swimming at Boat Meadow Beach. Our first day the air was in the high 80’s and the tide was coming in over the sand flats and the water was 70 degrees. Absolutely salty and lovely. I stayed in for 15 minutes, Suzy longer.. Not bad for May 19th. Wine, Campfire. Long chats. Walking the beach.

We got quite a few things done on the cabin. I had three items on this trip’s agenda: 1. Pay for, prepare and launch the mooring up in Wellfleet 2. insulate and sheetrock behind where the kitchen counter will go and install the counter 3. install the dry well for the outside shower. And we did them all!!!! Yeah. The counter top is not quite in yet- some leveling issues, but I got all the uprights in and the counter top is on top of them. The building is now out of level quite substantially. It appears to be sinking. ARRRGHH. Do I shim up the counter, or the building? Well of course I should shim up the building. Sono tubes. Sinking in the sand.

The mooring was fun to launch. I know John Milliken- we called him La Foote in the good old days, after the pirate Jean Lafitte. LaFoote rode a kneeboard and tried to convince the rest of us surf rats it was better. You can’t convince a surfer to give up his board. What are you crazy? LaFoote was an instructor at some surf camp in Nicaragua where he developed the nickname Dr. Ding. It wasn’t because he beat boards up; it was because he did repairs so well. I was going to take the mooring out of my truck and carry it down to the dock when John said to wait. He came back with a handtruck and a typically clever comment, “I’ve learned all I need to know about hard work. Use this.”IMG_9697

I’d brought my dory up to row the mooring out where it goes, but Lennie was headed out in the skiff and offered to take me out to drop the mooring. He’s just had a very successful three disc repair done to his back and said he wouldn’t lift it.  I was thrilled not to have to launch my dory and row out then row back and get the dory back on the trailer. I got the mooring into the skiff, then went along as Lennie checked what he had to check and tossed the mooring over where Lennie said to. It’s a nice feeling to be a little part of a harbor.IMG_9717

Looks nice. Next trip up, we”ll launch the Sturdee Cat, a fourteen foot catboat. Cape Cod is cat boat country.. Here’s a Sturdee Cat they rent out in Wellfleet. Ours will be off to the left a quarter of a mile, tucked in behind the jetty.IMG_3781.JPG

Here is what I am going to feel like when I sail it.

The Long Leg, 1935 by Edward Hopper

The dry well and the insulation and the sheetrock are not as much fun. Insulation feels good to finish and it makes the cabin warmer. Sheetrock, too, you jsut want to finish. I just did the lower half of the back wall so I could install my clever plywood sandwiches that will hold up the counter and give me a place to put drawers. I’ll face these plywood separators  with some cherry, put in the drawers, and volia! Kitchen. The counter top is two inch pine. I had a board 25 inches wide, that I had sawn from logs we cut in our back yard in Storrs. I did not want to plane it by hand, though and so had to cut it down to fit through my 13 inch Dewalt planer. Then I joined it back together to 25 inches with a few butterfly mortises. You can just see one of the mortises on the right end of the counter. Three coast of urethane, and it’s a pretty nice top.IMG_9687

The drywell is astoundingly satisfying to install. I worked for Ralph Mayo when I was a young college kid.  1967. He pumped out and built cesspools. I’d dug a cesspool myself as a kid for our cottage on Oak Ridge Road.  My wife thinks I’m crazy and so do a lot of people, but I always loved to dig. Most outgrow it, but at a critical age, my dad let me dig a whole cesspool by myself on the east end of our cottage. He’d helped dig the one at the west end. I think that may have been why he let me dig the second one all by myself. I was thrilled. Somewhere there is a picture of this goofy little kid, leaning on a short handled shovel, at the bottom of a ten foot deep hole six feet around sporting a white t shirt and jeans, a butch haircut and a great big grin. I was 11. I’ve been hooked ever since. Working for Ralph was nothing but fun for me. I didn’t mind the pumping, although at first I was repulsed. Ralph laughed. He said, “In a couple of weeks you’ll be pumping out a pool and the noon whistle will blow and you’ll just grab your lunch and sit right down while it’s pumpin’, dangle your feet in the hole and eat. You won’t even wash your hands.” This did not come true, but you do get pretty used to it. Except for kitchen cesspools. Oh god are they disgusting. You probably don’t want any details, but that grey, greasy sludge is much worse than a bathroom one. Of course there’s quite a lot more I could tell you about cesspools, and their evolution from holes in the ground lined with stone or cement block to septic systems with tanks, and leech fields and stone, but you’ll have to read that in my memoir. It’s pretty interesting, really.

So this drywell was a mini cesspool. I punched a bunch of 3/4 inch holes in a 55 gallon plastic barrel I had. Once when Ralph and I  were putting in a new pool down by the beach in Eastham we dug up the old one and it was a 55 gallon barrel that had been attacked with an ax for drainage. It had lasted twenty years. The Cape has good drainage. This will last longer. Plastic, plus I surrounded it with a ton of stone. I brought up a half ton from home, and then zipped over to Easy Doze It in Wellfleet. and got another load from Dennis. He refused any money. We’re neighbors. Isn’t that nice? His son Zach loaded me up and I went very happily home to fill in my drywell.IMG_9579

Old man digging. Young dog supervising.

