Flow

So I don’t know precisely when it crept into the argot used by my friends and me. But I suspect that it wasn’t until the early seventies. I remember another carver up along the coast telling me that the Eagles were “…way gnarly, man.”

The way and the man fit into the hipster jargon we used ( old school hipster, not idiots running around in beanies and plug earrings), but gnarly…as in a tree trunk? Of course, being this was coastal Maine in 1972 and not Greenwich Village, NYC, I was possibly out of touch with the linguistic changes of the past several years. I smiled and covered my ignorance. Things moved slower in those pre-internet days, more like the speed of the wind rustling through the cattails on a calm day than lightning-fast.

I can read the New York Times fresh online every morning. Back then, the Times wound its way up from New York to Boston and up to Wiscassett in the cargo space on a bus. So if you knew a summering New Yorker, you might see the Sunday times on Tuesday. Then in casual conversation, I found that the other carver was from California. Ahhh, that explained everything. If I was “from away” in Maine, he was from so far away that the Mainers and I could almost consider him an alien. The Cap’n, Cora, Lyman, and all my friends assured me that, by comparison, I was a native from just around the cove. He was that rare bird indeed from truly away.

His tales of surfing in California were fascinating. Few natives ventured into the water voluntarily; it was too cold for recreational swimming. So stories of surfing in the waves seemed exotic. It was not until after the Second World War that pools in the region made swimming a real sport and recreational thing for youth. Old-timers did not know how to swim, and every year lobstermen and fishers drowned for lack of water survival skills.

When he left, we were once again watching the New Yorkers and folks up from Jersey and Philadelphia. I was again called upon to explain to folks at the cafe that we had English muffins but no bagels. Nor did we have any lox. And, of course, the island store carried the Portland and the Bangor papers, but not the Times.

The nature of rapid information flow is to gradually make the exotic common. But perhaps it also makes things a bit less exciting and discovery a bit more of an anti-climax.

Town Meeting

I thought it was some archaic ritual, but they said it was the purest form of democracy. It was a Annual Town Meeting. No, it wasn’t the civilized sort of obscured politics of boroughs, mayors, and city councils I’d seen in New York or even Boston, where things happened in smokey rooms and offices. This was the vigorous, sharp-clawed, rip and tear, raw politics of small-town New England. The sweetest people in daily life, Grannies, got up and said awful things about the selectman. The moderator banged the gavel down hard three times and ordered the chief of police to remove a disorderly man pulled from the Meeting. I thought I knew something about the small town I was living in, but that first Town Meeting was a revelation.

First of all, everything seemed to be up for discussion. Parliamentary rules guided the Meeting, but in between the rules, there was ample space for innuendo, disputation, and the playing out of old grievances. It was a town of fewer than six hundred people, and about ninety percent were crammed into the meeting house, and they all had issues.

The Cap’n had tried to warn me. He’d pointed out that many of the Board of Selectmen were people “from away.” they’d moved into town over the past decades. As a result, they had few family ties to the local families and the town. Being naive about government, I asked why that was a plus. The Cap’n gave me that look he reserved for when he thought I was behaving like an ass. “Wes, there are about six hundred of us. Many families have been here since before the Mayflower was a silly idea of the Pilgrims. That’s a lot of history for nursing aggravation and dispute. Newcomers have no ties; they’re bound to be fairer.”

I was trained as an anthropologist, a surgical technician, a woodworker, and a folksinger. I had traveled widely. I could tell you what a dermatome was, why the size of a kerf on a saw was important, and parse the circle of fifths in music. I had met all sorts of people in my travels and seen many interesting things, but the Town Meeting was a unique nonpareil sort of thing. It had formal ritualized aspects mixed with just a touch of blood sport.
Critical documents were involved; the annual Town Report and the Warrant. The Town Report chronicled the activities of Town Committees, expenses, and government happenings throughout the year. You coud find rows of past Town Reports in homes.
The Warrant was another sort of beast. It outlined all the Articles that needed to be voted for. This was where the blood sport entered the picture. Individual articles got discussed in detail before balloting. This was where personality, family vendetta, and personal belief intersected and clashed. A two hundred dollar item for the library could be a half-hour of vicious back and forth.

