The Ark of Solar Power

And so it begins. Photo courtesy of Scott Berstain
Point Judith, RI

I’ve kept to Noah’s directive for passengers aboard the Ark and sailed 50 times around an enormous spinning, shining nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma with my First Mate. Love is a lot like sunshine. Sunshine is what happens when within a tiny tad of mass a bunch of heavier and lighter elements are forced to fuse together. Their union creates a tremendous amount of nuclear energy in the form of light and heat that shapes our lives. Sunshine fuels love.

Sustaining love for over half a century requires a great deal of energy that must endure long after the big bang. People whose relationships dissipate often describe feeling that there wasn’t the right chemistry to fuel love. Blame breakups on sunshine. The sun creates energy and energy makes everything work. Being human, each person requires food – plants and animals- as fuel to energize our emotions and make relationships work. Everything we eat is essentially a smorgasbord of chemical matter that is the product of energy harvested from the sun. Some things, like mushrooms – who do not mine energy from darkness –   use energy from other living things that previously harvested their energy from sunlight. That’s one reason why most couples rely on the support – energy – of close friends of family. It takes the right chemicals – or if you’re on WW, the right diet and movement – to keep love burning strong. Love is consistent with laws of the universe, as Einstein explained, nuclear fusion happens when stuff is subjected to great pressure and heat which creates blinding energy.

Sun above and in the waves. Photo SB

Sunshine itself is as blind and out of control as a hormonally surcharged teenager’s first crush. The sun mindlessly absorbs a forest’s moisture to the point of a spontaneous combustion that leaves behind an acrid landscape. Sunlight energizes a scorched patch of earth with the power to thrive again much in the same way that broken hearts heal to love again. The sun melts polar ice caps and 7 11 slushies during the same day just like the warmth of an embrace soothes a soul and brightens our spirit.

 Some might wonder whether two elements that come together with the pressure and heat of love can sustain enough energy over 50 years to keep burning brightly. Yes, they can, though it takes a lot energy and to keep a hunk of burning love aflame for that long.  Love needs to be protected when it’s just a small flicker of warmth sputtering in the wind. Every now and then an ember of love needs a breath of fresh air to ignite. While our love burns a bit slower it’s not scorched and hasn’t cooled off.

Nothing thaws my heart as powerfully as my first mate and crew. We’ve enjoyed a half a century of solar cruising. Like all of the twosomes on the Ark we did our fair share of multiplying during the first legs of our journey, though Noah never seemed to heed Sheriff Brody’s advice to get a bigger boat as our tribe increased.

I’ve always said that I love my family more than sunshine which is contrary to logic. They are sunshine. Sunshine is energy. Energy is everything.  It’s true. Love is sunshine.

May peace warm your nights long after the sun sets. Wickford Cove, Summer 2020. JAL

Happy 50th Anniversary, George.

Managing Momentum

Newport, RI. Photo JAL
Might as Well. (photo of a gift card given to me)

I’m learning to sail – again. As captain of my own small fleet of sailing vessels for half a century I’ve worked to project a confident, responsible persona. I have a hearty respect for the power of wind that some call Maria. She can instantaneously morph from a catatonic state into a raging bitch.  I accept the truism that water always wins and pay Neptune homage before leaving the dock. I’m sensitive to the moment a boat settles into the center of effort as the hull, wind, and water harmonize.

Translating experience into coherent lessons that will be my legacy to grandkids takes a whole lot more than visual imagery and sea tales. Sailing is a very technical skill set that comes down to managing momentum. It’s about knowing how things should move predictably on command and understanding most stuff is driven by universal laws of physics. That’s a writer’s way to politely say, “all that wind and water colliding with my boat scares the living s•¶∞ out of me.”

I’m learning to sail racing dinghies in 708 billion gallons of salt water that covers 147 square miles. Here critical race theories are grounded in physics not history. I’m getting reoriented to the basics of energy, motion, and force that involve gauging the wind to trim sails, tending the tiller to aim the boat, and anticipating wind gusts to avoid a dunking.  

