A Yankee's Musing

Monday, June 26, 2006

Let's Really Talk

A new friend told me that tourism has taken a real blow this year, not simply due to the weird weather fiasco clearly caused by global warming, or even due to the gas price gouging resulting in high prices, but due to the conciousness of the people finally collectively waking up to the fact we are in trouble. Americans are not respected anymore, and in fact, are ridiculed, and rightfully so in most cases. Our courageous young men and women are dying, and in a few cases, becoming corrupted themselves by the lack of morality, the lack of accepting responsibility, the lack of support from those for whom they are putting their lives on the line for, both back home and on the battle fronts. And still we, as Americans, play name games, the blame games.

It's the liberals fault; no, it's the conservatives fault. It's the Republicans; no, it's the Democrats. It's the religious fanatics; no it's the religious right. It's the government; no, it's the silent majority. It's the warmongers; no, it's the hippie peace freaks. Truth is, it is all of us, you and me. If we just got off our self righteousness and stopped hiding behind labels, maybe we could work together. We, the people of the United States of America, have ceased to work together for a common good. Hell, we can't even define what a common good is anymore. Maybe we never could. But we sure are living in a fractured society.

We each think we hold the ultimate truth and if only everyone else was so enlightened, we'd be just fine. When did we stop thinking we could learn something valuable from each other? Why do we run around with our very narrow little views and try to convince everyone that we are right and they are wrong? Typical behavior for human beings who think they are truly on top when it comes to intelligence. We are greedy creatures. We have used our intelligence to create lots of toys to keep us amused, and guess what, we are self destructing. We are finding it more difficult to be amused. It's getting harder everyday, isn't it? It isn't hard at all to see instead of dealing with our problems we are letting anger take over--hence the increasing number of categories for rage--road rage, black rage, mailroom rage, Mac
Donald's rage, Bush rage, hetrosexual rage, ad nauseum.

We have used our intelligence to trap ourselves with the very categories we have created. We have new words, new "insider" vocabularies for each category or area within each category, a phenomena used to separate us rather than to understand each other. We create them to strengthen the walls that separate we the "insiders" from them "the outsiders." Funny thing, there are so many walls now there isn't a person left who isn't an insider to something and and outsiderer to a whole lot more. We have widen the gaps and created such a maze of words we no longer have a common language that doesn't contain multi-hidden meanings, hidden agendas, and emotional buttons to push and keep us from ever communicating without getting lost in the pitfalls we created.

My parents always told me--never be afraid of any creature other than the two legged kind. As a child I never wanted to believe that. I've learned otherwise. We two-legged animals have created a real mess for ourselves on every level. No wonder tourism may be waning. Collectively we may be waking up to see that the answers to our problems as a nation, as a human race, will take something more than hiding behind our preferred labels we've generated to protect ourselves. Those kinds of behaviors have outlived their effectiveness and need to stop if we are ever going to work together to survive as a species. Seems to me the first thing to do is to accept responsibility for our actions. Now isn't that a novel thought?


Moving against the current as the sea reclaims the water she has given during high tide, and the sea breeze fights its surface causing cross current waves even in the bay. There is nothing like the ocean: keep the bow into the waves; don't let the wind push you broadside; keep paddling, two repetitions forward, one wave back, as you make your way to the next island. There is nothing like paddling a ten foot kayak off the coast of Maine. There are so many places to see, creatures to behold.

Wood Island: turn of the 19th century lighthouse, wooden mile long walkway through an enchanted forest stunted by storms, deer, baby ducks learning to swim and dive beneath our feet, sea gulls quite perturbed as we pass, their brown eggs speckled with black,and the many fuzzy newly hatched babies who don't seem to fear us at all. We move cautiously on land, and at times, cover our heads because the daddy gulls are diving much too close for comfort. Larry is horrified because I stop to snap some pictures. Probably understandable because the gulls seem to see him as the major predator and are coming close to spearing his head. We touch nothing and move on, down to the rocky shore, push off, and head to the next island, the next adventure, the next creatures awaiting us.

Bufflehead ducks--males look like skunks that can fly. Cormorants---like black smoke as they dive, spear fish, resurface, and watch us paddle by. Seals--but they are gone in a flash. One of us comments there are 60 different kinds of gulls, or some absurd number like that. I think we saw most of them. One one island they clearly dominante and we would be fools to even attempt to get close. Some are grey and white, others black and white. Many are different sizes and shadings. They outnumber us---Hitchcock would appreciate this. Another island has a large cross on top, or is it a disgarded masthead? On another island is an oblisk (spelling/) type of structure that has been there since Civil War days. If I were not claustrophobic, I might have ventured a climb inside of it. But I am, so I didn't.

The tide has beaten us in---we have to climb out into ankle deep sand for awhile until we reach deeper water. Someone falls in--wasn't me this time! It's cold in mid-June in Maine, but refreshing. The gulls race beside us grabbing up the crabs that are scurrying away. The water loosens the kinks in my legs and I am able to move smoother, freer now on surer footing. That's an MS thing. Cold helps the nerve connections function better. We paddle some more across the channel and land. We go to eat at a seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean and watch the beginnings of a sunset, then walk off our meal along the coastal, dead end road, way past sunset. It has been a magical day with three friends. Kayaking is always like that, always.