At the end of the Meeting, I noticed many residents tearing up the Warrant, walking out, and talking amiably with those they had been in a violent dispute with an hour ago. Turning to the Cap’n, I asked how this could be so? Why didn’t they elect a mayor and a council to get the work done? Why this annual brawl. The Cap’n quickly told me to shut up before I was overheard. The Town Meeting was the primary underlying civic structure of small-town New England. ” We wouldn’t be who we are without it.”

I rapidly wrote my notes on the Meeting and started thinking about how I could describe it to my professors and in my thesis. What I found most amazing was that so much agreement and unity had come out of such vigorous dispute.
All these years after, and many Town Meetings later, I am still amazed by the process but convinced that the Cap’n was right. It is an underlying civic structure in New England, and its shadow extends even over the larger towns and cities that have moved beyond it.

Character

The little boat did kind of look like a terrapin. It was a bit beamy and of a design almost guaranteed not to capsize. It was a perfect small tender for a larger boat. And a safe one for a couple of adventurous teens to explore the Harbor. I had enjoyed my time with the kids as they “helped” design the transom banner I’d carve for them.

What I hadn’t enjoyed was my negotiation with their smarmy parents. They thought my asking price could be negotiated – rather haggled down. So instead, I reversed my usual fifty percent upfront and the balance on receipt and told them to pay it all in advance. It was that time of year when everybody wanted their boat in the water, trim and ready for summer. I had plenty of work and had a rare event: a queue of people wanting my services. So pay up; they did.

I found a short of mahogany for the transom banner from the shorts bin at Spinney’s boatyard. A short is leftover when a long plank is cut to needed size. The remainder is too long to be scrap and too small for most other jobs. But it’s just perfect for small carving jobs. Neither boat yards nor carvers make money on waste. I went into the office to pay for the wood and noticed that Terrapins “master” was in the office arguing with Spinney over storage costs for the previous winter. As he left, Spinney and I exchanged looks. As soon as he was out of hearing range, Spinney mentioned that the client might not find room for storage at Spinney’s next winter.

I delivered the banner on time and spent little time thinking about Terrapin, her owners, or their motor sailing Yacht called Queenie. But around the end of August, Queenie’s owners came asking me to carve quarterboards for Queennie. Hoping the payment issues were settled, I quoted a fair price for carved and gilded letters in teak. But once again, there was an eternal haggle over the cost of stock, gold leaf, and my labor. I eventually told them to go to a painter for lettering because I was too busy to take their work.

Not more than a month later, Events hit a pinnacle when Queenie needed to be hauled out for storage. Spinney told them flat out that he was downsizing his storage capacity, and they should move their storage cradle and find a new location for the winter storage. More than a few disputes had dotted the season over the use of utilities, mooring, and repairs. Every cost was disputed, slow paid, and full of anger.

Queenie was finally relocated to Grays on the other side of the Harbor for more expensive storage prices – old man Gray had seen the smoke coming from Spinney’s ears and decided to charge a premium for his last spot. The sign painter heard my complaints at the diner over breakfast one morning. The ships’ chandlery ceased offering credit for Quennies supplies, and the sailmaker was reluctant to take their business, and they wound up doing business with someone over to Boothbay.

We were sitting in Spinney’s office on a windy October morning, drinking coffee by the woodstove, when the topic of Queenie and her owners came up. They had spent an entire year creating bad feelings wherever they went. Spinney mentioned that the Harbor was a small place, and rumor traveled far and wide with great speed. Eventually, it caught up with them.

Spinney sipped his coffee, stroked his cat’s head, and opined that “It was best to remember Tom Paine’s advice that “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” 

Bilge Rat

The King James Version of the bible says that “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” However, at sea, things are different: 

“Six days thou shalt labor and do all thou art able, and on the seventh, holystone the decks and scrape the cable.” – Dana’s Philadelphia Catechism. 

My father quoted me this as we’d head off to perform some extra job he had on a Sunday, and I was not surprised when my father-in-law mentioned it to me years later. While my father had been engine room, and my father in law bridge working the ship and doing ships work, all were twenty-four a day, seven days a week priorities. I came to understand this when I went to sea. I realized but did not appreciate it.

I had the reasonable expectation of having escaped this never-ending cycle of toil on becoming both a civilian and having swallowed the anchor.

The first hint that life wouldn’t be late Sunday mornings in the rack came on my first long weekend at my new wife’s family home. Located on Maine’s mid-coast, it was a speck of a town that boasted all of 490 year-round residents.

