Monday, June 30, 2014

No, I Didn't Die

Sorry about the absence. Life gets busy ... also, sometimes I have little to say. Or, more precisely, I don't know how to say it well.
Last Friday Adam and I went (for the second day in a row) to do some necessary shopping. We took the ferry to Havelock, which is normally a fun sparkle added to a boring road trip. The ferry ride makes it more like a date!
Except when it doesn't.
We arrived at 9:47 to board the 10:00 ferry, which normally is plenty of time. I've made a ferry with mere seconds (literally!) to spare. We were shocked to find ourselves in Row Four -- a good indication we would not fit on the 10:00 ferry boat even with their very best Puzzle-Working Ferry Boat Employee to work, squeezing SUVs, vans, boat trailers, and such onto the ferry. Crunch!
Six rows of vehicles, desperately wanting to board the ferry
You guessed it. All the cars in front of me were squeezed on the 10:00 ferry. I was the first one not to get on. That made me first vehicle in line (yippee!!) for ... the 11:00 ferry. Sigh. An hour's wait, in the heat! In the photo above, that's my beige van with its nose over the line in Row Four. (The rows are numbered 1-6, left to right.) Rows 5 and 6 were filled too. After the 10:00 ferry left, rows 1 - 4 quickly filled again. Yikes! They put cones in front of those rows so the newcomers wouldn't think they could board first on the next ferry. When humans have to wait with feigned patience in line, in the heat, for an hour, they are very intent on fairness. See the white car next to me in Row Three? She's a friend of mine; we chatted. She arrived at 10:20 for the 11:00 ferry -- forty minutes early! -- and knew that she could not possibly fit on the boat!
 The ferry from the other side arrived at 10:20, unloaded its cars and sat there, waiting, empty, until the departure at 11:00. We could have all driven around through New Bern, but it takes an hour to do so, and burns the gasoline. Might as well wait the hour at the ferry lot, not burning gas ... unless you sit there with your engine running, as some do!
patient humans, waiting in line
We used to have ferries every half-hour. Then our state government realized what a mine of tax money they were missing, not charging a toll for these 20-minute rides across the Neuse. They began threatening to charge a toll for a public road (it's hwy. 306 on both sides) used by locals to get to work. They wanted to charge per car, and then charge per passenger as well! Pamlico is a very poor county. We fought the tolls, and the matter is still in dispute in Raleigh. But one temporary solution was for the DOT to cut back on the number of ferries that run. Thus, the hour wait. The ferry employees are still there, paid to stand around and do nothing for that extra time. The ferries sit also, motors running. How does that save money?
On Friday, all the parents were picking up their kids from local camps too, adding to the crowd of drivers. The system was overwhelmed. They ran out of parking lot space.
 Adam doesn't mind the heat in summer. He wears long-sleeves year-round. He sat in the van and read a book.
On the sunny side of the car, I put my umbrella in the window to block the sun. I was glad I'd brought my knitting along; it kept me occupied.
 When we finally boarded the 11:00 ferry, my nose was way up in front, near the barrier. Adam and I enjoyed listening to the camp parents interrogating their little boys about their adventurous weeks. It was entertaining.
 This very pretty sailboat motored across our path.
And when we got off the ferry on the Cherry Point side -- I kid you not!! -- this was the only car in line there! Sigh.
Much research and thought have gone into the ferry tax situation. Many argue that removing all tolls, even on the long ferries to the Outer Banks, would produce more tax revenue because tourists would be more willing to travel there, and would spend more tourist money, supporting the poorer coastal counties. We rely on tourism heavily. It is a solid argument. And lest anyone assume this is a Democrat state gov't trying to over-regulate and over-tax ... oh no! North Carolina now has a Republican governor, Republican Senate, Republican House. As Republicans, they say they want to balance the budget, save money, be fiscally responsible. Increasing all the ferry tolls (i.e., taxes) is one of their solutions. Most of the people I know, if the tolls happen, will simply stop using the ferry. This will reduce the need for ferries, and some of the employees will lose their jobs. Sad situation, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, I'll enjoy our ferry, the breezy rides, the seagulls screeching behind above the churning water, the sailboats gliding by, the happy passengers. Hooray for the ferries!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Because In My Heart I'm a Teacher ...

