Friday, August 29, 2014

Ghosts Among the Shrouds

 Walking the docks at the Oriental marina, we saw a panorama in three directions, every way but north.
 The setting sun threw its pink sheen on all clouds in the sky.
 This is a common shot across Smith Creek.

 Imagine how tiny we are, compared to one mammoth cloud on one late afternoon.

 The seagulls did not appreciate being disturbed.

 A few days ago the dinghy dock was under water. The fellow living on the blue sailboat at anchor had the misfortune of coming ashore, tying his dinghy up, and then (I suppose?) swimming to it later?
 I guess he could walk and get wet feet. How'd you like to motor (or row) a dinghy to shore every time you needed something?
 Hodges Street was also sopping. That dark blue van sat there, somewhat immersed, for days.
 This much water cuts down on business at the Bean, but they have stalwart customers not fearful of damp feet.
 All this water was not a result of rain. We simply had strong winds blowing in for days on end, pushing the ocean water into the sound, and the sound water into the river, and the river water into our streets.

 Adam and I took our usual stroll around Whittaker marina while on our bike ride. I hope they don't mind. We claim we are checking out their boats for sale, and thus we are allowed on their docks.  Not sure that argument would fly, but no one's ever told us to leave, and how else are potential buyers supposed to see the boats for sale? They have a dinghy collection.
We like the east dock at Whittaker best. It was very windy that night, and as we turned left to walk along the dock, we heard the strangest noises.
 A ghostly choir rang out from among the boats. A ringing, howling ensemble of voices rose from the shrouds. I apologize for the wind noise, blowing into the camera's microphone. It obscures the sound I want you to hear, on these two videos. Listen carefully, under the wind.
Past the clanging, after the wind, when I turn to the right, you can hear what we heard. Listen to the end.
(shroud: n., a set of ropes forming part of the standing rigging of a sailing vessel and supporting the mast from the sides)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's New

Good days. Little troubles. (Is there such a thing? I guess so.) Here's some happy stuff. Bo-Beau, loving on his daddy.
He was staring intently at Adam, the kind of stare that says, "I'm really into you. Can we play?" As soon as I picked up the camera, he switched his gaze.
But soon they were back into deep daddy/doggie conversation.
A few nautical pics for you. A friendly dock welcome!
Boating brings lots of reflection.
On Saturday I met a friend-of-a-friend, Tom. He's a boatish type. Loved his cool sandals. He buys them at Renaissance Fairs. Did you know there's a whole swath of people out there who spend their lives traveling from one Renaissance Fair to the next, living a medieval life?
My friend Kip was sporting this fun t-shirt.
"You could get hit by the boom and die.
You could fall overboard and die.
You could capsize and die.
Or you could stay home and fall of the couch and die."
I'm well into a knitting project I've been anticipating since the spring -- making Adam a sweater vest. He's the dapper sort who likes sweater vests, bow ties, and old-guy hats. All his sweater vests are much too big now.

It's coming along nicely. I'm on the back panel. I'll keep you posted.
I took some sky shots this afternoon because the clouds were emotionally overwhelming for a tiny human.

Adam longs to make us "adult pizza," rather than the boring cheese or pepperoni we ask for. So he made this twice recently:
No red sauce -- it's a cream based sauce. Chopped basil (perfectly in season now) and various cheeses give it a delicious, mellow flavor. We're not missing the pepperoni.
(Okay, now I get wordy, and if you prefer a picture-blog, please click away now.)

The change of seasons, heavy in the air, produces in me a pensive spirit, an expectancy of leaden but cathartic thoughts. It's troubling, but it happens each year as my heart anticipates cooler, darker, melancholy days. I find summer wearying. I find winter invigorating. Autumn is winter's harbinger, and my soul longs for the spiritual sleep, the soul's still rest that winter offers.

I'm bemused lately about death. When we see death coming from afar, we brace ourselves, arm for the battle, and engage heartily. We think we look death in the face, but maybe we look only at the dying days, the process of dying. We cross swords using surgery, medicines, treatments, specialists, prayer, and optimism. We feel we've looked death in the eye and given our best fight.