I first heard my wife say: “Wes, Daddy could use a little help on the boat….” I saw it as a once in awhile bonding ritual. Daddy was the Cap’n, a retired master Merchant Mariner uneasy ashore.

The little bonding rituals started taking up free time every time we came up from Boston and entire months when we were in “residence.” At first, it was little things, “Wes, Daddy needs you to go to the lumberyard with him.” 

Then it escalated. The Cap’n needed me to scrape the hull and put on the bottom paint. The Cap’n had a repair job and needed help. At last, the Cap’n had an old dragger that he was fixing up, and its hull needed to be chipped. But, without a doubt, the worst proved to be: “Wes, can you help Daddy clean out the bilges on the boat?” It turned out that Daddy didn’t need help; he assigned the job to me.

Like you, I have limited my time in bilges to the bare minimum. By way of reek, their reputation proceeds them. But that’s only on your average boat. There were forty or so years of accumulated oil, assorted gunk, probably fish guts, and who knew what else on this beast.

Having never cleansed a bilge, I sought advice: First, hose it down with detergent; make sure the drain cocks are open. After the first time hose it out again. 

Now make sure all the limber holes were cleaned out. Hose it out again. A limber hole is an opening in a ship’s frame to allow all the gunk, junk, and scum to flow through. The filth sits between the frames if they are blocked instead of getting flushed out. After all this, the Cap’n determined that the bilge was much improved. But, it was not up to his standards. I better steam clean it. 

I had used a steam cleaner in Boot Camp on punishment duty. So, I was set to clean the galley’s garbage cans with a steam cleaner. Whatever infraction you may have done, you’ll never do it again after doing that. It was mid-winter in Great Lakes Training Station. There were no hazmat suits; you steamed the smelly cans out in your work uniform and peacoat. Afterward, you were not welcome in the barracks because the odor clung to you like a fog of cess.

I sought out the yard sup, and he provided a steam cleaner on a cart, set it up, and got it going. His one bit of advice: “Wes, just watch out for blowback.” Not wanting to appear to be a rank newbie, I knowingly smiled and started my job. A few minutes into the job, I poked the tip of the cleaner into a recess and let it flow. I instantly learned what he meant by blowback when a fog of forty-year-old bilge cess covered me from head to toe. It was primarily oily residue with high notes of fish gurry mixed with lower tones from a leaky marine toilet and a heady scent of the fragrance from the detergent I had used in my earlier cleaning. I immediately bent over and lost my lunch. I now had more to clean up. 

Hearing me retch the yard sup, and the Cap’n came to inspect my job. They said nothing.  

I finished the job with much higher caution and remembered to close drain cocks.

It was good that I had ridden over to the yard on my bicycle. No one would have allowed me in their car. When I got home, my wife summarily handed me a change of clothes, a fresh Fels Naptha soap bar, and a bucket. I made my way to the hose and repeatedly soaped up.

Recently, many public personalities have had their careers checked as photos of them emerged wearing black or brown faces. Nobody thought to snap a shot of me in my streaky, blotchy face. Not that I have a public profile worth ruining. It was days before I was clean. I could not blame anyone on the first night I spent on a porch; I was up half the night with my odor.

I’ve since learned that my experience was not unique. If I had asked the sup what was meant by the blowback, I could have avoided most of my mess. So maybe it’s true what’s said about men not liking to ask for directions. 

It is advised that you clean your bilge regularly. Rather than letting things go to extremes. These days, many safe products will help you do it. Hazmat suits help, and please do not call on me to assist.

An Inconvenient Pine

The Cap’n finished tamping his pipe, lit it, and then tersely commented- “They’re just Summer Complaints.” My wife, her mother, and Cap’n’s brother nodded in agreement. I kept quiet. Back in the old days, Summer Complaints were some of the nastier infectious diseases that came primarily in warmer weather. These days, it was an intentionally derogatory name for typecasting summer people “They’ll be gone Labor Day.” This last said between clenched jaws as he bit into his pipe stem. The Cap’n rarely showed any outward signs of upset or anger, and clenching his jaw indicated near rage. His standard was a calm exterior that hid any anger inside.

The cause was rapidly retreating southwards along Center Road towards the Cape. The reason? An argument between the Cap’n and the Bensons about their pine tree. That pine obstructed the Cap’ns view down to the cove. This pine blocked the view of Psyche, my father in laws 34-foot ketch.