Two days later, another friend, and we head inland to Providence Lake in New Hampshire. It is ours alone today, no other craft in sight. The wind picks up as we make our way through it to the edge of the shore to follow the lake around. At the far end we stop, picnic, talk, "Why do we always seem like we have so much to talk about?" you say. We do, and it isn't the kind of talk in lieu of silence, because we handle silence well too. It is real talk. When I got out of the kayak I fell. The water was cold, compounded by the wind that is up to 30 mph and increasing rapidly. We decide to finish our journey around the lake. Shortly we come upon a loon on a nest. She squenches down so we won't see her eggs. We move on so as not to disturb her. We saw her mate earlier bobbing in the whitecaps.

It is clear now that we need to head back to where we put in, the other end of the lake a few miles or so away. The wind has picked up to 40 mph. We need to keep our bows straight, not let the cross winds and waves turn us or hit us broadside, just let the waves propel us back. We are really moving. Imagine if we had sails. We'd probably be airborne. When we venture a peek behind us, we see the waves--they are big and close together. "Does the distance between waves indicate the speed of the wind and/or the height of the waves?" you ask. We make it back. We land, but not on our own volition; the waves throw us onto the shore. I land sideways and the waves start to fill the kayak. I'm laughing so hard I can't get out. My friend helps me. It has been one of those days again. Good kayaking and good friends. How lucky can one be?

These are the moments I carefully store up for "winter," for those times when I am getting yet another chemo-treatment. Instead of watching the plastic bags drip into my IV, I close my eyes and bring all my senses together to relive my kayaking adventures with friends. They are that vivid to me. The nurses think I am smiling because I am courageous--how wrong. I am smiling because my entire mind is not there at all but nearing some island off the coast of Maine, or slowing manuevering close to a loon sitting on her nest in the northland of New Hampshire. I am feeling the wind carry me; I am sitting deep in the water in my green 10 foot Loon kayak.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Basic Flight Training

The ravens have had their young one flying, or attempting to do so, since the day after Memorial Day. Two are doing well, but the third hasn't even passed basic training yet. He began by bouncing off my camp roof after colliding with the metal smokestack then sliding backward down the metal roof. Then he tried another camp and a couple of trees, at which point, he up and quit. He decided walking, or hopping, was safer and did so for hours,much to the parent ravens horror. He hopped over and looked at me through the screen door, he hopped clear around my camp, up the road, and back again. By nightfall Beauty and Notch were beside themselves. They had gotten the other two ravens safely tucked away in their nest, but Hoppy still was hopping. Finally they began attacking him until he took flight---well, sort of low flying like a kite that can't quite catch the air to rise.

This has continued for quite a while now. The other two young ones are doing quite well, but Hoppy, well he hops most of the time. First he goes to a big tree behind my camp, about thirty feet up and shreeks. The parents try to urge him to fly further, and he doesn't for about a half an hour. Then, when the parents are clearly out of patience, he flys to another tree and the procedure starts all over again. I think he doesn't like heights. To each his own.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

For the Birds

Ravens--not a whole lot about them in books, mostly about their symbolic journey through mankind's tedious history and good old Edgar's infatuation. Nothing much about the bird itself except it is a bigger and smarter version of its cousin the crow. But the raven has inhabited my part of the forest for as long as I can remember. One pair has nested in the white pines year after year, populating the Valley. the male is large and strong; the female more slender with a missing feather in one wing so you can recognize her when she is in flight. Both are not afraid of us two legged neighbors.

This year I have been more attentive to the pair--they've nested in a towering white pine that stands alone by a pump up the road. Larry has been feeding them all winter in my backyard. They've come to expect it even when I appeared--twice a day they screech outside my window--twice a day I comply with stale rolls or bread. They have two or three babies that hatched late March. When I arrived, they are healthy and loud demanding their parents to feed them and won't let up until the parents either bring some food or screech one high pitched warning, I guess, to shut up that there is danger nearby. Only then do they quiet.

The comings and going of the parents, whom I call Notch and Beauty, is marked only by the babies screeching and the familiar whoosh whoosh of their wings as they displace the air. Something I have been noticing about the pair. When either approaches the rolls I toss out, oh, and they sure know when I do because they appear from nowhere almost instantly, they land only one at a time. When one does, it hopss sideways toward the food, rubbing its beak on the ground one way and then another, stopping, and repeating. The female does it three or four times, then takes the food and leaves. The male goes through a much more dramatic ritual. All the other creatures do not go near him nor do they cross the "lines" he makes in the pine needles surrounding the food he plans to take. Quite a process. Then, he takes as much of the bread or rolls as he can. He stacks them, and either opens his beak wide to take the stack, or else stabs them onto his beak. Sometimes he has so much that he cannot take off and has to start the process all over again. Sometimes he makes it like a heavy payloader. Amazing.

I will talk about the babies in flight, well, their process of learning flight next entry. I'm enjoying these characters. They certainly are smart.