I’m the senior in the adult sailing class. I’m pretty sure some of my classmates and instructors were born in the 21st century. I’m in the third act of life that my parents’ generation described as “go-go, slow-go, no-go”. Say it ain’t so, Boomer! Researchers concluded that Nuns are better equipped to dodge cognitive decline because they do crossword puzzles and used to sport wimples that kept jowls tightly concealed and elevated lower eyelashes to the mid-brow. Nuns were forever young looking in a stiff sort of way.

My generation isn’t known for our rosary beads. We are the very souls our parents warned us about. We’re not porch sitters. We are big dawgs who run for fun, explore, cultivate, and create while earnestly disrupting our parents’ notions about aging. We’ve got will and momentum with a sharp eye on the clock. Being mindful of Now we devote less energy to reminiscing our past lives in favor of tackling the future.

Dog Days Race @ Wickford Yacht Club. Video from Race Committee Boat. jal

Narragansett is an Indigenous name meaning “people of the small point.” I’ve forged fresh friendships on the shores of the Bay. Whether on the waves or ashore, the small point that connects us is the belief that we can never stop learning about life. The sea’s in our veins, we’re forever sailing forward, always forward. First word Across, seven letters, “beginning a voyage, leaving a harbor.”  

My Crew – Team Levesque. Surprise 70/50 Private Cruise around Newport Narragansett Bay July 2021

Thanks to Shale for a great sailing lesson and to Skip for coining the phrase, managing momentum.

MetaHappy

Somewhere Under the Rainbow. Photo by Scott Berstein

What makes people happy? Abe Lincoln was quoted 50 years after he died for implying that happiness is what people get when they set their minds to being happy. A century later Pharrell Williams invited us to “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” That’s being meta-happy, you experience happiness when you think you’re happy, and that makes people near you happy too.

Nautilus Stained Glass by Barbara Dawson Makes Me Happy

For past 86 years, Harvard researchers have been studying what makes adults happy. Being happy requires a lot of verbs, making it more of an action than a disposition. The Harvard crew discovered that happy adults are highly aware of what it takes to be happy. They are constantly choosing to be happy with whatever they do. This seems to be a commitment to embracing the the best and worst of times with minimal guidance from Charles Dickens.

As we reunite with kith and kin after months of social distancing, I hear more positive things about the lockdown than negative aspects of being in a room with the leaky roof.  One friend, married for over 40 years said she came to really appreciate her husband and treasures the way they made it through a pandemic together. Another stated the lockdown freed her from social anxiety. She felt peace and comfort during the time she simply tended to her home. People seem to be reconstructing their memories of 2020 to shape stories about the creative endeavors they took on and new things learned, like total household weekly need for toilet paper.

Tending to our closest relationships makes us happy. Clap along if you know how good it feels to strengthen ties with the people who matter most in your life. Nobody needs a Harvard lecture to appreciate the value of true friendship and having a place within a family circle. After a year and a half of only seeing me on a flat screen my youngest grandkids think grandparents are much like Flat Stanley. Clap along if you think happiness, is the truth.

The third ingredient of happiness may be the hardest to feel that it’s what you want to do. It’s taking care of yourself physically, financially, and emotionally. Happy people, young and older, sense time is limited. A friend advised me to separate my emotional connection from our home, sell it for top dollar, wait two years for the market to collapse, and then buy a really nice place on the water. I declined, citing I only have a finite number of “two years” left and want to be happy in a place shared by wonderful neighbors. Personal, family, and my small local community well-being have taken priority over financial gain. Happy people choose how and with whom they spend time with. Clap your hands if you know what happiness is to you.

Mark Twain reflected that some of the worst times in his life never happened. Happiness is not about forgetting that bad times are hell. We can’t always do or have what we want.  In general, I consider myself a very happy person. It’s what I want to be. I don’t go as far as Thoreau did by sucking the marrow out of the bone of life, but I tend to take big bites. Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.

Happiness is a pair of new Top Siders.
They Fit Me.

Read again and sing along, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7dPqrmDWxs

Soon May the Wellerman Come

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, photo JAL

Supply chains are supposed to be efficient and economical, not like last year’s flow of face masks, hand sanitizers. and toilet paper. That chain busted at the same time Dr. Fauci advised; cover your mouth, wash your hands, and mind your own business. The crisis could be abated by staying put and keeping your distance until the plague passed or a vaccine arrived. The world waited for the wellerman to come.