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Completed hole. A thing of beauty to some.

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Filled hole- barrel and stone  and pipe from the shower. Now that’s good lookin’!

Yes and I got to swing an ax a lot when digging the trench because of all the roots. I’m fairly easily amused.

 

One last thing. You’ve been very nice, to listen while I go on about septic systems. Saturday night we went to the package store to buy a corkscrew. We’d bought a bottle of wine Friday night but when we were back at the cabin had no way to open it. We have a corkscrew in our van, but I do not keep one in my pick up truck, sad, but true. While in the package store I hear the word fiddle, I look up and through the gloom of four decades think I recognize a face. “That’s not Bill Hardy?” It was Bill Hardy. We had not seen each other in it has to be pretty much forty years. And he’s still playing fiddle. He invited Suzy and me to come over Monday night to join him and Beth and some others playing and we chickened out this time. We had to get going on Monday, but I stopped by to apologize and he gave me a couple of CD’s which we rocked out to on the way home. Great music! We hope to go see him play and if you get a chance you might, too. He plays at a tavern in Boston regularly and I think at the Land Ho in Harwich. Here’s a link to his website.

http://billyhardy.com/

 

And here’s a link to Land Ho, which is an institution on Cape Cod.

 

http://www.land-ho.com/

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Kellyanne Conway rides again

When Logic and Proportion have Fallen  Sloppy Dead

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Kellyanne Conway would make me look foolish on television. She had Anderson Cooper flustered and he’s the host and pretty adept. She would absolutely eat me alive. She would leave feeling smug,  thinking,  ” I won that one easily.” I would leave and try to think where I went wrong and how it is that I feel so strongly what I feel and that she won’t see it. I have the distinct feeling that she does not believe what she is saying. Last night, on the electrifying news of Trump’s firing of James Comey while an FBI investigation is going on that involves Trump and his crew and their possible involvement with Russia, Kellyanne came on to explain away all our suspicions. Why are we suspicious? Because we’re human beings. We remember things that have happened in the past, we form opinions, we make judgements. Conway asked  Anderson why he kept referring to events of the campaign. That was Donald the candidate. This is now Donald the president. And Donald the president did something decisive because that’s what leaders do. They make decisions. Leaders make tough decisions. And this one was tough. And the reason for Comey’s being removed- which you can read in the letters that have been published- clearly state that it is to restore confidence in the FBI. Why do you keep insisting on asking about the past. Cooper had showed four separate clips of Trump (the candidate) praising Comey for his actions against Hillary. Now he fires Comey. Our head spins. Why the switch? We human beings wonder. Nothing suspicious going on is there? We wonder. No chance this has anything to do with the investigation currently underway, is there? We wonder. Because we’re human. And yes we judge people by what they say, but also by what they do. We are also influenced by what others say and do in reference to them. Which is of course why Kellyanne is there, she’s a spin artist. Kind of like Squealer in Animal Farm if you remember him. She immediately- she is good at what she does- makes a comment on the clips- a diversion-about how it was fun to take a trip down memory lane to Michigan where everyone knew Hillary had it locked up and would this be a good time to remind you, Anderson, that we did win Michigan? You were wrong and we were right. Everybody just knew was going to go one way and we made it go another- hmm. Should I take a minute to point that out? We were right then and you were wrong. You were wrong then and you’re wrong now. Read the letter I brought with me. It proves you’re wrong.This firing of Comey at the time when his organization is heading up an investigation into  the Russians tampering with our election, Trump’s  business activities with the Russians, who said anything about laundering money for Russians. You’re wrong Anderson. And we’re right. Read the letter. We’re right. This will restore confidence in the FBI. Obviously. The letter says so.

Okay. Now we’ve got that settled. Let’s get back to business. What have we learned. We were wrong for thinking something. Sorry. Now we’ve been straightened out. O.K. My confidence in the FBI is restored along with Donald’s. His confidence in the FBI was shaken because Comey doesn’t inspire confidence in him now, but he did a little while ago, but we can’t look at the past, now. Can we? We have a future to think about. O.k. I’ll stop thinking of the past. I’ll stop making connections between events. I’ll just listen to what Donald says and what Kellyanne says, and I’ll be fine. We’ll make America great again.

Expertise

Tight squeeze: She said: 'I couldn’t breathe when I first tried the costume on, it was so tight. So I went to the gym, tried it on again and it felt great, a much better fitting'

