Saturday, November 21, 2009

In a hiatus

We've reached the point we knew would come: we've temporarily worked ourselves out of a job. The last big project was splitting the firewood, which we completed a couple of weeks ago. There is still much clearing to do, but it's on the waterfront. The waterline backs up sufficiently for us to walk on the shore, enabling us to do that work, but not until deep winter, when there is a more-or-less permanent north wind blowing water out of the creek. (Our tides here are almost entirely driven by the prevailing winds instead of the moon.)

And so, what to do? Psychologically we are are not permanent yet because we really don't "live" anywhere--this current roof over our heads is a mere way-station, populated with as many of our things as necessary to make life possible, but it's not really ours. We have done all the day trips in the region that can reasonably be done between sunrise and sunset, and haven't really discovered anything anywhere that makes us want to return. Our two home bases, Edenton and Elizabeth City, are well served by restaurants, but very poorly by movies, so we are well fed, but other entertainment comes mainly via either Netflix or DVR'd movies off the TV. We do scare up the occasional odd job: we're working on the boat and dock at the moment, preparing to install new seats on the boat and making the lift run more efficiently. We want to paint the wicker furniture we've found in antique stores--the pieces are in excellent shape but their white needs touching up, and it makes sense to have that done before we move. It seems to be staying warm enough here well into autumn for us to be afforded the occasional 60-degree day that makes that outdoor job possible.

Otherwise, strings of empty days loom ahead. I'm more OK with that than Steve, who was not raised for introspection or a life of the mind. He does welcome the occasional day off, but usually as a reward for some just-completed hard work, which is his normal medium. When he gets down to spending hours playing Monopoly on the computer, it's clear he's scraping bottom.

We've been in one stage or another of "move mode" for about two years now, from the disruption of preparing the Arlington house for sale, going room to room dismantling and re-creating (remember that?), to the emotional roller-coaster of the selling process, to the physical move itself, to making ourselves ready to hit the ground running when we finally take possession of the new house, free to tackle all those new chores with the big exterior work behind us. We're very smart, very efficient.

But we've been living in anticipation all this time. Our present has been completely filled with preparation for the future. I'm the first to acknowledge it could be a hell of a lot worse--at least we have a future, and a very bright one at that, to prepare for. But what I wouldn't give for a group of friends who were a mere phone call away for an invitation to dinner and conversation. That day will come, I know. But it's not here yet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ida Comes Calling

We are all warm winds and driving rain today as what's left of Hurricane Ida makes herself felt. She'll be here today and tomorrow, another house guest, less welcome than the ones to whom we've just bid farewell, but here for a shorter time. Since we can't work outside on anything, a big chunk of computer time is available. And that leads me to some random musings.

I was recently found on Facebook by one of the boys who made my first couple years of high school (high school for me was grades 8-12) a living hell. He actually "friended" me. Like all bullies, he appears totally oblivious to the havoc he wrought all those years ago, and comes to me all friendly-like. I took him up on the friend offer just so I could take a look at what he considers worth sharing about his life today. There he is, those familiar features now encased in rolls of fat, smiling out at me, the happy grandfather. His interests and his politics are the polar opposites of mine, which is not surprising. I'm pondering taking the opportunity to thank him for teaching me some important lessons in life--patience and perseverence in the face of extreme unpleasantness being the most important--but will likely instead simply ignore him. Still, it was a shock to get the message, and interesting how those ancient insults to the soul still resonate. It's also remarkable to reflect on how far behind I have left that life and those people.

We bought a canoe! One of the houses we pass every day on our drive to the property suddenly had this shiny red number in the driveway with a For Sale sign attached. It's a fiberglass 2001 model in very good shape, and we got it for less than half of what it would cost new. The creek we're on is ideal for a canoe and we had been toying with the idea of getting one, especially since Gary, our builder, actually designed a large, overhead space in our garage specifically for hanging a canoe. So now we can fill the space. Can't wait to take her on her maiden Lunker's Creek voyage. A canoe was pretty far down on our list of needs/nice to haves, but when you're faced with a deal like that.....

This is harvest time. The ubiquitous soy and cotton fields we pass everywhere in this part of the state are beyond ready to be relieved of their burdens, and little by little they are being emptied by combines and their fruit hauled away. Farmers actually defoliate (and kill) the plants in order to prepare them for picking, making it easier for the machines to do their work. And we're learning that mechanical harvesting is a labor-saving but inefficient process--right after picking, there seem to be as many cotton bolls left in the fields and scattered by the side of the roads as there are packed in tractor-trailer sized bales, and the birds are enjoying a bonanza of fallen dried soybeans.

And speaking of birds: lately there is amazing activity among the starlings here. Thousands upon thousands of them are flocking, flying in a westerly direction in the mornings and then coming back eastward at dusk. They stop to rest in the trees surrounding the property and create a racket that requires you to raise your voice to be heard. I've checked the obvious websites, including the Cornell bird program, to find out what's going on, but so far have come up dry. Since starlings have colonized the entire continent, there isn't much migration really going on. So what gives? Maybe they're flying from soy field to soy field, gorging during the day and returning to their home roosts at night? Whatever it is, Alfred Hitchcock's imagination had nothing on this spectacle.

Collards and hamhocks for dinner tonight. Yum! Am I in the South or what?