I heard no more about “that damn pine” until winter. The Cap’n seemed to have a little secret smile every time the weather turned foul and the roads greasy with ice. Psyche was never hauled in winter but swung at an ice-free mooring in a channel that the tides scoured clear of ice. The Cap’n and I continuously craned our necks to see down to where the boat rode at mooring. By the end of the winter, I began to see why the Cap’n was so peeved by the tree.
Spring came, and the pine was still there. My father-in-law was fit to be tied. Once again, I was scraping off flaking bottom paint and listening to him grumble.
One Sunday at supper, it came out that he’d paid the Town’s plow operator to salt the pine down every storm. Enough salt had been spread that most of the low shrubbery around the pine appeared to be dead. But that pine seemed to be healthier for the salt applications.

By September, the Cap’n was smiling again. But, in spring, the tree was still there. Then, at dinner one evening, the Cap’n admitted that he’d had Lowell, a neighbor in the cove, drive copper boat nails into the tree. The copper was supposed to be poisonous to the tree. But instead, it bushed out and grew well that summer.

The tourist bureaus like to downplay the amount of snow the coastal area gets, and the coast indeed sees a fraction of what accumulates in inland regions. But it’s not the snow that gets you on the coast. It’s the ice storms that turn the roads into a slick mess. The term you sometimes hear is that the roads turn “greasy.” Too true. So it was one greasy night about midnight that the plow truck slowly, ponderously, slid off the road and into the pine tree that blocked the view of Psyche.
When the edition of the regional newspaper – the Coastal Register- landed in the mailbox on the Florida Panhandle, there was a celebration. The Cap’n was said to have even grabbed his wife and spun her around; the hated tree was gone.

But when the Cap’n and his wife returned from Florida, there stood the damned pine, cranked at an extreme angle, it is true, but still blocking the view of the ketch. No one had had the fortitude to tell the Cap’n. When he noticed, he almost seemed like a defeated man. Almost.
Over the summer, however, the pine gradually lost needles and died. By the beginning of August, the tree warden had cut it down. The Cap’n was victorious.
Then just before labor day, we spied the Bensons at the edge of their property. They were planting a tiny white pine where the old one had stood. When they saw us standing in a group watching, they waved at us, smiled, and pointed towards the tiny pine.
As was his practice, the Cap’n calmly reached for his pipe and tobacco pouch, then comfortably filled the pipe, tamped it down, slowly lit it, and puffed it to get it going well.

Then, he looked in my direction and said, “it should be a few years before we have to girdle it, Wes.”

Foretopsail

It was a pain but sometimes necessary to take the Grey Menace with me when I went to work on Psyche. If the ketch was on the mooring, it was a bizarre trip in the dinghy. A large cat caterwauling loudly in the stern of a dinghy is bound to be watched by people onshore.
Actually, after a moment, he settled into watching the water and the occasional fish he’d see in the water.

He was banned from the cabin while my wife cleaned. The Menace hated brooms and despised vacuum cleaners. One he’d attack, the other he’d get subtle with and try to bite through the electrical cord. So off he’d go with me to the shop or the boat. He was barred from Spinney’s boatyard because the cat queen of the yard, Bubastis, despised the Menace. When I was off to work at Spinney’s, he’d always act as though his integrity was being besmirched, ” it’s not my fault that Boo is such a harridan. I’m easy to get along with!”

The only trouble at the boat was when she had to be alongside the float. Then the Menace insisted on jumping to the float and playing with Raygun. Raygun was Lyman’s large labrador mongrel. Raygun had an “arrangement” with the Menace. He didn’t mainly get along with the other cats at his home, but the Menace was a kindred soul with a similar orientation towards creating trouble. So off they’d go up the little ravine that sheltered a tidal creek. Near the head of the stream was the Shephard place. At Shephard’s was a sizeable disagreeable dog that loved no one but harbored great hate for Raygun and the Menace. a fun afternoon could be had by the troublemakers running about yowling and barking while taunting the beast across the safety of the ravine.

Like most unfair arrangements, this one lasted until it didn’t. Some kids in the cove had bridged the ravine with planks to reach their fort easily. But Shepherd’s dog had been in on the deal because as soon as the Menace and Raygun started up their yowling and barking, they were met by the large hound who was no longer conveniently penned on the opposing side of the ravine. A moment of silence ended with the sound of animals tearing through the woods. First came the Menace, then Raygun, and at last the Shephard’s great beast.