I can't wait to start planning Julia's homeschool year. Here's a proposed list of her texts for Medieval Literature, 10th grade. I'm so excited!
We'll begin with Beowulf in our literature study.
 I'd love to see how it works if I read Tolkien's translation, and Julia reads Heaney's translation. Might be chaos, but somehow I intend to use both men's works as we examine this great poem. Tolkien's work gives us the advantage of his mighty commentary.
Heaney's work gives us the beauty of the original text. I may use this opportunity to study the language of Old English with Julia too, giving her a few basics.

Next on the list is Dante's Inferno. I love Longfellow's translation, and we'll study the six sonnets he wrote to accompany the translation. This is actually a rather quick read. Longfellow maintains Dante's triplet stanza pattern (called terza rima form), and the reading clips along. We'll enjoy Gustave Dore's artwork at this point also.

Julia is familiar with this story, and we'll spend a week enjoying it. I have two copies of it on my shelves, in different translations. Might be a good opportunity to see how they vary. Actually, I think I may have three translations in the house.

Our next text is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  At this point we'll stop using translations and begin using original text solely. This will slow us considerably as we do Chaucer, but it's worth it. Julia will quickly realize how easy Middle English is to read, and it will become fun -- it's almost like a game as you read; every minute or so, the lightbulb goes on in your head, and your realize what a particular tricky word is. We will do extensive selections from the Tales, but not everything.

Again, we'll use the original text, which in Malory is not difficult at all. I love the original spellings, without an editor's hand, but that's harder to find. Again, we may not have time to read the entire tome; it's large. But if we're enjoying it, we'll stick with it as long as she likes. The difficulty is trying to find the time in the day to read it all aloud. I do prefer to read all literature aloud with her. I enjoy the reading very much myself, and it gives me opportunity to ensure that she understands absolutely everything.
(I'll mention at this point that I want Julia to read Ivanhoe on her own this year -- such a wonderful read! The author is modern, but the setting is so wonderfully medieval.)
I recall being bored with Spenser's Fairie Queene in college. I intend to spend some time figuring out which portions we would enjoy most, and selecting accordingly.

Last, we'll study a couple of Shakespeare's plays. Right now I'm leaning toward Henry V and Hamlet, since we are in medieval times. We'll enjoy movies of these plays afterward.

Notice the complete lack of random poems by e.e. cummings, short stories by Poe, or novels by obscure African writers. That's because I dislike the chaos evident in nearly every literature text out there. They throw chronology to the wind and pretend that no violence will be done to the student's sense of order, his understanding of culture and history, if literature is thrown at his head willy-nilly -- as if the only thing that matters is that all poetry be studied in the same 6-week period. (Insert teacherly scream here.) I love the fact that Julia's literature study this August will begin with Augustine discussing the details of Rome's fall, the exact historical event she ended with in May. It's so easy to guide one's literature and history readings by time, presenting orderly cause-and-effect. Why, oh why, do curriculum makers go to such great lengths to destroy this order? Think of how helpful it would be to your child's understanding of history, if his literature were taught in chronological order? If his history courses and literature courses were also presented to him in chronological order?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Beaching It!

