Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The end has no end

The view out my window in July

I read a great book on the boat, called Coming Up for Air, by Margaret Becker, about a woman who takes a month off from her life just to be by herself in a cabin by the water. It recalled to me Thoreau, and his time by Walden Pond, and how necessary it is for all of us to take time to withdraw and be by ourselves for a while. In it, she makes a commitment to herself to watch every sunrise and sunset for a month. I wish I could discipline myself to do that here, to spend that time of focused meditation with the world around me.

Maine connects me to the earth. The seasons breathe here. They have pith and substance. I can feel each distinct season as a personality--the jolly sunny face of Bacchus in summer, the hard drawn face of Old Man Winter. Each month has its own flora and fauna: the black flies and dandelions of early May, the deer flies and strawberries of July, the long orange light and potatoes in September. It’s a different life up here, the life of 100 years ago, a life that allows me to withdraw from the maniacal speed of the rest of the world.

Even the relief from the burden of television in Aroostook County is a blessing. We get four channels on a good day: two Canadian, CBS, and PBS. It’s great. I find my time releasing from the electronic world and being deposited in my lap again. Here I pick up books, old classics from college, and read them through in two days. Right now I’m reading the Encantadas, Melville’s travel writing from sailing through the Galapagos Islands. Where else, aside from here, and the boat, could I find time to do that?

I took Shadow the wolf-dog on another walk long last night. I’ve been avoiding the walks, partly because I’ve been avoiding him--I’m trying to do a better job at training him, and it’s hard work. I found a fantastic book at the library called The Loved Dog, by a tiny woman, a former member of the Israeli special forces, who now trains dogs for a living. She explains that the way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach. I’ve always known that, I suppose, but it seemed like far too big of a splurge to give a dog things like chicken and cheese puffs in order to get him to sit. But then I began to think: isn’t chicken cheaper than dog food these days? And don’t even the trainers at the Westminster Dog Show use treats to get their dogs to trot obediently behind them? Maybe she’s onto something. So I’ve begun taking a little baggie of treats with us, and I’ve successfully trained Shadow to go swim in the beaver pond and come back to me and his leash when he’s done. I have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

When I went last night it was like the release of a tautly-pulled arrow. Shadow and I all but ran the three miles. When I walk with him, we are pure beast together--united in the run. I am one with my body. He is one with me. Together we hear the gunshots through the forest, the rustle of a bear or a deer in the bushes, an unknown bird song. Maybe, sometimes, I can even hear the sound of the word home, whispered through the pines.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bridgewater, Maine

What Karl wants to do next

I’ve been attempting to retain my equanimity. I should be ecstatic--we arrived safely in Bridgewater, after more peripatetic travels. Since leaving Alna, we have visited, in Maine: Newry, Mexico, Rumford, and Bar Harbor. We kicked it trail-style for a little while, even sleeping in the truck one night. It’s one of those ideas that seems great in theory, and works out much less than great in actuality. We were so exhausted and grumpy the day afterwards, that we ended up forking over the big bucks for a motel room, meaning that we would have been better off buying a gigantic car-camping tent for half of what we paid for the motel room and we would have been in the black. We could have even been much happier staying for the entirety of rally race, the stated reason for driving all over the state this past weekend.

We had a great time, though. We attended the New England Forest Rally, the largest race of its kind in North America, carried out entirely on dirt western Maine logging roads, at speeds averaging 117 miles an hour. This sport is Karl’s new dream, his new vision for future adventure: build Subarus at the farm in Maine, turn them over for a profit, and meanwhile put together an award-winning rally car. Actually, I’m not sure he cares at all about awards. What he likes is going fast, just like Ricky Bobby, and since he has 120 acres of dirt road to ride around on, riding around on dirt is what he’s going to do.

That’s all well and good. I’m completely supportive (except for, perhaps, when it comes to $5000 struts), but I don’t see how this adventure can be fully mine. He wants me to train as co-driver, the navigator who sits beside the driver and is the brains of the operation, and that sounds fun to me, but I’m not going to get all sold on this adventure like I was on the last one. I’m not having my heart broken again.

So here we are. The turnip greens look fabulous, as do the burgeoning jalapeno peppers. We have a new possibility for an online business, and this house should feel like home. Maybe it will begin to. I’m supposed to be posting my Secret ad today, online, though, and I keep procrastinating it. I don’t want to take that step. I’m not quite ready, even though I need to be, because I’m already broke.

I just keep thinking of that stupid, stupid engine, not starting, and how naive of me it was to expect it to. My boat sat for eight months and I just feel like such an idiot, with all my talk of faith and destiny and hope and a calling. All I am is a stupid, stupid girl, who left her boat for too long, and now it’s useless and virtually worthless.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Alna, Maine

Karl with Puck, the baby Nigerian dwarf goat

In the earth, nestled right in front of me, is a giant thirty-foot yurt, that our friends from the Appalachian Trail have just put up as their new home. Karl’s inside with Cheers, as he was known on the trail, working on the plumbing system. It’s amazing to me how talented Karl is when it comes to this kind of stuff--he’s already fixed the engine on their rototiller this morning. His dad was a mechanic, his brother a plumber, his specialty is electronics, and with those three skill sets there’s not much he can’t do. Plumbing is his least favorite, but it’s always the one everyone needs help with. This is about the third impromptu plumbing job he’s participated in during the last month.