The cat lost no time leaping aboard the ketch and climbed the foremast. Raygun lept into the water and started circling the ketch. Lyman, his brother the Cap’n, and I came tearing out of the shop to witness the mess.

Eventually, Tom Shepard came down to collect his dog, Raygun was lured home with a fresh can of food, and the Menace was retrieved from near the top of the foremast.

The cove was a tranquil place. Not much happens. That day, the telephone lines and the post office lobby were buzzing with the big fight on Lyman’s float. Inquiries were made “over Town” at the emergency ward. Had there been any admissions? Closer to home Tom Shepard and the Cap’n got busy tearing up the plank bridge across the ravine. Raygun retired to his bed in the shop. And the Menace was restricted to quarters pending a Courts Martial for dereliction of duty.

It was the studied opinion of the Court that he be reduced in rank, restricted to quarters for a month, and get a new title: Foretop’sail cat.
He didn’t like the way we said the new title much. His ears went back every time we said it, and we did that often. Somehow it lacked the sheer threat of Grey Menace.

Fall Line

Some things are noticeable only when you look at the big picture. For example, driving along the east coast of the United States from south to north, visiting beaches, you’ll notice that they fall off around Portland, Maine. No more beautiful long sandy beachscapes. You are in the territory of sharp exposed rocky heads, small scallop-shaped beaches of shingle. There is a “fall line” separating the coastal terrains at this point. The disunity is more than symbolic it’s the boundary between two geological zones.
It was also sometimes described tome as the boundary between southern Maine and that mystical realm known as “Down East.” Being “From Away,” I have no ownership of these terms. Instead, I’m relating what was told to me. South of Portland was a zone that had once been Down East but had been infiltrated by New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. They originally came to “Summer” in Maine, decided that they loved the life, and came back after Labor Day to settle permanently. But, in a frantic rush north, they failed to leave behind what they were escaping and brought it with them.
On hearing this sort of description, I was always a bit uncomfortable. I was originally from New York City – home of the most miscreant invaders. Having studied history and being an anthropologist, I wondered if the Britons said similar things about Saxons, Angles and at last about Normans. Yup, there goes the neighborhood.
In the larger scheme of things, our whole lot blend when viewed by people with whom we have more significant cultural differences. Say someone from Greece, Fiji, or even close at hand in the States – Idaho.
My view of this “Down East” discontinuity rested at this point for years. Then a few years ago, I was showing my carvings at a boat show that was very far Down East. On a slow afternoon, my neighbor in the booth next to me started describing how the Down East concept was shifting. In his opinion, to be Down East, you had to get east and north of Acadia National Park. This was way deeper a bite into Maine’s territory than Portland. If it shifted much further, it would be out of state and country.

Geological boundaries, or the venation patterns of leaves – palmate versus linear- don’t usually change. But, human culture can be resilient, or it can change in a generation. It probably does change in every generation, but time moves forward a second at a time and carries us along with it – only when we look back do we notice the change.

