Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Anchorage Issue

I know I've mentioned Oriental's anchorage before. It's a smallish piece of water and accommodates five or six boats at best. For about a year, it was home to four boats. They have names, but we in town called them simply the red boat (or the French boat), the pink boat, the blue boat, and that other boat.
We now have three boats in the anchorage.
The red boat left at last, after much trial and controversy. It was towed away, and even the friendlier folks in town breathed a sigh of relief and were glad to see it go. I won't go into details. The "other boat" belonged to a local, and thankfully he moved it elsewhere, up a creek.
Then, last week, a shocking thing happened. The man who lived on the pink boat died suddenly one night. Rumor is that the family will come take the boat away.
You see, Oriental needs the anchorage for "cruisers," boating people who move along the coast and stay a few days, helping local businesses with their custom. Boaters who "squat," and overstay their welcome, often derelict, occupy valuable space and scare better cruisers away. Neither the red, pink, nor blue boats were able to go under sail; they were damaged in some way.
the solar boat
Remember the solar boat I mentioned recently? It did leave the town dock, which has a 48-hour limit. It had overstayed that by several days at least. Now it's lying in the anchorage, which is free and is not monitored by the town. The anchorage doesn't belong to the town. Apparently, it doesn't belong to anyone. The Coast Guard can monitor boats there for certain safety issues, but they cannot force them to move on. No one can.
the pink boat
And here's where it gets sticky. The anchorage is really monitored by the cruisers themselves, on a simple standard of kindness and consideration for others. And usually boaters are considerate of each other, and exceedingly helpful to each other. That's why a town full of boating people can get so put out by boaters who clearly aren't following this unspoken but important imperative -- don't impose on other boaters unnecessarily for your own greed.
the blue boat
Perhaps the solar boat will stay only a few more days; one can hope. I don't like to judge, and I've refrained from entering the heated discussions in town regarding the anchorage. I prefer to err on the side of forbearance and kindness. Is there a point at which a town cannot allow itself to be imposed upon more, for the sake of its economy? Its citizens? Its visitors? Is it one thing to turn-the-other-cheek as an individual, but quite another for a whole community to be asked to do it? At what point do such moochers cross a line ... when they break the law?
I've wrangled with these difficult questions in the past year. People in distress (as these boaters certainly were) need help, and sometimes lots of it for a long time. Should I help someone who is clearly damaging others? It's one thing to spout opinions and rhetoric to such questions hypothetically; it's another to live them out in a community when someone looks you in the face and needs your help. You help. It's the right thing to do. I'm afraid many conservative Christians talk as if they extend help only after a certain list of criteria are met by the recipient. We're rather high-and-mighty about it. I just don't find any such regulations on Jesus's lips.
One Sunday morning in the rain, I dashed back home from church to get something I'd forgotten. Along the way I saw Monique, the French woman from the red boat, walking along the road in a dress. It was a filmy, skimpy skirt, something you'd wear to a bar. She was unkempt, her legs and armpits hairy, her face haggard. I'd offered her rides before, but she refused. However, on a rainy Sunday morning, and me alone in the car, she succumbed and welcomed my offer. In broken English and my horrific French, I learned that she was walking to the Catholic church. She went there, she said, because there was always food afterward. She had no friends here, she said, and no money. They'd found her shoplifting in the grocery store, taking coffee and nutella. Was that hunger? Is it my place to decide?
Still, all I saw in the car with me was a lonely woman who needed her neighbors (temporary as we were) to help her. The walk to the Catholic church was at least two miles! In heels! I felt certain that, for her, she'd worn her best. My help was quite little, just a ride, but I also wanted her to know I cared, that I was friendly to her.
Was she needy? I don't know. I could have dredged up a dozen marks against her, reasons I need not offer even a kind word. Does she need my scowl to inform her that she's on the low end of the humans in the world? Of course not. She's living her hard life every day; she knows that already.
Wherever Monique is now, I hope she knows there's at least a bit of kindness in the world, and that others smile and offer help, whether she needs it or not.

Looking Both Ways

The Roman god Janus has two faces, one to look back and one to look forward. Thus, the month January.
The new year has always felt to me like any other day, just a 24-hour chunk of time. The more chaotic and trying life is, the less able you are to devote silly celebration to one moment just because it falls between two years.

But this year I seem to be more at a life crossroads. Don't we each study life behind, trying to discern some pattern of lessons learned from trials, some indication of where we should go? Don't we each study our future, wanting to be wise in our plans?

Here are photos from this past year, to remind me of what we've done that I long to remember, and not forget.
 We got a free sailboat and first sailed her on January 1, 2013.
 Julia's gift in art developed and expanded this year.
 She and Adam enjoyed the boat often.
 He built her a boat of her own.
 Philip came home for the summer -- yay!
 Anna came home for the summer and worked at Camp Seafarer - yay!
 And .. the beach!! ... of course.
 Adam had a medical scare and started his long weight-loss journey to better health.
 We made a new friend called Beau. He came to live with us.
 Anna toiled through the arduous task of becoming a licensed driver with a car.
 We visited precious family.
And they visited us!
 My little cottage industry continued to grow and prosper.
 We saw more family ...
And more family ...
 And more family!
 Our church family became more active, more fun, more involved, and a very great blessing.
 Julia seemed to transform out of girlhood into a young woman.
 Our church loved and appreciated us!
 We visited Peter at college. He and Julia have become pals.
 And she grew up some more with a swanky new hair cut.
 We kept sailing.
 Our involvement in and enjoyment of the broader church community was greatly enriched through common worship and common service.
 I made truly wonderful friends at the market.
 The kids came home for Christmas, but it was all too short and hurried,
Because we were moving into a new house, for which we are very, very grateful.

