Archive for August, 2007


August 28, 2007

All week I have had to be ‘good’ in that sense of being ‘on’ with a lot of different people. Not much refuge for a recluse. Tonight, with the last of the meetings wrapped up and Quan taking off with friends to ride in the moonlight, I took a large slug of rum – two, i’sooth – and with my jaw thus loosened, I set off rowing. The night was exquisitely still, the river flowing glass, the pentacle moon wraithed in vapor, the trail of swirls fractaling out behind me as I cleared the boats of the cove out into the river proper. With one of Enya’s slow Gaelic carols on the iPhone, I am in the middle of a Scottish loch, magically cold within the hills and almost solid under a winter sky.

One of Mark Knopfler’s sea shanties paces the run across the channel, the rhythm marred occasionally as an oar hits a lobster pot. On the other side a long inlet runs up for a couple of miles. James Taylor’s steady picking and warm chords take me into its funnel, narrowing like some lazy southern river heading for a rapid, the oars rising and falling in time to the music, the bow singing as it broke the water ahead of us.

As the banks narrow down and I must pick my way more carefully though the curves, Etta James makes it a hot Louisiana bayou, schools of little herring sizzling out of the water ahead of the boat with each stroke, the overhanging branches closing out the moon until finally – no headlamp in the iPhone – bumping into the end of the salt water tide in total blackness.

Headphones off, I let the silence sink in until it was no longer silence but a rich blanket of sound – the plops and clicks of nearby insects or fish or birds, way up in this isolated, people-less cove. It is a little creepy, a little Stephen King, but wonderfully my own at that moment – ultima thule for this night’s journey. There is nothing to harm me, but my ancient self hidden under the social veneer doesn’t know that – my imagination puts anacondas in the black branches, and giant squid under the black surface.

I reverse the oars to align the boat back up the funnel, pumping out of the miles to the bouncing steel ball of Ry Cooder’s guitar. It feels so good – my feet are planted wide on the thwart before me, and I yield into my legs as I reach down and forward with my arms, not bothering to feather in the windless night. My pelvis rocks over the sitz bones, riding up along the ramus toward the pubes, arching my back. As the oars dip into the water I lean away from my arms, feeling the back of the arms engage right up over the shoulder and the bones elongate within the flesh. My legs push me back, twisting all those bones together from foot to hip into one piston rod, rolling the pelvis the other way on the seat toward the tailbone.

Push-yield-reach-pull – I’d been teaching it all last week, and now the tensegrity feeling of this frog-like movement overtakes my body as if I am leaping over the water – hands, then feet, hands, then feet. My breath falls into the easy rhythm, the movement creeps into the stiffer areas of my spine, especially the chronic panicked flexion behind the kidneys. Suddenly, with a fluid rush the kidneys open into the movement. The spine creaks into action, old water flushing, mossy shingles of locked open facets closing, adding to the movement as the enclosing X’s of the Functional Lines links the upper and lower parts of me in a new but familiar way. The arms reach as if pushed from the adrenals and the arching kidneys; the push of the feet linked all the way to the psoas to embrace them again.

It all feels wonderful and effortless, but like any new movement of course it isn’t, so I am grateful when the music fades to allow me to hear the ring tone, and I stop to drift as I talk to Misty, excited about her impending leap into college, the headphones doubling her lilting voice in stereo. As I drift I pass a wonderful scene of the moon shining through a row of trees and lift the phone to take a picture while I am talking to her. Everything on this little hand-held computer is so intuitive – I haven’t needed to access the manual yet. Within a very few clicks, you can get from any one thing to any other thing. An easy on-and-off switch avoids mistakes and saves the battery. The map bit alone is worth the price of admission.

Bending to it again with Roslyn Turek wailing out Bach’s English Suites, I fly through the warm August air toward our cove, where I finally turn to see Quan waiting anxiously on the dock with a light, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over. What if something happened to you? It’s eleven o’clock!”

I pluck out the earphones. “Why didn’t you call?”



August 28, 2007

Finally I got out of the river for a week, sailing Tycha with Annie then Quan on Penobscot Bay.  Making my way home on my own for a few days, the winds were light and variable so I made my own adventure.  On the last morning though, the dawn flew in from the north, driving silver scud like scrubbing brushes across the sky above Monhegan.  By the time I finished breakfast the boat was pitching fore and aft.  I set the jib and mizzen only, leaving the large main furled, sailing upwind in long tacks straight into the wind over Pemaquid Point.  On my side in the sea of heaving green, I was quite comfortable though unable to leave the wheel for more than a few seconds for the three hours it took to make it to the Hypocrites.

It seemed to be abating, so I put up the main to sail up the river to home.  Immediately regretted it. The northerly funneled down between the banks of trees, slapped me sideways with water coming into the cockpit over the coaming.  Every tack was a mind-rattling fight for control of the sheets.  The water was tropical green now, but with white spume coming off as gusts topped 30 kn. in gusts.