Geedunks

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Chief cook & bottle washer. Or in Naval parlance Mess cook. Indeed not the chef. Culinary expertise was not called upon aboard the Psyche to serve the Cap'n. The guests may have had other expectations, but it was the Capn's Ketch, and therefore the cook pleased the skipper. On these cruises, cooking was basic. Friday night, I only acted as a steward, serving whatever Cora had prepared in advance. On Saturday, breakfast was the prescribed pancakes with wild Maine blueberries and maple syrup. I've been able to cook those since Boy Scout days. Lunch almost any day was King Oscar Sardines, and sea biscuit served with hot tea. Saturday evening, we usually planned to anchor in a harbor and go ashore for a restaurant meal. If we ate aboard, it was B&M Beans and Oscar Myer Franks. Sunday was cold cereal with whatever milk remained in the icebox. Lunch was sardines again.<br>The guests frequently complained to me about the meal plan, and I just shrugged. They were his children, and they knew from a lifetime of experience how set he was in his ways. They hoped that as a relative outsider, I might be able to persuade him. But I'd fallen for this game a time or two early in my marriage. The Cap'n would put his foot down, and the children would close ranks with Daddy against the interloper. So I just smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and secretly ate from my stash of hidden food items.<br>I'd learned in the Navy that what geedunks ( sweets and specialty items not served at meals) the ship sold were not necessarily what I wanted. So I had a private stash. As in the Navy, so too on Psyche. You might think that I'd share with my wife, but after she insisted that I share my stash with her brother, I had become cagey. Yes, I know you're thinking, why didn't they bring a stash of their own aboard? Great question. I don't have an answer except perhaps the hunt for mine was so much fun. <br>She knew the stash existed, and she would ransack my seabag when I was up on deck, but she couldn't find it. I understand her desire to have some of the goodies, but she had medical issues that made her ill if she ate too much of the stuff. Me? In those days I could eat anything and lose weight. <br>But I knew she was closing in on my hiding spot, so I decided to get nasty about the entire thing. Before we left for a weekend sail, I hid a few items where they could be found, but not too quickly.<br>Saturday afternoon, I came below to find that they had located the cupcakes and the granola bars. My wife and her brother were sitting at the table, contentedly munching away. Looking self satisfied and amused. My brother in law generously offered some to me. I refused but sat there watching them eat. After a bit, it occurred to them that there was something odd going on when I reached into the engine compartment and dragged out some of my stash of chocolate bourbon bonbons and started eating. I watched them intently. My brother in law stopped eating, and pulled a strange face, reaching into his mouth, he pulled something from between his teeth. "what's this?" "Well," I commented, " when you eat chocolate-covered ant cupcakes, you have to expect a leg or two." My wife continued to eat the cricket granola bar but now began scrutinizing it. As one they bolted for the companionway, and then to the rail where, as we say in the Navy, they "chummed the fishes."<br>As soon as my wife recovered enough, she began screaming to Daddy about what a jerk I was ( accurate). For once, she got little sympathy from the Cap'n. He fell off course, a once in a lifetime event, because he was laughing so hard.<br>That evening we had to go ashore for dinner. Nobody trusted me enough to eat anything I might cook.Chief cook & bottle washer. Or in Naval parlance Mess cook. Indeed not the chef. Culinary expertise was not called upon aboard the Psyche to serve the Cap’n. The guests may have had other expectations, but it was the Capn’s Ketch, and therefore the cook pleased the skipper. On these cruises, cooking was basic. Friday night, I only acted as a steward, serving whatever Cora had prepared in advance. On Saturday, breakfast was the prescribed pancakes with wild Maine blueberries and maple syrup. I’ve been able to cook those since Boy Scout days. Lunch almost any day was King Oscar Sardines, and sea biscuit served with hot tea. Saturday evening, we usually planned to anchor in a harbor and go ashore for a restaurant meal. If we ate aboard, it was B&M Beans and Oscar Myer Franks. Sunday was cold cereal with whatever milk remained in the icebox. Lunch was sardines again.
The guests frequently complained to me about the meal plan, and I just shrugged. They were his children, and they knew from a lifetime of experience how set he was in his ways. They hoped that as a relative outsider, I might be able to persuade him. But I’d fallen for this game a time or two early in my marriage. The Cap’n would put his foot down, and the children would close ranks with Daddy against the interloper. So I just smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and secretly ate from my stash of hidden food items.
I’d learned in the Navy that what geedunks ( sweets and specialty items not served at meals) the ship sold were not necessarily what I wanted. So I had a private stash. As in the Navy, so too on Psyche. You might think that I’d share with my wife, but after she insisted that I share my stash with her brother, I had become cagey. Yes, I know you’re thinking, why didn’t they bring a stash of their own aboard? Great question. I don’t have an answer except perhaps the hunt for mine was so much fun.
She knew the stash existed, and she would ransack my seabag when I was up on deck, but she couldn’t find it. I understand her desire to have some of the goodies, but she had medical issues that made her ill if she ate too much of the stuff. Me? In those days I could eat anything and lose weight.
But I knew she was closing in on my hiding spot, so I decided to get nasty about the entire thing. Before we left for a weekend sail, I hid a few items where they could be found, but not too quickly.
Saturday afternoon, I came below to find that they had located the cupcakes and the granola bars. My wife and her brother were sitting at the table, contentedly munching away. Looking self satisfied and amused. My brother in law generously offered some to me. I refused but sat there watching them eat. After a bit, it occurred to them that there was something odd going on when I reached into the engine compartment and dragged out some of my stash of chocolate bourbon bonbons and started eating. I watched them intently. My brother in law stopped eating, and pulled a strange face, reaching into his mouth, he pulled something from between his teeth. “what’s this?” “Well,” I commented, ” when you eat chocolate-covered ant cupcakes, you have to expect a leg or two.” My wife continued to eat the cricket granola bar but now began scrutinizing it. As one they bolted for the companionway, and then to the rail where, as we say in the Navy, they “chummed the fishes.”
As soon as my wife recovered enough, she began screaming to Daddy about what a jerk I was ( accurate). For once, she got little sympathy from the Cap’n. He fell off course, a once in a lifetime event, because he was laughing so hard.
That evening we had to go ashore for dinner. Nobody trusted me enough to eat anything I might cook.