Julia and I took our second beach trip this summer - yay! I adore a day at the beach, and I'm so tickled to live this close to a great Atlantic beach -- we can just drive over for a few hours, and drive back. The ferry ride to Cherry Point afforded large river vistas packed with cloud.
Clouds in the river below ~
Clouds in the vault above ~
We go to Fort Macon, which is the north end of a long run of public beach along the NC coast. It's fairly easy to get away from people.
Different types of people frequent a summer beach. I am a shell-collector. I stroll along in a dawdling, mindless way, nudging the sand with my toe, hiding behind my hat brim, swirling my sarong with one hand and cradling a mass of shell treasure in the other.
A tiny cup of shell contains such a world!
Do you collect for color? Shape? Perfection? Do you reject broken ones? Common ones? Little or big ones?
In only a single camera shot, hundreds of shells, each unique. Why do I choose one, reject another? I don't always know.
Today I searched for shells with holes that yarn could pass through. I'd like to make a wind chime with shells, crocheting the shells right onto the yarn. What do you think?
This one will work -- an opening runs through it.
And this one. I think a wind chime with shells like this would be charming.
What a swirly little shell! Look at that design -- so perfect. It's a pattern design called the fibonacci sequence, and it's found all through nature. I watched a fun informational video recently on it.
When I see the same design in widely divergent locations in the universe, I see the hand of a creator, a designer.
I found a shell for Adam and me too.
I could spend a few paragraphs telling you about the unusual people I studied at the beach today. Couples, individuals, families. The beach presents entertaining opportunities to view behavior and relationships. One young woman, who seemed to be on her honeymoon, wore a dress the whole time -- into the water, while sunbathing. I found this odd, a 3/4-length sleeve knit dress, rather heavy, with a high neck, falling just below her knee. I assumed she was just very modest, if warm. Later she tied a wrap-around skirt on as well, over the dress, and then pulled the dress's skirt portion up, through the wrap-around skirt's waist, and then dropped it back down, so the wrap-around was underneath. And she wore them both then, and sat and sunbathed some more. I could make no sense of it. Otherwise she was a lovely, ordinary, slim young lady with pretty hair. She pulled out a bottle of mousse, squirted a poof of it into her palm, and rubbed it well into her long hair after emerging from the salt water. I couldn't figure that out either. On the beach, you are left to wonder why people do what they do. Quite a bit of personal grooming, fussing over clothes (and their lack), towels, hair, skin. One young woman, whose bathing suit supplied neither the support nor the coverage of the garments in an underwear drawer, gently pulled down the edge of her mother's modest bathing suit top because the older woman was showing about an inch of waist. That made me giggle.
My favorite thing to do at the beach is walk. Shell-collecting eventually becomes an excuse to walk on and on. I walk until no one's in front of me. Today I loved it so much, I felt I could have walked this shore forever, going and going. I find the ocean's sounds, the water's caresses, the broad sky and salty air to be my perfect habitat. So many shells littered the shoreline that the little waves rolled them over each other. They clinked and tinkled like jewelry.
My new beach hat prevented any sunburn on my face. My nose is thanking me.
The hat's underside -- I'm picky about hats. This one has a red bow on the back, covering a velcro closure. The top allows me to pile my hair on my head in a big clip, while still wearing a hat.
Julia promised me that she'd willingly pose for a photo or two without giving me an ugly face.
I got our magnificent kite up in the air, and she enjoyed it for a while at the very end of its line.
It's way up there, even though the string only looks about an inch long in this photo!
Pulling it in ~
Some of you live far from the ocean, and you miss it. So here's a short video for you, so you can hear the surf and see the waves. You can catch the girl in the dress briefly on the left hand side of the video.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Adventures at the Bean

On this stormy late Sunday afternoon, Adam and I decided to ride bikes to the Bean and have some ice cream. Just our kind of low-key date. Adam has borrowed a recumbent bike for a bit to try it out. He likes it. He says it feels like he's riding a Harley. Ha! I reckon it's those handlebars.
That's the Bean in the background above. Oh, by the way, here's a really cool house that I pass every day. Nobody lives there. It's an old Oriental home. Somebody really should do something fun with it, don't you think? If only they'd give houses to the people who would appreciate them most ....
Anywho, we sat on the Bean porch under a glowering sky, watching boats come and go. This lovely wooden river cruiser left with a party.

The harbor currents became swirly in the weather. We knew we'd get sprinkled on. I enjoyed my chocolate nutty coconut ice cream, and Adam enjoyed his peaches and cream.
On the porch we found a couple we know. I'll call them Fred and Sally. They're very fun and entertaining. They're dating. Fred is a fisherman and has a simple fishing skiff. He arrived at the Bean in that boat, pulling Sally behind in this:
Fred wipes the rain off the seat for Sally.
I giggled inside at this bit of frivolity. This is silly even by Oriental standards, but Fred is a young-at-heart kind of guy, and always up for a lark, as the Brits say. Here's their get-up:
After drying off the dragon seat for Sally, Fred started his motor. I held Sally's lines for her as she mounted her steed. Now ladies, you will agree with me that only a particular type of woman can ride through the harbor like this, with equanimity. I liked her even more as I watched it all.
And they're off! In pouring rain. We returned to the porch to watch. Fred got things a bit turned around, and Sally's dragon was on the wrong side of the boat, and they were about to get the line caught in his motor, so they had to maneuver around .... For a bit, it looked like the dragon was going to lead.
She has a willing, adventurous spirit!
Finally, Fred got things straightened out. I was afraid he would yank Sally's dragon out from under her, when he revved up his engine. He headed into the anchorage just as a massive power boat was backing in, and he passed right under its nose! Sally is such a trooper.
There they go! See his skipper hat?
And this is a large part of why I love Oriental. Clearly there are people here even more unusual than I am, and that is such a comfort.
Then again, you also have plenty of people who spend their money and time on whopping big power boats that cost an arm-and-a-leg to run -- here are two, nearly identical, next to each other.
I can't help but wonder if they are quirky, interesting people, or rather boring. Personally, I bet Fred and Sally were having more fun. What do you think?