I veered off the wind a little and limped into Jones Cove – rested, ate, shortened sail, and skittered up river on the last of the flood at 7 knots with no more than a working jib and the mizzen.

Needed a minute to stop shaking after I made the mooring – such was the nature of the exercise.  The wind is quite solid at that speed, and it’s good enough if nothing goes wrong.  But my boat is old and that’s a tall order.

But funny to have made a cruise where I first time soloed my way onto Brimstone to collect rocks, and explored the coves on the swelly east side of Ragged, and did the Turnip Yard upwind by sail (that was with Annie – wouldn’t have done that alone).  Finally, after a full summer of doing nothing but going up and down the river, I have a cruise – and the biggest challenge of the week is coming back upriver.

Scything with the Reaper

August 19, 2007

I have taken to scything in the morning.  It is so much better than that efficient but horribly American invention, the weed whacker.  Small petrol engines are my nemesis in any case, and with my rural life, I cannot avoid frequent fights with chain saws, lawn mowers, outboards, pumps, cultivators, generators, drills … and the early summer demands the weed whacker.

But last autumn I picked up a scythe at the local organic fair, the Common Ground, loving the concept but afraid it would lie fallow.  It hasn’t.  I chose a tougher blade for the stemmy weeds I need to keep down.  The scythe comes in a kit, and I used it for a while before I glued the handles into their final position just right for my proportions and motion.

Part of the kit is a fared sharpening stone, which sits in a plastic holster on your belt.  The holster has water in it to keep the stone wet.  Every fifteen minutes or so, you stop scything and wipe the wet stone down across each side of the blade to keep it sharp.  It’s a moment of rest, to survey your work and plan out the next sally.

If you hit a stone or a root, the blade will get a bad nick, at which point the iron blade must be peened out with a small hammer and sharpened again.

Scything itself works better in the morning, when the plants are wet with due.  The thin blade sings, lovingly gathers an 8” swath of grass and weeds, cuts it at the shin so it swishes down into a neat row.  (Which brings us to Capricorn – the Grim Reaper is Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, who cuts us off at the knee when he harvests us for the underworld, where we will all go one day.  Therefore, in esoteric anatomy, fear of death is associated with Capricorn and located in the knees.)

The surprise is the depth and soothing nature of the movement: The motion is calm and old, a rotation that begins in the rolling of the feet and rises easily to the inner thigh and pelvis, producing a twist of the torso with the elbows held close to the sides, like in 50’s dancing.  Once the motion is achieved, it is  effortless.

When I ‘end gain’ – stop staying in the process and start thinking about how much I have to get done or what’s next – I start working with my arms, and the motion and results become hectic, chaotic, and tiring. When I am in the groove, I feel like Tolstoy’s peasants, marching across a field with the wheat sighing and laying down for the harvest.

Although I do cut some grass every morning for Quan’s rabbits, my main job is to get to the weeds along the edges where the mower cannot, and in this I have become adept at sliding the blade between rocks and trees to snicker out the weeds without scouching its edge.

The whole process is very slow and satisfying, and can be done around houses in the early morning without the nasty mosquito whine of that damned weed whacker with its flying string.  Donna emerges to put the horses out to pasture. I wipe the wet blade gently with thumb and forefinger and set the scythe on its nail to shower and face the emails.

Back on Board

August 19, 2007

After careful consideration and a number of comments – including an interesting email concerning blog ‘outing’ by a gay prostitute from a distant but trusted old friend (surprised again by the readers this blog had) – I have decided to set this blog in motion again – more aware, I hope, of possible ramifications, but undeterred by comments, or offense these entries might cause.

Though unfamiliar with other blogs or the blogosphere, this new manner of diary / essay so appeals to me that I decline to stop – or even to bury these entries, as I promised in my last post, under layers of electronic obscurity.

That a few of these little jaunts apparently hurt other people’s sensibilities was my cause for stopping, and I am deeply sorry for dragging those of my acquaintance into a public eye, but you are hereby on notice: Association with me bears this risk: you might show up here in a less-than-flattering limelight.

I also understand that this mode of expression may work to my own detriment, but that risk was worth taking from the beginning.  After this month off, I feel that the risk of hurting others is worth taking as well.  I hope for, but do not expect, understanding that the only person I wish to make fun of here is myself.

Those who bruise easily are probably better advised not to read this blog.  I welcome comments – you may post them by clicking the link below – but the spirit of this experiment requires unvarnished observations.  This is not an attempt at objectivity or informed opinion, and likewise no sarcasm (“flesh-cutting”) is intended, but merely a comment on the strange and meandering paths life offers.

The month in between the last post and this has been a very low time for me.  With my business, my family, and with Quan’s animals, we have been dealing with loss, blockage, and disappointment.  The innocent suffer, while small-mindedness and lack of imagination infect those who should know better.  One cannot act, it seems, without causing some hurt.  J’espére qu’il vaut la peine.

And yet there are a lot of hopeful encounters as well.  These lead me to reinstate this blog.  Back into the fray: Laissez les bon temps roulez!