Sounds Of Silence

Good quiet is getting hard to find. I’d not discounted the reports by people attempting to capture wilderness soundscapes- everywhere was contaminated by noise. It just hadn’t been personalized to me sitting on a rock on the coast of Maine, attempting to capture 45 seconds of uncontaminated waves lapping on the shore. The video was lovely, the audio, contaminated by the sounds of powerboats that were not even in sight. I eventually came back at about eight pm and reshot just for the audio. I planned to use the video track from the day with the sound from the evening. Of course, it was decided not to use the sequence, and the effort went for naught.
When I taught media, I would always remind my students to take the time to listen for the little audio contaminants that your mind edits out of your mental soundtrack, but which will be incredibly hard to eliminate in post-production.

That summer, I spent three weeks in production along the coast of Maine. The audio was the primary issue time and again: Chainsaws, the wind blowing right through my blimp ( a cigar-shaped device for eliminating wind sounds), or a bunch of seagulls fighting in the middle of interviews.

The worst, however, was an interview shot in a tranquil book-filled room. How could that be an issue? Rooms are not silent. The silence of a place is conditional. There is this thing called room tone. It’s the background environmental sound of the room before anything else gets added. Where I was shooting the interview had a very funky room tone, probably because the books and fabrics absorbed everything but the voice. I recorded the voice on a separate microphone, and audio channel than ambient sound. Thankfully. On playback that evening, I realized that the room tone was dead. I took a recording device to an office that had a warm room tone (utterly subjective on my part) and recorded background audio that I liked and added it behind the interview. Problem solved.

The next evening I was off. After dinner, I headed out sans camera, microphone, or tripod for a quiet walk over to one of the island’s marinas. There I sat peacefully watching the tide change and sunset. Then I heard it. The barely audible sound that the clams make as they clear their siphons. More a soft spitting sound, but called along the coast the sound of clams whistling. And me with no recording device.

