Friday, December 07, 2007

Bridgewater, Maine

Temperature: 18°F

“If love can be and still be lonely, where does that leave me and you?”

I’m sitting at the dining room table at the house in Bridgewater, looking out the three large front windows at the newly plowed white driveway, the dusting of snow on the pine trees, the empty birches, and the broken-down goat shed out back. Under his pine tree, the wolf-dog, Shadow, paces around on his chain. That dog’s keeping me sane--we go on two-mile walks in the snow every day. We had seventeen inches of snow on Tuesday, and since then I’ve been plowing through in my boots and crampons, beating a path in the shin-deep snow.

The physicality of it reminds my muscles of the work they did on the Appalachian Trail. Walking even that small amount makes me miss walking, makes me remember when walking used to keep me sane, when walking used to be what I did for a living. The best part of being here would be the walking, hands down. I push myself a little farther every day, into the untracked snow, the wolf pulling me forward, sniffing the new smells on either side of the woods, tracking voles and moose and deer and partridge. I like seeing the world through a wolf’s eyes, imagining the two of us as a lean pack, hunting together through the northern waste.

The crazy thing about Shadow is that he really is eighty percent wolf. Karl got him when he was just a puppy from the previous owner of the land, who bred wolves and huskies. I don’t know how you end up with eighty percent, but he did all sorts of crazy cross-breeding, the way animal breeders do, and ended up with dogs that are mainly wolf, toned down a little with the husky blood. Shadow is the smartest dog I’ve ever encountered. I swear he understands English, to the point where Karl thinks I’ve gone a little off--I explain things to him the way I would talk to a three-year-old. The first day I walked with him I showed him my crampons and told him I was trying out a new system, that he had to be careful. Since then he slows down when he feels me slipping on ice.

He’s like my sled dog, and he knows how to take care of me. One of Karl’s neighbors up here, Slim, says that people actually ski like that, with a single dog. He thinks I could train Shadow to do it. I think so too, although training a dog is never been on my list of personal ambitions. Shadow, though, is like fallow soil. I feel like I could teach him to spin a beach ball on his nose in about a week.

It’s a perfect example of how I feel about this beautiful place. All the things we could do here! Can and press apples, grow tomatoes and flowers and basil, raise goats and chickens, harvest wood and build things, have a farmstand, train dogs, learn to cross-country ski, take some graduate-school classes at the neighboring universiy. But the million-dollar quesion is: do we want to do these things? That’s why I feel so ambivalent about Karl selling the land. It’s such a great back-up plan for if we sink the boat. But if we’re never going to come back here and really invest in the earth and the community, is it fair to let it sit here and rot? Every time we leave, Shadow watches us with baleful eyes. Karl talks to him every time we leave, and I hope he understands to a degree, but he’s still just a dog. All he knows is that when we leave he’s kept on a chain again. You can explain things to a person, but not to an animal. It breaks my heart.

The realtor came by yesterday morning and Karl listed the property. The compromise is that he listed it at a high price in a bad market, so it probably won’t sell. If it does, it might be such a financial windfall that it would be worth it to part with the place. It just throws all of our plans into question. Maybe we should back up here and cruise Maine and Nova Scotia, one of the plans that Karl’s always talked about. Maybe somehow we can have both dreams. I always want everything, though, and it’s just not possible. We can either have the tropics or we can have the snow--we can’t have both. Every choice we make precludes another one. Soon I’ll be thirty, and the story of my twenties will have been written. I will have done the things I’ve done, and no others.

The necessity of making choices has always been my least favorite thing about life. Not so much making the choices, but but that each choice means another one can’t be chosen. Each choice blacks out the option of its alternative. It’s so final. As final as death.

(The quote at the beginning is Townes Van Zandt, the best country singer of all time.)

“If I had a flying schooner, I’d sail into the light of day,
If I had your love forever, I’d sail into the light of day...”


rgatens said...

Hi Melissa,
Just finished your blog. We had company over the weekend, so I was delayed in finishing until this morning. Fascinating reading.
I discovered your blog when I was looking for information on Samana Cay. We are planning a cruise there in May/June in our Ericson 34T, Dancing Star, based in Lighthouse Point, FL.
I got hooked on your adventures! If you are interested in an article for Cruising World, I think it would be easy for you to get published. If you excerpt some content from your Bahama months of your blog, edit them into a coherent article, I know you would have it accepted. You might want to look at several CW features of Melanie Neale, for example. I know you could equal this. As I wrote earlier, you write well. I encourage you to get in touch with CW.
By the way, have you read Tania Aebi's, Maiden Voyage?
Have you and Karl decided when you will return to Secret? If you still need a ride in May and it works out, you could crew with us on our cruise over. If not, it would be enjoyable to meet you there, if you are there in that period.
Do you have an email way where we could exchange contact information as our respective plans go forward, or do I have to stay on this blog to communicate?
Keep blogging! It is very enjoyable to read.

Walter Renn,
Dancing Star

Tim said...

I've looked at your pictures of cruising in the tropics. I, too, own an R33 and am very interested in some of the modifications you've done. Have you rigged her for single-handed sailing? I'd love to see detailed pictures of the rig with the lines running aft, etc. I presume you have propane? Where did you put the lockers? Looks like you have foot-pumped fresh water or is that a raw water pump I see below the sink? I see you added an access below the stove, is that for access or storage? I like the ideas of storage behind the seat cushions. Do you still have the ice box or did you convert it?

rgatens said...

Hi Melissa,
Don't know if you got my last email. I have subscribed to Casting Off (rgatens) and hope to hear from you regarding crewing back to the Bahamas. Please be in touch!
Walter Renn,
Dancing Star

Melissa said...

Hello to both of you. As you can see from my latest post, things have changed for both of us a little bit. Still, it has some bearing on what you asked, Walter. It may very well turn out that we need a trip to Secret in May. If she's still floating then.

As for Tim's questions, although they do cause me some heartache to answer, my beloved boat being so far away: have you looked at our Flickr pictures? If you go to the Pictures link on the right we have quite a few rigging pictures posted. The boat was rigged with all lines led aft to the cockpit when we bought her, although I'm not sure I would recommend the arrangement. All of the additional fittings seem to just add to the drag and make the halyards harder to handle. I do believe she could be sailed singled-handed. I may even give it a try here in the next couple of months.

Karl set up two propane lockers in the cockpit locker, vented through hoses to a through-hull fitting. It's worked very well, though we both hated to drill another hole in the hull. The foot-pump in the galley is fresh water, although very high on my list of priorities is a raw-water pump. We've talked about making the head pump dual-purpose when we install our new head.

The access below the stove was there when we bought her--I don't know if that was an early factory standard. Our storage behind the seat cushions is impromptu, although I'd love to set the space up into a real locker. We have left the icebox, not wanting the hassle of refrigeration, and also on the list is reinsulating it, especially the lid.

Good luck with your R33--take good care of her. And thanks to Walter, too, for your kind comments about my writing. Maybe this delay will be the impetus I need to begin sending articles in.