To be perceived as a great chef you need only saute an onion. People will walk into the kitchen, inhale deeply and say, “By gar, that smells heavenly.” Because it does smell good. To actually become a great chef you are going to have to cook in restaurants for many years and have flair for cooking. That’s the start. Then you are going to have to promote yourself as a great chef, have a t.v show, blog, website, you tube channel and sell little bottles of special sauce with your picture on them. You might need an apron with your name on it to market, too. Fame. Expertise. It’s a popularity thing. And it fades. I have great chefs in my mind- Julia Child- the rare female chef, James Beard, Graham Kerr- the Galloping Gourmet- from Australia who’d take a short slurp of wine before tossing some into the dish. Jeff Smith , the Frugal Gourmet. The galloping and the frugal gourmets both had wildly popular t.v. shows before the internet was around. Now I don’t know chefs. Emeril? Bam. Is he still around? Being a famous great chef involves a great deal of self promotion and a fairly large ego, and of course a personality as large as all outdoors. It’s like being perceived as great in any endeavor I think. The perception part is tricky. It takes either years of genuine effort and being found out by others, or it takes a great deal of self promotion, and then years of effort to sustain it. We Americans love a big personality. In her book Quiet  https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts Susan Cain writes about how we have become a culture of personality, a major change from being a culture where character was the key. Think Abraham Lincoln  for character. Splitting rails, walking miles to return a book, genuine persistence in the face of failure, concern for others, a willingness to work and not having to get the credit, empathetic, hardworking, honest. Good president. Yep. Good character? Yep. Now we have someone in the white house who has more emphasis on personality. An overly confident self promoter- to borrow a phrase from my son. The world is full of overly confident self promoters. And we listen to them, and too often, we go charging off the cliff with them. Somehow, the overly confident self promoters are not often damaged in the fall the way others are. They bounce and leap on the next soapbox to brashly proclaim that only they have the answer. Do we listen? H.L. Mencken said, “For every difficult problem there is one solution that is simple, neat and wrong.” And we seem to go for it every time.

Suzy saw something on the news the other day that some doctors in Boston were stopping the administration of drugs and medicines to overweight diabetics and offering instead, instruction in cooking. Learning how to eat well, learning how to exercise, learning how to live a life that is healthy is something we don’t think of enough. We worry about the health of the economy, but we do not worry about the health of the people who make up the economy. Health is paramount. Cooking is at the base of that. In his book Cooked, Michael Pollan has some alarming statistics about how few people  ever actually cook. He does not consider opening a can of soup cooking. We buy food prepared for us in a factory. By experts. Experts at what? Cooking? Of marketing? Corporate food. Pollan feels you have to actually do some food preparation to have it qualify as cooking. Popping a frozen pizza in the oven is not cooking. Even if it is fun.IMG_9499Cut up an onion, some red cabbage and some carrots you’ve cleaned and cut up, put them in the pot with the meat and a potato or two, sprinkle some salt and pepper in, add some sage and garlic and let it cook. Ummmm.IMG_9500

Oh. It takes time. And some forethought. And it runs completely counter to the  life in the fast lane, take the money and run, go go go lifestyle that seems to be all the rage now. We are coming to prefer things fast. And if you make enough money you can afford to slow down at times. Have people bring you food and drink. Relax. Enjoy. give the wait staff a big tip so you feel good. Go home to your happy home. Where you family is asleep. Get up early and do it again.

Is becoming a good cook a worthy goal? Is becoming someone who can make tasty food that is good for you, is relatively inexpensive, uses local foods a lot, makes the house smell good, has care put into it, genuine enjoyment in the consumption of it, a worthy endeavor?IMG_9504

Of course it is. For everyone? Yes. Male or female? Yes. Do you have to be superman or wonder woman or an expert to accomplish this? No.  It’s an ordinary human activity.  One foot in front of the other, prolonged effort, persistence, gets you to amazing places. No need to be an expert. No need to be a super hero.

A new Wonderwoman is coming, though. I never liked Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. I’m not sure why. I saw an article in the paper the other day with a picture of the new wonder woman, Gal Gadot. My god is she pretty. Her sword stance is weird, Wouldn’t you keep the shield in front of you? Maybe put your right foot back?  I suppose the photographer is not trying to show off her sword stance. I guess the old wonder woman was pretty too, but I never cared for the show. Was I sexist? Too young to notice? Or was I a little kid who didn’t really like any super hero who wasn’t superman? Or was it a poor spin off of the corny, camp, cool Bat man t.v show? We may never know. But I do think of how many people seem to like superhero movies. We don’t want to get too used to waiting for a super hero to show up. Do we? I mean we do all understand that there are no super heroes. Right? That if it is to be, it is up to us. Waiting for Godot. Don’t let waiting for a super hero stop us from doing the little acts daily that make our lives ones that super heroes would envy. Like cooking.