Dutch Ships on a Calm Sea. Willem van de Velde II. Rijkesmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, JAL

Prior to 2020 thinking about toilet paper was something left best to weird Mr. Whipple who scolded customers for squeezing the Charmin. My thoughts were limited to stocking the boat with fast dissolving toilet paper and hoping George would learn to swap out the empty tube for a new roll. Life is often amusing and frequently confusing. None of us dreamed that we’d soon mask up, get in line and pray Mr. Whipple had left a meager supply of off brand, cheek chaffing tissue. With over 7 trillion bare butts on planet Earth, toilet paper was a commodity in short supply. There were few supply ships able to deliver. And so we waited for the wellerman to bring us sugar, tea plus rum and T P.

Now it’s ’21, the virus has come of age.  Ear worms have pushed away from 2020 Hip Hop (WAP) and dirges (I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry) to 19th century sea shanties. Makes sense. The virus left many feeling as bereft as an old salt a’top the crows nest on midnight watch. Folks know better than to grab babies or old ladies to sing them Hip Hop, fearing, God forbid, they discern the lyrics. Brother Love’s Traveling Show is currently led by a young Scotsman[1] who brings us together with sea shanties. We know the words and can carry the tunes with Quint and Hooper aboard the ill-fated Orca. These are shaggy dog tales of early morning drunken sailors, seamen like Joe who hauled away, and a beach boy and his grandfather aboard the Sloop John B. Today’s top sea shanty crashing the ‘Net is about whalers aboard the Billy of Tea. There’s whale toggled to their harpoons that’s drags the ship for longer than the endless song as the crew waits for a supply ship (wellerman).

A Ship on the High Seas Caught by a Squall, The Gust, Willem van de Velde II (1680) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by JAL

It’s the song of this dreary season.  We’ve stockpiled enough crap traps and loo rolls to wipe away a zillion dingleberrys. The supply chain is still Kinked and we’re still waiting for a couple shots, not in a glass, in the arm. Whether the cargo aboard our wellerman is sung by Pfizer, Moderna, or that Euro-indie group Astra Zenica, I’m going to sing it like sailor Joe. He saw black clouds rising and bellowed, “Away haul away, we’ll hope for better weather. Away. Ho! We’ll haul away together!”

The Billy of Tea is still chasing the whale. When the wellerman comes, with a tot of sugar and rum for the tea, the crew will take their leave and go.  I’m eager to leave harbor and set sail again. Until then, “we’ll haul away together, we’ll haul away, Joe.”


[1] You can see/listen (without logging into Tik Tok) Nathan Evanss sing Soon May the Wellerman Come at https://www.tiktok.com/@nathanevanss/video/6910995345421962498?_d=secCgYIASAHKAESMgowbCsJx9/hZ4trtZspE/K7/0w12D+Y0N6a/XcqO84JIEOiQ5vKVCmiJ0l5xG6zjYSAGgA=&language=en&sec_uid=MS4wLjABAAAAe5JtE7EmiWU4tUj3vnZxuCtcrJhcXu1d_nq6cTOVehCJBZUOgyBFKbLf5oRIMrG-&sec_user_id=MS4wLjABAAAAX3u16nzRZpGvQ_aTzNxTu_OTMye571axRcH4Gsk3ma1ZU4cnZMx9dQCH8SVT9kkM&share_author_id=6780028321529332742&share_link_id=6FB74FDE-33B7-44C0-A57D-AB2AD2F35960&tt_from=copy&u_code=d2d4k00i7hl4hc&user_id=6608890212703797254&utm_campaign=client_share&utm_medium=ios&utm_source=copy&source=h5_m

Dancing with the Stars on the Shortest Day of the Longest Year

The Great Conjunction of Saturn & Jupiter Rising on December 21, 2020 . Photo JAL

Winter crossed the starting line last night. Shiver ye timbers – stoke up the hearth – we’ve set course to sail through the seas-on of very long nights.  Many folks think of winter as the doldrums of the year; a monotonous period of waiting for warm spring breezes to fill our sails.   That’s not the best approach to this Winter Solstice. We’ve been stuck in irons for far too long to diddle away the next dozen weeks.  