I read another New Year's blog that said this:
"Reasons to go on living:
Nothing ever stays the same,
Some good thing could happen,
Might kiss again,
Starry nights (and many more such lovely things),
Alternative looks boring."

That last one brought me up short. (And this is no criticism of this blogger. It's a sweet post, and I understand the intent behind the list she posted.) But honestly, I wouldn't make a list like that, if I were giving my reasons to keep living. But I can't post my list because it would sound so serious, so spiritual, and perhaps rather goody-goody, and I don't like sounding like that. There is beauty in life, but it's not the reason we keep living. In life's dark moments, the beauty outside our darkness does motivate us not to give up. But during the other 95% of our days, we must have deeper reasons to keep living. It's vastly more than red roses and bubble baths, more than travel to fascinating places or a new pair of shoes. It's even more than relationships, love, and caring for others, deep and precious as those are.

I live because the one who breathed life into me, and who will never take it away, says to me, "Live. Enjoy the good. Reject the bad. Embrace all I give you, knowing that the best of this world pales in comparison to the beauty yet to come."

Thus, that last item on the list leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. The alternative to this life is anything but boring; it is superior. And I keep living, not because the next life is worse, but because it is better. It is hope. May you say the same.

2014 is just around the corner. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we shall sail!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Aerie in New Bern

Last night Adam and I treated ourselves to a stay at a New Bern Bed and Breakfast, The Aerie.
We're simply B&B people. We've been doing this for years, when we can find time, when we can afford it. We view it as an investment in our marriage, which it about our most precious possession. It's money well-spent.
Adam chose this inn as my Christmas gift. The decorations are superb.
This was the living room last night. Talk about lights! I love the arch between the hall and the room.
This is a view of it from the stairs.
This beautiful old home is immaculately kept, as so many of these inns are, especially the ones "in town."
From 5:30 - 6:30 they served drinks and hors d'oeuvres downstairs. We chatted with the hosts, Michael and Marty, and the other guests. We were all deciding where to go for dinner. Most of them opted for the pricier downtown restaurants recommended by the stack of menus at the inn. I'm sure those are nice, but since we live here and know the restaurants in New Bern, we chose a much less expensive one, with equally delicious food -- Paula's Italian. It was perfect, and we saved our purse and our tummies.
The decorations were truly breath-taking.
In the dining/breakfast room was this beautiful piano. The soundboard is the length of a grand.
Then we stepped up to our room.
They had a personalized welcome card waiting for us. This inn is all about service. Everything is provided. They had a sound machine/spa already in the room, even though I brought my own, to help with sleeping.
The bed is enormous -- not in width, but in height! I had to climb on the ledge of the rail to get into it!
There's a lovely sitting area with deep chairs, wireless internet, TV/DVD, etc.
Old fireplace:
Graceful figurine:
Seasonal decor:
However, I'm all about the bathtub - haha! I really do enjoy soaking in a deep, warm tub when I'm at a B&B. With no household responsibilities, no time constraints, I can lounge in a bubble bath and let the worries of the world go by.
The bathroom was as pretty as the bedroom.
There's a little drink service also with water and ice.
And two luxurious bathrobes, so you don't have to bring your own. Adam said he felt like Agent 007 wearing one of these :)
Just outside our door is a lovely porch with views of the old downtown.
The upstairs is very pretty too ~
This is a small room for guest services, like movies for your viewing, tea and coffee and hot cocoa as you need it, cold drinks and water too.

I like this cool lamp.
This morning at breakfast, we knew we'd find three hot options to choose from. Marty is quite an exceptional cook, and the presentation was perfection.
Adam chose the omelet, and I picked the pancakes.
The dining room was sparkling with silver and lights.
Right down to the smallest decorations on our table.
I love the string of thick garland and lights over head.
This door leads to the kitchen ...
And through those doors came this delightful "appetizer" before our breakfast. It's yogurt, fruit, and a little crunchy grape nuts in the bottom.
Adam's 3-egg omelet is what we'd eat for three breakfasts!
Here are my pancakes:
And a carnation on top!

Adam was impressed with her bacon cooking. She skewers the strips on a toothpick and bakes them. They come out crispy and are more pleasant to eat this way, than in a long strip. The breakfast was excellent, and you'll be glad to know that we both left about 1/3 on our plates, in the interest of our recent weight loss.
The Aerie is a beautiful place. Adam says he hopes we'll return here, if only because the tub in our room is the largest jacuzzi tub we've found in a B&B since we stayed at the Hancock House in Dubuque, Iowa, many, many years ago.
In August, we stayed at The Inn on Bath Creek. In the interest of honesty and assisting other travelers, I'll give you my frank opinion, comparing the two. If you love an old home with antiques and luxurious living, The Aerie is it. But personally, I preferred our stay in Bath more. The town is tiny. The home was built as a B&B, and it's designed for my comfort. The innkeepers at Bath were the perfect balance of helpful but never rude or intrusive. It takes a gentle, quiet personality, a servant's attitude, to be a great innkeeper. I did not find that at The Aerie. I don't like pushy people, or people who invade my "private space" when I'm trying to have a getaway. I just felt that the hosts at Bath did a much better job at that. The Bath Inn was quiet; we were the only guests, and the food was excellent in both places. In the end, I'd love to come back to both inns. There are certainly more restaurant options in New Bern, and that's an important point. And ... there's always the bath tub :) Adam says we'll come back to The Aerie just for that.