Well, Well, Well or Springtime on the Cape

IMG_9139Sunshine improves life an awful lot at this time of year. One of the benefits of winter is the increased appreciation of the milder weather. I took a walk yesterday morning with Hobbes. Down our driveway,  into a big field right across Massasoit Road. Hobbes is on high alert already, racing after squirrels he missed yesterday at this same point. He misses them today, too. He is doing that quick Australian shepherd trot everywhere. Hyper speed. Sniff sniff, off running. I get ahead of him since I am headed in a different direction. I call. He comes running. Is there anything as cool as seeing a dog at speed race across an open field? Joy streaming off him. He smiles when he runs. We come out to a road, North Sunken Meadow, and walk down it. It is about a mile to the Marsh. Hatches Creek on the bay side. The air is so soft and lovely with daffodils, bird song and green starting to emerge from the earth. I am transported to my youth when I rode my bike to work up here and worked outdoors all day with a shovel. I was steeped then in ozone and fresh earth smells. Powerful stuff. Our little cabin on the Cape is a chance for me to explore all this again more than forty years later. I get overwhelmed sometimes- a bit of discouragement- trying to do so much. It is a small cabin, but the work appears endless. And things go wrong, of course. That is the nature of work. I had made three windows to install over our kitchen area. A little more light, lovely. I put beach stones IMG_9065in between two layers of  poly-carbonate. It’s not cheap, but it is strong, I make a wooden frame and cut dadoes to receive the polycarbonate, two sheets to make it more heat loss resistant, then I just cut a hole between the studs and slip it in. A little tyvek and caulk. Nice. The third one won’t go in. Suzy has just swept up all the mess i made. It is late in the day. I cannot think of how to get this window in. The studs are a little closer than the others. 14/1/4 inches apart instead of 14 1/2. I’m tired, it’s after six. I should quit. I can’t. I keep stumbling along. Discouraged. Yes, I know. Tomorrow will be better. But I wanted to get all the window in today!!! That was the plan. What could go wrong? I planned to do this. Usually I am a fountain of energy and good spirits. I stagger around on my feet, radiating gloom and fatigue. I finally shove the window partway in to close the hole for the night, and start to pick up. We go and get a six pack of Guiness and drive down to the bay to watch the last of the sunset. We missed the glorious lead up to the sun sizzling in to the ocean, but the colors are still stunning. Half a beer later I feel pretty good. It is good to talk with Suzy. We decide to have the world’s greatest chili for supper. You sautee an onion, drop in some hamburg and stir till it’s all cooked, then add a can of beans, some garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Easy. Good. Like life should be. Two windows in.IMG_9128

 

There was moment of total triumph, though. Earlier in the day.IMG_9102

 

I am holding an inch and a quarter piece of pipe. There is a three inch piece of pipe, about two feet long above it and twenty five feet of skinny pvc pipe above that- you can see it bending. It’s pretty flexible stuff. A few minutes before, the inch and a quarter pipe had been stuck in the well, down twenty two feet inside the four inch well casing. We had last year  installed a cheap pitcher pump. It worked o.k., but  was cast iron and rusted up very quickly. Overnight the water that came out of the pump turned into stuff you wouldn’t think of drinking. So I sprang for an expensive stainless steel pump, made right here in the USA-  Bison Pumps.  However to order it, I needed to know how high up the casing the water came- the static level- and exactly how deep the well was. I had to remove our pitcher pump to get these measurements. Suzy and I did that in January. We pulled the pump off and then its thirty feet of inch and a quarter pipe. No problem. We got the static height, determined the depth, no problem. I was feeling pretty smug. Now to put it back. The pipe had a check valve at the bottom, so it was still full of water. Well, it came out. It’ll go back. I picked up one end, Suzy managed the other and I put the check valve back in the casing. I was feeding it down, Suzy was still managing her end. The pipe had a great bend in it. Marvelous stuff this plastic pipe. Then it snapped. I knew instantly what to do: leap forward to grab the pipe before it disappeared down the four inch pipe. It was waving wildly back and forth , the waves getting smaller and faster as it descended. I missed. I just plain missed it. Damn. That’s right. There it went. A ten foot chunk of well pipe down at the bottom of a 32 foot deep well. ARRRGGGHHHH. That’s not actually what I said. What I said was stronger language. It embarrasses my dog when I do that and I know he’s right.  Hobbes was mortified. I felt stupid. Why did I do this when it was cold out. The pipe is more flexible warm. Cold air. Snap. Stupid. Have you ever beat yourself up? Don’t bother.

 

Well there you are. Your well is not going to work again with this new fancy pump you are about to order, because the cylinder that you lower into the well is three inches in diameter. The well casing is just four inches. No room for and inch and a quarter pipe. Damn. It has to come out.

 

We put the pump and well cover back on to keep  crud out of the water, and ordered up our new pump. The pump came six weeks later and by that time we had had quite a bit of fun brainstorming ideas about how to get the broken-off piece out. Suzy would wake up in the middle of the night and say, “How deep is that well again?” Oh we were clever. We had long pliers, reamers, Chinese finger trappers, I talked to about a million people about it and everybody had ideas. We decided to try a three inch piece of pvc pipe that would fit inside, edges sharpened to be able to move the broken pipe away from the side of the casing, then something to  guide the pipe to the middle and something to capture the inch and a quarter pipe. I was thinking of plastic bristles, wires, running the wrong way. I took a trip to Mansfield Supply, local hardware store par excellance, to begin the prototype. There is nothing like doing the actual work to spur on design. It can seem like a good idea. A drawing helps. But nothing makes it more clear than to build. Arnie set me up with the three inch pipe and some half inch pipe for a handle. I went back the next day to get a piece of inch and a quarter pipe to practice with and Herm got interested. Have I watched any you tubes? He finds a you tube of a guy with the same problem. We watch a little. I watch more when I get home. Herm thought screws might work, driven in at an angle. Well, o.k. I was a little skeptical. How would the pipe get jammed on with something as stiff as a screw?  I was thinking a lot of bristles might better, or foam. Herm wanted to try it. Down into the cellar we went. He found a two foot piece of inch and quarter pipe for me to buy, but then insisted on cutting off some three inch pipe from a full length of pipe just to try it. “You do want to try it don’t you?” Well I did. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept help. That’s what makes a community, though. We help each other. These guys are masters of that. He put the piece of three inch pipe into a vise and drove in some screws. We shoved in the inch and a half piece and with a little adjustment of the screws, by golly, they grabbed that pipe. You could push the pipe one way, but you could not pull it back. Well, alright. Now just to get it to work at 25 feet away on a skinny little wand and under water.