But when death thunders in, unexpected? Recently I've heard of two sudden deaths by drowning. One was a boy, adopted after 17 horrible years in an Eastern European orphanage. At last, he was loved, nurtured, taught, cherished. God answered yes to the impossible for this child. He was brought halfway around the world to a new life. His parents, siblings, and caregivers were well-trained; there was no neglect. But in a matter of seconds, he drowned in a bath tub. Why?

A lovely Christian family, friends of friends, lost their husband and father in a shocking, bizarre drowning at the beach. My heart has ached for the wife who watched her life ebb away, knowing that God had planned this moment, planned it for her. Why? Why take him so suddenly? Why not allow them to say good-bye? It's the horror we all dread -- that death might snatch one away, not giving the usual warning. No battle. No crossed swords. We are fooling ourselves to think that we defeat death when we only extend our lives by a decade or two.

How do we mourn with hope? How can that grieving mother console herself, in spite of the horror of finding her precious gem of a son dead after all he'd been through before, that his death is only a comma in the ongoing story of his continuing life? That she simply watched a passing, a transition? That the moment which feels like a horrific mistake -- (Please! It's a mistake! Can we go back and relive those three minutes? Please!) -- is no mistake? That the moment of his death was set from before the foundation of God's world?

How have we defined death? It is the ultimate surprise. It's over before we are prepared. We don't face it at all. We try to face the process of dying. But death itself is always wrong. I'm ruminating about something I've had little experience in. I've skirted the edges of death several times. I try to remind myself what death is to God. He is never surprised by our deaths. Is it helpful to know, in the midst of chaos, grief, horror, agony, regret, and guilt, that one Person watches death every time and is neither surprised nor bemused? It is an essential part of His plan. How do we soothe the pain of that deliberate wounding?

I don't know. God is a surgeon, sure. He performs many repairs on our souls, and the death of a loved one is a cutting with inadequate anesthesia. But in His intricate system the pain itself is important for us somehow. We're horrified to watch death snatch someone. The boy, the husband ... is it a horror to them? I don't think so. For us who observe the flash of a soul's disappearance, the shattering loss and loneliness, our inner screams are evidence that we have insufficiently considered the transition from this brief world to the next. It's excruciating -- we know how long the years will feel -- like an eternity, we say. We struggle to consider this present trouble in balance with true eternal glory and being-together-forever. I'm not certain eternal life feels very real to those who mourn. I wonder if I will grasp it. Some have glowing faces that evidence they've seen a holy event. Some have the broken eyes of only grief. God help us all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Herb Woman

Since moving to Oriental, I've started taking my herbs more seriously. I plopped my old herb pot on the back stoop, and it appears to be very happy there. This long planter has Greek oregano in it. It over-winters beautifully each year. Recently the first spring growth had become long, leggy, and flowered, so I cut it off. The second growth is doing well.
In the spring, I tucked a bit of lemon thyme in the far end of the planter too. It thrived all summer.
A neighbor gave me a wad of mint in the spring, and I dumped it into this planter. It's also done well.
Here's Miss Rosemary Bush. She nearly died at our last house, but I put her into the soil and now she's happy. Happy but little. She's too small to cut for cooking yet.
However, our new house has a huge rosemary bush out front. You can't tell from the photo, but it's really big. This past week I gave it some TLC; it had an infestation of bugs. I pruned and washed.
So -- I already have rosemary, oregano, thyme, and mint. But I want to start selling fresh and dried herbs at the farmer's market, so I stopped by the garden store to see what she had. Her summer plants were on sale for 75% off.
That plant on the right is not an herb, but it's lemony/limey smelling, and I bought a small one. I hope it looks this healthy later on!
Here's my homely back stoop. It gets full morning sun for many hours. The bricks keep it warm. The hose is nearby.
This cutie-pie is called Elven thyme. Even though it's not a cooking herb (so tiny you'd have a hard time harvesting it), who could resist? Not me! I think it's meant to grow among pavers or bricks, and be walked on. But I'm protecting it in this pot.
These are both lemon thyme. The one on the left I transplanted out of the long planter it shared with the Greek oregano. It'll be happier with its own house. The one on the right I bought at the garden store. I think it will flourish here.
The garden store lady said she'll get in lots more herbs in September. I want a bay laurel for sure, plus some others. I want sturdy herbs that will winter over in our climate with protection. I plan to place them against the house on the south side, with leaves and such strewn on top to cover them from the cold. Nobody else really sells herbs at the market. I'm hoping to become known as not only the "soap lady" but the "herb lady" too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Homeschool Freedom Day!