Patience

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">I met Cap'n Brown while chasing my big grey tom Clancy over to the other side of the island. Cap'n Brown was more than a Cap'n by courtesy, but less than a retired master mariner. He was a handy boat builder. And, respected in the community. He was known to be tolerant of grandchildren in his shop, and he put up with an elderly cat who was as cantankerous as my Clancy. Tiger had been there and done all that in his youth. Clancy, naturally eager to learn from the very best, became a fast companion for Tiger.<br>On the day I found out where Clancy had been lighting out to every morning, Cap'n Brown had just finished laying out a bowl of ice cream for the two buddies to share. The shop was a cavernous barn with molds, patterns, and lumber everywhere. Half hull models lined whatever space was available on the walls not already taken up by photos of a much younger Cap'n Brown standing by the many boats he'd built. Cap'n Brown was not too friendly but offered a cup of strong black boiled coffee to take the chill off the early May morning.<br>Being that Clancy and Tiger were regular buddies, I found myself walking over frequently to make sure that my cat was not overstaying his welcome. My father in law warned me that Cap'n Brown had some strange habits, like being seen shambling about the woods near his house, mumbling to himself. I took this with a big dose of salt; my father in law thought everyone not in his family was strange.<br>Still, the first time I found him walking by the side of his driveway bent over looking intently at something I could not see, I wondered. Seeing me, he called over and excitedly showed me the early Trout lily coming into bloom—the leaves were green mottled with bronze, and the small flowers a pale yellow. Over the next few weeks, I became familiar with the early blooms of Trillium, woods anemone, and other springtime ephemeral flowers. These flowers were the initial sign of spring. But, the calendar could not tell the date on which they appeared. Every day in early coastal spring could be a surprise, and this was why neighbors saw him wandering the woods hunched over mumbling. Appear a couple of days too late, and you missed the flowers of bloodroot until next year.<br>My father in law was more concerned with when he could get a date for hauling out Psyfhe than little weeds in the woods. I got the impression that he thought Cap'n Brown a bit odd, but as with most things with my father in law, all was made right by the correct maritime credentials. Brown was a boatwright of local renown. He could mumble all he wants in the woods if his curves are fair, and the sheer lines of his boats sweet. End of issue.<br>Many years later, my second wife and I wound up buying a house bordered in the back by a local Audubon sanctuary. The dense cover of cherry and maple in the rear of the lot precluded growing much. The kids had already decided on digging out a pond, so I put my mind to what sort of landscaping I could do with that much shade. I decided on re-wilding the area with native plants. Some volunteered from the neighboring woods: false Solomon's seal and Sasparilla. Some I bought through plant sales, and from nurseries.<br>Eventually, one year I noted that my next-door neighbor was peering at me from her window. Was she looking at me?<br>I realized that there I was fussing over the little patch of trout lily that had green and bronze leaves, but not yellow flowers yet.<br>I had bluets, May apples, black Cohosh, dolls eyes, spikenard, spirea and lots more. There was a lot of mumbling and shuffling going on in my yard. My current cat Xenia ( empress of all she surveys), was being watched by Sam, the great hunter of pond frogs. I smiled. All was well; it was spring in New England. Patience, abetted by some mumbling and stumbling, helped you get through.I met Cap’n Brown while chasing my big grey tom Clancy over to the other side of the island. Cap’n Brown was more than a Cap’n by courtesy, but less than a retired master mariner. He was a handy boat builder. And, respected in the community. He was known to be tolerant of grandchildren in his shop, and he put up with an elderly cat who was as cantankerous as my Clancy. Tiger had been there and done all that in his youth. Clancy, naturally eager to learn from the very best, became a fast companion for Tiger.
On the day I found out where Clancy had been lighting out to every morning, Cap’n Brown had just finished laying out a bowl of ice cream for the two buddies to share. The shop was a cavernous barn with molds, patterns, and lumber everywhere. Half hull models lined whatever space was available on the walls not already taken up by photos of a much younger Cap’n Brown standing by the many boats he’d built. Cap’n Brown was not too friendly but offered a cup of strong black boiled coffee to take the chill off the early May morning.
Being that Clancy and Tiger were regular buddies, I found myself walking over frequently to make sure that my cat was not overstaying his welcome. My father in law warned me that Cap’n Brown had some strange habits, like being seen shambling about the woods near his house, mumbling to himself. I took this with a big dose of salt; my father in law thought everyone not in his family was strange.
Still, the first time I found him walking by the side of his driveway bent over looking intently at something I could not see, I wondered. Seeing me, he called over and excitedly showed me the early Trout lily coming into bloom—the leaves were green mottled with bronze, and the small flowers a pale yellow. Over the next few weeks, I became familiar with the early blooms of Trillium, woods anemone, and other springtime ephemeral flowers. These flowers were the initial sign of spring. But, the calendar could not tell the date on which they appeared. Every day in early coastal spring could be a surprise, and this was why neighbors saw him wandering the woods hunched over mumbling. Appear a couple of days too late, and you missed the flowers of bloodroot until next year.
My father in law was more concerned with when he could get a date for hauling out Psyfhe than little weeds in the woods. I got the impression that he thought Cap’n Brown a bit odd, but as with most things with my father in law, all was made right by the correct maritime credentials. Brown was a boatwright of local renown. He could mumble all he wants in the woods if his curves are fair, and the sheer lines of his boats sweet. End of issue.
Many years later, my second wife and I wound up buying a house bordered in the back by a local Audubon sanctuary. The dense cover of cherry and maple in the rear of the lot precluded growing much. The kids had already decided on digging out a pond, so I put my mind to what sort of landscaping I could do with that much shade. I decided on re-wilding the area with native plants. Some volunteered from the neighboring woods: false Solomon’s seal and Sasparilla. Some I bought through plant sales, and from nurseries.
Eventually, one year I noted that my next-door neighbor was peering at me from her window. Was she looking at me?
I realized that there I was fussing over the little patch of trout lily that had green and bronze leaves, but not yellow flowers yet.
I had bluets, May apples, black Cohosh, dolls eyes, spikenard, spirea and lots more. There was a lot of mumbling and shuffling going on in my yard. My current cat Xenia ( empress of all she surveys), was being watched by Sam, the great hunter of pond frogs. I smiled. All was well; it was spring in New England. Patience, abetted by some mumbling and stumbling, helped you get through.

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