So I’m sitting in the sun at their picnic table. We drove up from Marion yesterday, stopping at Trader Joe’s for the requisite case of unsweetened soy milk before heading up to Maine. We’ve decided to go to a rally-cross race in western Maine this weekend, which gave us the perfect amount of time to visit the friends we’ve been meaning to visit for four years. It’s astonishing to me, and syncronous, somehow, that the week we had available is the same week they’re moving into their brand new yurt, and that we actually managed to get through to all of our trail friends who live in Maine, even though I haven’t emailed them in years.

I met them, Cheers and Grace, the first week I was hiking. They’re another trail couple, who are now married with two kids. They’re going off the grid, using propane heat and refrigeration and cooking, supplementing with a wood stove, and building a privy instead of putting in a septic system. They cleared this land themselves, cut their own boards with a mill they rented, built the whole platform for the yurt themselves.

We got to sleep in the yurt last night, even though they haven’t moved in themselves, after a delicious dinner of burgers made from a steer Cheers himself named and then slaughtered, with speckled leaf lettuce grown at the local organic farm. Karl has wanted a yurt for years, and his eyes widened when he saw it. Being with them is reawakening our dreams, our trail dreams, of sustainable living and agriculture, of being self-supporting and settled. They’re the right people at the right time. I just have to continue to have faith, as we move through time, that the right path will meet us as we take the next step.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Marion, Massachusetts

Silvershell Beach, in Marion

I’m sitting on the deck here in Marion. It’s 72 degrees, but it feels cold to me. I can’t believe I adjusted that fast to the tropical weather, but I guess I did. I thought it was in the low sixties until Karl just looked at me and scoffed.

There are mosquitoes out here, lazier than the Bahamian Type-A-personality mosquitoes, but buzzing around me nonetheless, so I lit on of the mosquito coils I brought back from Crooked. The smell reminds me of home, wherever that is, even though I’m sure they’re giving me about eight kinds of horrible cancer. It’s worth it. Maybe I can order them online when I run out. Until then, I have to hoard them like gold.

Karl and I have just finished a very intense and tear-filled conversation about our future goals. He’s convinced he wants to live in Maine for a while. I’m not as convinced, but I’m willing to give it a try. I wrote my first Secret ad today, to post in the local want ad. I offered to deliver it, so maybe I’ll still have sailing adventures, if I’m lucky. If anyone reading this post wants to buy the world’s best boat, I know where she’s moored. I’ll post a link to my online ad as soon as I have it up.

The stars are out tonight. Not as bright as at French Wells, but still shining above the corner of the house. I can see the first four stars of the Big Dipper, and it makes me forlorn to think of them shining over Secret in her corner of the world. At least I can see them here. The world is not too much with us that we can’t still see stars.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nassau, Bahamas, to Marion, Massachusetts

The view out my window this morning

Tonight I go to sleep back in Marion. I’m cold. That’s always my first impression upon arriving, even in July. It’s in the eighties during the day, allegedly, but it’s got to be in the sixties now, colder than it was the whole time I was in the Bahamas. I’m joking that with my tan I at least have my Vitamin D allotment for the winter, but fat chance. At least I can count on some sun here, for two more months. I can go to the beach if I need to, and actually wear a bathing suit! (Although this theory is not one that has been actively tested.) July has got to be my favorite American month. Any month where it heads close to the nineties. In Thailand? May. When the monsoon comes.

Maybe my blog’s new name, post-boat, should be Seasonal Affective Disorderers Anonymous. SADA. Has a nice ring, no? Or maybe I’ll convince Karl to let me trade Secret for a winter home on Long Cay. Then I can have a winter cabin in the Bahamas. Just like Johnny Depp.

I had the craziest experience yesterday on the plane flight back from Fort Lauderdale to Newark--I met an amazing woman, an Irish vegan who leads a meditation group in Florida. We had a brilliant, instantaneous connection, like a light coming on. The last time I remember that happening was with Karl. We had similar bags, and she complimented me on mine, and then we began talking. For those of you who don’t know me in person, let me tell you that I am a deep introvert, although I do a very convincing impression of an extrovert when I need to. I hate talking on the phone. I never talk to people on the plane. But she asked me where I grew up, and I answered Bangkok. I never tell people that when I first meet them. Then she told me she was a Buddhist, and she never tells people that, either.

We ended up talking like long-lost old friends for the full three-hour flight. Then we hung out at the airport for a while longer until we lost each other. I feel like I’ve made my first real friend in so long, probably since Chicago. That’s not true--I’ve made amazing friends cruising. But this was a connection of a different order.

Then back to Karl. We had an awful drive back to Marion, through a two-hour construction delay in brutal Boston traffic complicated by a bad accident, and I wished to heaven I had taken the train. Driving in Boston is miserable, no matter how long it’s been or how in love you are. Here we are again, though. back together. Trying to figure out the next step, the next white blaze on the path up the mountain. It feels bittersweet. The end of one journey and the beginning of another.