 

I watched you tubes, I fiddled around and in the end I was feeling pretty good about it. This sure could work. Here are some photos. You can see the finish nails I put in and bent over to guide the pipe to the center. You can see how the edge is sharpened. You can’t see the screws because they aren’t in there yet, but I drove in four inch and a quarter dry wall screws at a forty five degree angle aimed up. I tried it. It worked. On land.

On the day of he big event the tensions were high. There was a lot riding on this. I’d paid a lot for the new pump. I wanted to used it. I didn’t want to hire someone else to do this. Arnie wasn’t sure it would work. It was along way down. I wasn’t sure it would work. Suzy had the camera ready. I glued some more half inch pipe onto my rig so it was twenty-five feet long. I dropped the three inch pipe laded with nails and screws with bolts to hold on the handle. and down she went. It fit. Down to 20 feet. Nothing. I felt a little something. I pushed. A little resistance. Then a clunk. That was it. It wouldn’t go more. Was I hung up on the edge of the pipe? I lifted. It was not heavy. Uh oh.  This is ten feet of inch and a quarter pipe filled with water. It should be heavier than this. I pulled a little more. Oh boy! Weight. I lifted more. Oh  joy. It was getting heavy. “Suzy, get a picture.”

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It worked! Just as planned. First time! You can see that grin on my face. Wow. When it all works out it’s great. And if it doesn’t? Well, you just have to keep working. Stay with the struggle, right Rachel?IMG_9124.jpg

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Oh, by the way. I got the third window the next day. It was easy. Sometimes you get too tired to do effective work. You take a break; it’s not so hard. But try telling me that when I’m working.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Navigation-Or My Wife the Alligator Wrestler.

IMG_7762We’re back. We went south for two and a half weeks to take a little sting out of winter.We arrived home last night – well pretty close to home; we couldn’t quite make it down the driveway because of the snow- about 11:00 having left Virginia a little after noon. We moseyed up the DelMarVa peninsula from our camp ground  down by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel- nothing short of spectacular by the way- well worth the thirteen bucks it costs just to see what is an engineering marvel. We got a seagull shaped dog biscuit for Hobbes too. Pretty nice. I experienced quite a bit of relief to actually be on the bridge because it had become dark and we navigate less successfully after dark. Older eyes I guess. Navigation is a pretty tense thing sometimes. I get frustrated by traffic, and bad signage and getting lost while in traffic is the worst. I looked at a boat catalogue this morning and all these ads for navigation aids caught my eye. Water, land, same thing? Well on the water you can always sink as well as get lost, so I guess it’s a little more critical on water, but I once spent three hours trying to get out of Toronto, two o’clock in the morning, so the traffic was not bad, but the signage was the pits. I stopped to ask directions six times. I should have pulled over and gotten some sleep, then tried again in the morning, but I really wanted to get back to the US that night. That was about the height of frustration for me, so it’s all been easier since, but you stick me in heavy traffic and have me not be sure of which way to go and I get a little tense.

I’ve gotten into a fair amount of difficulty with one of those Garmin things. Once I had told it inadvertently to select the shortest route somewhere and it brought us to a ferry crossing. The ferry wasn’t due in for two hours. It was a really long way to back track and drive around so we waited. Being able to wait, of course, eases things  tremendously. If you are under pressure of time, it is always worse. Sometimes a campground will be closing, or dark will make things more difficult so you want to get there earlier. Planning ahead always helps, so of course I’m out of luck there.

This trip we relied on maps more than we have in the past. I like maps. You get the big picture from maps. You can see relationships and get an idea of distances. The Garmin just feeds you little steps. I don’t like that. I like to have an idea of where I am, where I’m headed, how it might work out on the way. Just looking at roads and signs is an exercise in frustration though. In Georgia we had decided that if we saw signs for the Okefenokee swamp, we’d go there, but if we didn’t, we’d just head to Florida and try to get in a state park. You can see what basket cases we are. No reservation, no concrete plan. I’d asked directions to Okefenokee from Karen at A Big Wheel r.v. park in St. Mary’s, Georgia. She was quite an interesting campground owner. She kept chickens- one of the roosters was named Fancypants, had recently been divorced at 69 years of age after 50 years of marriage, and just generally had such a nice take on life that it was a lot of fun to listen to her, soft southern accent and all. She had a sort of pet snapping turtle. He wandered around the camp.IMG_7734She loved Okefenokee and gave me a set of directions. She wasn’t big on north or south or east- I really like headings. She was more into buildings, and things you’d see. So I got a little lost and that’s where we decided to go if we saw signs. Well! There it was! A big sign for Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Brown and official. Hurrah! Ever since I was a kid and my dad used to read the comics to me and explain why they were funny, or maybe not funny, I’d loved Pogo, drawn by Walt Kelly. Right up there with Lil Abner by Al Capp. Pogo was a possum who lived in Okefenokee swamp. It was pretty pithy, commenting on the world in a down home Okefenokee way. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So I wanted to get there. So do I let a sign change the course of my life? Yes. I’m like that. And I would have been cool with not going, too. I mean I’ve not gone for 67 years. I guess another year or two won’t matter much,