I didn't make up that holiday; a friend of mine did. She says that if you homeschool, then whatever day the local schools around you launch into their new school year and return to the classrooms, THAT day is a holiday for you, dear homeschooler. It's your "Homeschool Freedom Day"!
These two! They were adorable, sitting together in the surf, chatting.
We decided to go to the beach on Homeschool Freedom Day to celebrate. There were no school kids on the sand today. Adam went along too. He generally dislikes the beach but has decided he would rather be with us in the nasty sand, than be apart from us without the sand between his toes. Bless him!
 The Neuse lay flat as we crossed on the ferry. I've never seen so many bird sitting on the water.
Julia gave me That Look when I snapped a picture.
 We settled into the ride and engaged ourselves in our activities:

I'm not sure how much sketching she got done.
At the beach I began my usual shell hunt. Slim pickin's today.
 I looked for large broken ones to use a shards in the bottoms of my big herb pots.
And I found this:
 He's quite big. In spite of the wind I painted for a while, and I painted him. He graciously posed, perfectly still. It helps that he's dead.
This is part of a Scotch bonnet shell. I've never found a whole one myself.

 Adam spent most of the time in the surf, sitting, working his weakened hip and leg muscles.

 We saw our friends, the gulls.
 This fellow tried for about 30 minutes to get his parasail up and running, but it kept collapsing on him. He gave up. I was looking forward to a show over the water, but all for naught.
 These lettered olive shells are broken in half. I wrote a short (rather bad) poem about them, and penned it in the back of the Gladys Taber book I'm reading presently. I didn't think she would mind.

 Someday I shall try to get in the house and find it's full of seashells, with no room for humans. It's an issue.
Well, we left the beach just in the nick of time, before the storm hit at 2:00. Folks were fleeing for vehicles, coolers and chairs in tow.
 It didn't seem like much of a storm, but we've had lots of rain lately and I suppose some of it was a deluge. Anyway, as we drove along hwy. 70 away from the beach, the flooding in parking lots was significant. Some stores were clearly overcome.
 Quite a few emergency vehicles flashed past us, and our lanes of traffic slowed to a standstill. At last we came upon the hold-up:  a patch of road (in all four lanes, both ways) covered with deep water (rushing in a current!). We did as others did -- stopped, viewed the water, viewed other cars attempting to cross.  We decided we would not risk it, pulled into the opposite lanes and returned the way we came. We found another route home, thankfully.
This little church is near the ferry. Each year they do something rather unusual.
 In the side yard, they have a big pile of ...
 Sweet potatoes! Lots and lots of sweet potatoes.
 This year we stopped to look. All of them were either huge or tiny. But they are free for the taking, for anyone wanting potatoes. I think it's a kind thing to do. The pile sits there for weeks, slowly dwindling.
We noted the school buses making their first-day deliveries of students at 4:00 p.m.
 Julia was a bit worn out. We don't actually start school until Monday, but I think this was a successful homeschool holiday.
(Disclaimer: nothing in this post is meant to be insulting or derogatory of other methods of education. We are simply noting the joys we find in the mode of education we've chosen -- celebrating our school, as all other types of schools do too. I hope everyone is able to choose the kind of education they prefer.)