Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adventures with Pete: part 2 (We are home)

Readers: I write this entry as a letter to my cousin John Patrick as I know he would appreciate the adventures I speak of. JP is a frontiersman of sorts and currently resides in AK. His life outside of Sitka is one I someday hope to witness. I hope you enjoy the next few posts as much as I know he will!

July 23, 2010
The Narrows, South Addison Maine
Not a Cloud…
My Dear Cousin,
Well they say there is a first for everything and yesterday was no different. We awoke at 4:30 to get ready for a day of setting and hauling lobster traps, and I wish that I could say that 4:30 meant that I had a good nights sleep, seeing that I have been keeping hours with the sun. Unfortunately I had one of those restless nights. The spirits of this place haunted me. It was storming when I retired and the rushing of the stream behind the bunkhouse made me understand in my sleepy brain that it was pouring all night, which it was not. At some point (2 AM) I was woken up by something that was teasing me, flicking a towel, grabbing at my feet, telling me it was morning, I thought it was Pete. Then I heard Pete snoring in the room next door. Yes, I sat up and turned on the lantern, wouldn’t you? When I realized there was nothing there, I tried to settle down and sleep despite the adrenaline pulsing through my veins. As I drift ever so slowly back into unconsciousness, I am greeted by the faces of two men, one was scruffy, curly blonde hair, and weathered beyond his 20 something years, the other was about the same age, dark hair, with a striking resemblance to “Uncle Mill” the original proprietor of the land. They didn’t say anything, they just appeared there momentarily watching me, as if I was about to learn something I should not know about, being a girl and all. I again lit the room with my lantern, knowing that I would find nothing. This time I put my I-Pod on, blocking out the world, listening to an archived podcast of “The Story”. I drifted back to sleep comforted by a Haitian gospel tune. I was awoken again by bumps to the bunkhouse wall. This time it woke Pete as well. It was probably just the resident porcupine coming home after his night of foraging but even so, it was no less alarming. After a few words about the noise we both drifted back off for that last hour of rest. Four, F&%King- thirty came racing in, screeching like a mother protecting her young… it was not pleasant, and quite frankly, we were not pleasant to each other. I was completely spooked, I had not slept, I was to tired to eat, a mistake that would also haunt me, and it appeared the weather would be iffy. We arrive at the dock, with a few minutes to spare, despite forgetting things and having to return to retrieve them. Ubby and his dad steam in and retrieve us, all smiles, right on time.
The night’s issues immediately melt away as we board the boat. We stow our gear and cruise past the house, greeted enthusiastically by a wave from Pete’s dad. We were off and within minutes I was in waders and gloves, face in the bait box, working hard, and totally in my glory. As I write this I am beaming ear to ear. I could so get used to that, being out on the water, making a living from the sea! Linda Geenlaw I am so jealous of your life!
As I sat there working my butt off, there was an important moment that I will not soon forget, Ubby’s dad smiled at me, and announced that I was a keeper. He was a nice man, but my first impression was that he was worried that we would disrupt and distract them from their work, especially if we were allowed to handle some of the tasks, rightfully so. I wholeheartedly understand this, they were out there trying to make a living, and despite there being no hesitation at all with letting me help, there was still the learning curve to consider, their day would either be more work, or less work… that pivot point of balance is microscopic! I understand that. So when he smiled at me, and announced that I was a keeper, it meant that someone’s day would be better for my efforts.
As the traps came up and the bait pockets were emptied and handed to me I became part of the rhythm of the day at sea. Traps are hauled and emptied two at a time, lobsters placed in a box, awaiting banding, bait bag emptied and replaced, buoy checked and then the trap is reset. Sometimes the contents of the trap yielded more than lobsters, sometimes there were some really ugly fish in the trap, sometimes crab, and sometimes there were treasures, such as scallops. When I first arrived on deck I was asked if I had ever watched the deadliest catch? I was told the initiation was to bite the head off a baitfish, Pete backed up that thought and I teetered on the edge of you can’t be serious an I am drawing the line… then came the scallop. I was asked if I was able to eat shellfish. When I answered yes, I was told that the scallop would be shucked for me in a moment and I was left to roll that tidbit around my head for the next 30 minutes or so. I knew that I had no choice, despite never liking RAW BAR fare, I would have to eat this scallop, so in that half hour I had to grow a pair that would allow me the 2 seconds to swallow… By the way, that scallop was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted, period!
The morning flew by. I continued to fil bait bags, watch what was coming out of the traps, and enjoy the opportunity of a lifetime. There were islands, and animals, and rock ledges, and swells…and swells…and…oh my I suddenly don’t feel well... I am going to heave and its not going to be pretty…maybe I can quietly remove myself to the outside, take a break for a bit, get some air? Maybe if I quietly excuse myself to the side of the boat and get rid of the contents of my stomach, oh wait a minute, the contents consist of one handful of cereal and a raw scallop… nothing in there to get rid of. I tried to heave, dry as a bone. I tried to eat something…two bites made the world spin… So I sat and focused on one spot quietly, letting the water from the lobster tank run over my wrists as it drained off the side of the boat. I was so embarrassed, despite the understanding from everyone around me. What was Pete doing, documenting the WHOLE experience, noe censorship, on camera. Pete’s dad came out to fetch us in the boat. I was so grateful and so deflated at the same time.
Upon returning to shore, we showered, ate a bit of something, and moved our day to plan B. While Pete spent time napping his mom and I discussed color theory, decorating and teaching. This would be the second in depth heart to heart I had with her during my visit. The first one was a few days back when we discussed motherhood. She has truly made me feel welcome. Pete and I then went shopping for dinner. We stopped by the wharf to take a photo and use the phone on the way back from town, just as Ubby and his dad were calling it a day. I got a chance to thank them both and Pete also had the opportunity to see his friend Timmy. After that we returned to that house where I prepared the evening meal. We dined on a solar tomato sauce, pasta, asparagus, chicken and garlic bread. For desert we had angel food, blueberries and whipped cream. Afterwards we talked for a bit and played word games. Dishes were done and we were sleeping by 8. Another wonderful day on the Maine coast. This morning 4 AM was perfect and I so wanted to be out there again…another time I guess.
Today, island hopping, berry picking and possibly clamming, oh and we have to work on the artwork for the bunkhouse. We are packing as well as we leave tonight.