We’re going along fine following the signs and getting pretty excited and we come up to an intersection of another major road and there’s no sign. Just keep on straight I guess, right? I have  feeling. That road looks smaller after the light. I pull in to a gas station to fuel up and ask this guy who has a couple of boats in the back of his truck. “Oh yeah, you just take this left up ahead, and it’s about six miles on the right. You can’t miss it.”

O.K. We fill up, and leave. A hundred yards down the road after we make the turn, is a big sign for Okefenokee- straight ahead. Absolutely nothing at the intersection, but once you make the turn, you get confirmation. Signage drives me crazy. I can see why those little electronic navigation devices for boats are so popular, and why people use their phones. We have a flip phone.

We got there and loved it. The guy at the station was right. You couldn’t miss it- there was great big sign right where it needed to be to tell you to turn. We saw him unloading his boats and we did the tourist thing for a couple of hours. Walking, gawking, driving, gawking, shooting photos, buying a stuffed bobcat finger puppet and a bird book. We didn’t see any gators on our walk- too many people out, but had been told by a couple of ladies from Columbus ,Ohio about a pool that had three little ones in it that we could probably see if we drove down this road they pointed out. After our walk we drove down there- how far? Not too far. A couple of miles down I see a pool by the side of the road with a turn out. This must be it.

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An alligator is kind of endlessly fascinating/horrifying. They are supposed to be able to outrun a horse for a short distance. They are the ultimate camouflage masters. Their jaws shut with stupendous force. They grow to a tremendous size. And when you get south, they are everywhere. We northerners don’t think anything of bears or cougars or rattlesnakes. But then again we never see them. Yes we know they are out in the woods, but I haven’t seen one of those three things in ten years. Twenty. Maybe thirty. But you go down south and you will see gators. We were on a walk in a Disney town with my sister Claudie and her husband Ron a few years ago, around this manmade lake, about a half mile around. Nice houses, a short walk to a lovely town with shop a and restaurants and a gourmet dog biscuit purveyor and we see signs: Beware of Alligators. IMG_6549 Ron tells me, “Yeah, people lose their dogs to them all the time.” Oh! I hold Hobbes a little tighter on his leash. “Little dogs usually.”

We see a bird swallowing a fish it had speared, bigger than its head and having to turn it around first so the spines go down the right way. IMG_6553Predators everywhere. And I spot a little gator. It’s cute. 18 inches long. IMG_6558Ron says, “Let’s look for the mother.” And there, across the pond, a hundred yards away is what looks like a tire thrown away. I get it in my camera and zoom in. IMG_6564That is the tail of an eight foot long alligator, curled around and basking in the sun on a bank while people walk around with little appetizers on the ends of their leashes. This is a cultivated, attractive pond with a sidewalk around it that is right next to downtown. You regularly hear stories. My other sister Ginny told me one about a guy who had just gone missing from a spring. People swim in these springs. We have swum in these springs.they’re gorgeous. Could you resist?

 

IMG_6587This story is gruesome. This was in Blue Springs, at the head of the St. John River in Oragne, Florida, a manatee hang out. Check out their website. Cool place

https://www.floridastateparks.org/hours-and-fees/Blue-Spring

There were 205  manatees there the day we went. At the head of the spring where it all gushes out people like to dive. Well, of course. I’ve wanted to do this myself. I’ve read about how eerie it is to get out of the boat with hundreds of feet of crystal clear water below you- like climbing out of plane at height. Well at Blue Springs, you just swim over to the spring. The day we were there when my sister told me the story, people were swimming with the manatees, and that is cool. I forgot my camera that day. Ooops. My sister shot some photos but I can’t get them to here. Sorry. they’re spectacular.

The water is crystal clear and there is no place for a gator to hide. But in the spring, that goes down about a hundred fifty feet, there are caves off the main shaft at various depths. Two divers had gone- you have to register to dive there- down and only one came back. They never found a trace of any of the other diver- tanks, regulator, hoses, flippers, mask,and all. Gone. Now that’s a creepy story. The three year old kid who wandered away from his mother. Pets. You know.

I stop the van at the pool in Okefenokee..IMG_7791 I get out. Excited. I leave Hobbes and Suzy in the truck so I can just have a look to see if we should all get out. I spot a little gator.

IMG_7792I spot another. I spot a third. All around two feet. I see a log. Out a little. It’s not a log. It’s the head of a bigger gator. Four feet? Five feet? Not a big one, but wow! I found four gators. I go back to the truck and get Hobbes- on his leash- and Suzy. I take Hobbes around the truck away from the gators. We go within twenty  feet of the water and I see movement. Oh my god. Four more gators swimming away. Whoa. I’d assumed there wouldn’t be any more is such a small body of water. A guy drives by and call to me. “Be careful of your dog here.” Yes, be careful with your dog.

So there’s a certain something to not having too set a plan and to not having it all laid out in minute detail.We got to Okefenokee, and I was enchanted even though i did not launch our canoe. Hobbes liked Okefenokee too, although he preferred the manatees.

Refinement

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I went up by myself to the Cape for a quick visit. One night. A little work the afternoon I arrived, an evening there in the cabin, then six or seven hours before I left for Storrs. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Cape alone and I wanted  just to revisit that feeling. Without Suzy along I noticed the trip up isn’t quite the same. Do I regret not bringing Suzy along? Am I beating myself up for being selfish? Do I not deserve this chance by myself? I stopped in Onset at Marc Anthony’s for a grilled chicken sandwich with peppers and onions on their Syrian bread.  As a kid  with my parents we drove through Onset for years just writing it off. Route six  is not the best part of town. I’d seen the sign for Onset Beach and wondered, as a kid.. Then I met someone a few years ago who lived there and she spoke glowingly of Onset, “Like the Cape without the prices.” So on one of my solo trips to the Cape  I decided to take a few minutes to explore. Am I glad I did. My regular route to the Cape now includes a swing through Onset center and a stop at Marc Anthony’s. Life’s little side trips are often the best parts. Breathe it in.

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When you order at Marc Anthony’s you can get it to go and cross a small street to enter this park overlooking Onset Bay. Benches and all.

While I’m waiting for my sandwich- you order and pay at the register, then find a table- a group of Coast Guardsmen came in dressed in what I thought to be very snazzy foul weather gear but turned out to be dry suits. One of the fellows was talkative. I peppered him with questions. They’d been out for a run through the canal. A stunning day for a ride. He loved it and thought the Coast Guard was way better than the Navy. Yes, he’d seen The Finest Hours. Their boat was docked down below and they walk up for lunch. I drove down to the dock in my snappy practically-new-only-four-years old Chevy pickup to eat on the water.. Their boat was there. Twin Honda 225’s.

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I love driving to the Cape. The sight of the bridge and the canal is stirring to me every time.IMG_7238.JPG

It doesn’t look too stirring in the photo. You have to be there. You have to have driven to the Cape with your family, with my father driving. He could get you excited about it. Five kids and two dogs in a 1955 Chevy sedan. It was longer drive back then, too. No big highways. And you’d get lost in Providence every time, guaranteed. Route six was routed right through the town and they changed the route every time we went. You’d miss a little sign and you got quite tour of Providence trying to find route six again.. I still love Providence, too. And Johnston with the coolest gas station in the world- a fieldstone building now known as Hartford Radiator. There was another station right on a pond in Johnston where we had stopped at dusk once for gas  when akid about my age came around with a fishing pole and great big bass. He was all excited; I was too. What a fish. Does stuff like that still happen? Yeah, you get to the Cape quicker now.

So once on the Cape I like to get off the highway in Orleans and take the back way to North Eastham, you see the Skaket Beach area a little and that part of Orleans running down to Rock Harbor and all the cottages around there. It is lovely. Once on Bridge road another traditional stop when we have Hobbes with us, is to hit Boat Meadow Beach. I didn’t have Hobbes, but I thought I ought to stop. I pull up and what do  I see? img_7241

Another puppy! Check out his legs. They’re all going  like crazy.IMG_7243.JPG

I guess it’s not just Hobbes’ favorite beach.

So I had to stop at the new library which is AWESOME! I wanted to get few Joseph Lincoln books. They’re hard to find around here. The Eastham Library had forty of them. I ran into Glenn, my surfing buddy from days of yore, and invited him to stop by later. I got my books, bought two Eastham turnip festival tee shirts which look like they were designed by Magritte, with a  gorgeous purple turnip floating over the beach.IMG_7292.JPG

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I arrived, fearful toward the end that I would have to break in to the cabin because I didn’t think I had a key with me- different vehicle. It turns out I didn’t need to break in. I had cleverly put a copy of the Cape shed key on my pick up truck key ring. It’s not all that hard to break in because the upstairs door doesn’t lock, but you’d have to drop down from the attic to the main floor. And you need  to get up to the second floor.IMG_7078.JPG

Of course there’s usually a ladder hanging around, but I thought I might have left it inside over the winter. I could also just open a window and climb in- it turns out I hadn’t locked them. Hey, wait a minute. Am I crazy telling you how to break in to our cabin?  I figure if you are the sort to break into cabins that you’d be able to figure it out in about three seconds. Look at the latch on the second floor door. If you need a place to stay that bad, help yourself. There’s a little wood for the stove. There are candles. There’s a pump for water down by the well. Lock up when you leave. There isn’t much to steal.IMG_7248.JPG