July 24, 2010
Somers, NY
Hot and Muggy filled with exhuastion
Mr. John,
I am resolving to address you in that manner this one last time because I learned something this week about that salutation and in this case, I have all the respect in the world for those who have attempted living off the grid, even if its for a fleeting moment.

Pete and I left the state of Maine last night at midnight after a few hours sleep. I don’t mind the night time travel too much, its an adventure, but I really don’t like traveling tired and I don’t sleep well in the car. I am no worse for ware after this past week, sunburned, sore from scrambling and clambering over the rocks, and my hands are cut to shreds from the barnacles. I am sun- burned, have chapped lips and grateful to have had the time to spend a week on the water with a good friend.

It is interesting to be home by 9AM. I have the whole day in front of me, yet I am way too tired to enjoy it. I can’t imagine what my trip to Korea is going to be like next week. I sit here and write as I cook the lobsters that I brought home. One of them did not make it, despite being packed in layers of seaweed. I guess the ice melted more than we thought. If I have to cook that one right away, I may as well cook the rest. We are having lobster rolls for dinner I guess.

Yesterday, Pete and I had a very interesting and very exhausting day. We went berry picking and scrambling on Tibets Island. There were blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and gooseberries. The few dark purple gooseberries we picked were far better than the red ones we get at home. It was wonderful to stand in a thicket of blueberries, but it was also terrifically HOT. When we arrived back at the house, I went in for a swim in the cold water of the Narrows. After lunch Pete and I cleaned up the bunk house and packed the car. Pete then spent some time with his mom and I kept his dad company out at one of the local clam beds as he fetched us dinner. The operation was back breaking, and the clams were characters, pissing as they were uncovered, sometimes with great aim. The end result is sweeter than anything I have ever tasted. Shortly before we dined on those clams, Pete and I headed to the wharf to pick up some lobsters for Kenny. We got to hang out with Timmy for a bit too. We had the car packed and we were off for a short sleep shortly after 8.

I drifted off to sleep with the bell buoys sounding like church bells. It was a windy evening with a stiff chill in the air. I never did get the opportunity to stand on that red buoy on the other side of Tibet’s Island. The short-stepping white cat we saw on our way into town the day we arrived crossed the road again last night as we left. We laughed aloud (again). It seemed she had afforded us a perfectly correct send off, bringing to an end to a fantastic week.

True friends are most definitely a part of your soul. Pete has always been there for me growing up, especially when things were tough. We were afforded the chance to reminisce as well as build upon the bank of memories we have. This week will not soon be forgotten!

I am off to Korea on August 4th. I will surely write about that adventure. I will be going at it solo, which is a bit unnerving.

I do hope AK is finding you well! All the best!

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