All this to lead to refinement.  Refining thought. Coming to a place with something you are making or have been  thinking about, where you feel really quite good about it is wonderful. I had come to the cabin to install some electric wires in the walls so I could insulate. I am pretty handy, but I am not an electrician and I was in a little over my head. I felt genuine trepidation over this. You tube helps. reading helps,  but it is scary to do things you don’t know well. I’ll have an electrician do all the actual hooking up and wiring the switches and lights, and hooking up to the main power when we get main power, but I need the sires in the walls before I can  insulate it and get the sheetrock in, and paint the walls and ceiling, do the kitchen counter, and get curtains up,  and start building drawers, and work at the refinement. It takes quite a bit of time to finish things well. I am a classic under estimater. My friend Rachel says it takes about four times as long as you’d think to finish anything and she’s a math whiz. When I began this cabin in the fall of 2015 I thought I’d be done with it that winter. A few weeks to get it up, then a couple of weeks to finish everything off. HA! I want this to be a really neat little cabin and I am now willing to work at that. It has required a philosophical shift on my part. All my life I have been busy, rushing about, working, family, duties, recreation. I did a lot of thing slap dash. I had no choice? Zoom zoom. Now, older, I am trying to focus on fewer things. This cabin for one. Lewis Thomas in his book, Lives of a  Cell talks about how important it is to fully understand something. He suggests that before we annihilate ourselves with a fun-filled nuclear display we ought to agree as a species to cooperate and come to fully understand something, say an ant colony. And what we would learn about ourselves in the process he was hoping would be enough to maybe forestall the nuclear holocaust. I think his words should be heeded today more than ever.

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Is this what the tiny house movement is all about?  Are some starting to feel that to understand things thoroughly is important. There is so much information now, much of it deliberately misleading, some outright false, that you can be confused. Our horizons are huge- unlimited?  Overwhelming? Do I want to be the president of the universe or just be a gazillionaire?  Look at all the friends I have on facebook!

In times of confusion it can be comforting to have someone tell you what to do.   Big data, big experts, big solution. Just tell us what to think, what to do. Really? May I suggest caution. H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is one solution which is simple,  neat and wrong.” Is thinking  not attractive anymore? Trump is telling us how we hate the media? We do? Does he have data? Trust me. Believe me.  I don’t know.

On the way home, my fears about wiring allayed having started, understanding it better now,  I was just buzzing about what came next. I was so absorbed in  designing,  thinking about what I would do to this little cabin  and how I would manage to do it, trying to make mental lists of tasks, then getting a flash of insight into some knotty problem,  that the three hour trip home seemed to happen in a flash.  Can I hardly wait to finish? No. I can hardly wait to get started.img_7290

Snow Day

I sit in my chair cross legged writing in my notebook. I love to start the day that way. Tend the stove, brush teeth, wash face and shave. Tell Hobbes he’s good dog for bringing me a slipper, and then into the chair. I’ve worked on my study and it is much more comfortable: built-in shelves in the formerly useless ends of an eight foot closet help free up some space, I finished the desk top for the file cabinets, some paint. Nice. And I sit looking up at the Long Leg by Edward Hopper when I pause and imagine I am sailing on Cape Cod Bay in such a nice little boat.

The Long Leg, 1935 by Edward HopperBut this morning when I look up I am drawn to the window with snow swirling wildly. Thick snow and good breeze.  Snow day! I taught for 33 years and I’d often be pretty tired. If you’re into it, teaching offers an infinite place to put yourself and time and energy. I was into it. A snow day was an exquisite morning where you could sleep a little. I used to think you  just got them; just like the kids, I didn’t know we had to make up the days at the end. Now I’m up early enjoying it out the window from my comfy study.

Alright let’s catch up on the Cape. Last trip we brought up a little Jotul woodstove which I got installed so Suzy and I actually stayed in the cabin. First time.Yes. Hurrah. Wowee zowee. It is so much nicer to stay in the cabin than it is the van. A little roomier and for me, who has worked for this for a long time- just awesome. I stayed up late both nights just buzzing. Of course late is a relative term. When you have no electricity and you are on candle  and lantern power, late comes earlier. Of course I had no clock to tell me. The first night I just sat sat there by the stove, the firelight and candles pretty charming, looking around at the cabin and thinking about what came next and enjoying the coziest feeling there is. Hobbes on the floor, Suzy in the bed- yes we have a bed in there now. When we went to Mexico we stopped at the Hotel Fonda somewhere south of Rosarito. This was the most charming hotel I had ever seen. The bar, which you sort of walked into to get to the registration desk, overlooked the Pacific ocean and looked like Humphrey Bogart was sitting there behind a banana plant.img_0186IMG_0181.JPGIMG_0182.JPG

And the rooms were teeny, but ever so nice.img_0252

Well that’s what our cabin will be like someday. It’s not done, yet, but now we’re sleeping in it and it is thrilling. It’s nice when you build your own life.

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And a real bed. Note the luxurious sheetrock around it. I insulated and ran an outlet wire then put that in before I built the bedframe.

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We goofed off a little on this trip, too. You know. eating and driving around. We went up to Wellfleet, Great Island. One of my favorite spots. I used to play some sort of a spy game- I think it was just modified  hide and seek with Saben when he was little kid. One day I couldn’t find him at all and it turns out he’d taken to a tree. He thought it was pretty funny. So did I. I still love the area. The light comes through there, filtered by the pitch pine from off the water, hits that golden grass and pine needle ground, and fills you with something approaching joy. img_7022img_7026