Photo courtesy nasa.gov

Time and distance are relative. It’s somehow fitting that the longest year in memory, not counting pregnancies and freshman classes, is a leap year. It’s been 800 years since Jupiter got close enough snag Saturn’s rings. Back then, here on Earth, Emperor Phillip founded the University of Paris to offer a liberal education while Genghis Kahn was tweaking the recipe for gunpower. Blue and red medieval pennants rallied rival troops with promises of eternal glory. If we jump back another 800 years we find ourselves marking the first Julian calendar. It too was a leap year (400 AD) when we could settle by the fire to read the Roman physician, Caelius Aurelianus’ best seller, Concerning Acute and Chronic Illness. The world was ripe with contradictions and possibilities for changing our ways.

Saturn by Ivan Akimov. Courtesy Wikipedia

The contrasting forces of nature are best explained through stories. Take for example the Roman myths behind the two seemingly merged bright spots in last night’s Solstice sky. Saturn and Jupiter were Greek/Roman gods who had eternity to wax and wane together. It’s no coincidence that their namesake planets never come closer than 456 million miles of each other while humming Cats in the Cradle. According to legend, so it’s probably not fake news, Saturn was exiled from Mount Olympus. Something about eating his own kids irked the people. Fortunately, most Romans lusted to be Greek-like. They welcomed the great god Saturn.  And so it came to be that Saturn wisely ruled the Roman Empire during an age of peace and prosperity. With no wars to fight or babies to eat he had plenty of time to dabble with viticulture, the art of grape production. It’s unlikely that Saturn ever shared a bottle of red with Genghis Kahn though because he was devoted to ridding Rome of barbaric customs like sacking and pillaging. Saturn had reset his moral compass, a millennium later he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities by the University of Paris.

Then, by Jove, along came Jupiter, Roman god of heavens and sky, ruler of laws and social order. Jupiter was an enormous god so it’s no surprise that the hugest planet in our solar system is his namesake. Jupiter’s mother saved him from his father’s heinous habit of devouring his sons at birth. Eventually, Jupiter overthrew his father, a gentle ruler but a down right scary pater familias, and reigned supreme over the universe. Who’s his Daddy?

Saturn. The son wanted to be just like his Dad who unfortunately was busy making wine and had no time to play. To this day their relationship ebbs and flows as young, mighty Jupiter briskly circles the sun once every 12 years and his old man shuffles along making the circumnavigation in 29 years. It’s hard for a kid to be that patient waiting to get together, so Jupiter makes off with his dozens of moons while Saturn lags behind and spins his rings. Every 800 years they have a family reunion and sample Saturn’s vintage wine.

As Harry Chapin asked, “When you coming home son?” The reply holds in many homes this season,
“I don’t know when, We’ll have a good time then.” Photo of Jupiter. Simple English Wickipedia.

If a Father who rules the sky with peace and his son, known for a jolly, optimistic world view, are able to spend eternity apart but together, we can endure a dark season of social distancing. This Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday – that’s Jupiter’s day when he makes a cheery toast to his father. Take a moment to raise a glass as the father and son climb the heavens.  It’s okay to call it the Christmas Star of 2020. Christmas is the day the Son will light the way for our next circle around the sun.  

Wishing you Merry and Healthy holidays.

Cruising the Dog Days

Newport, RI aboard S/vAquidneck. Photo JAL
Solitude

Plagues and the boredom that accompanies surviving them are not new to humankind. They are as old as Angela Landsberry warbling Beauty and the Beast. Take a lesson from the famed plague of 1347 that sacked Europe. It immigrated through the toe of Italy’s boot. The plague entered port aboard a dozen ships returning from a multi-national sales gathering in the Black Sea. Most of the crews were dead but the fleas and rats aboard gave the trip Five Stars on Yelp for its incredible all day buffet. The root cause of Europe’s deadly pestilence was the stowaway germ, Yersina pestis. Over the next five centuries, despite bloodletting, boil splitting, vinegar baths, and donating old clothing to the less fortunate, the germ ebbed and flowed wreaking death on 20 million folks.  

Hot August Night with a light breeze. Newport, RI.
Photo JAL

The Bubonic Plague was persistent. Fortunately, back in Sicily in the port of Ragusa (“the slab” – or “losagna” in Italian) where the stowaway Yersina petis first made landfall, local officials declared mandatory social distancing for all sailors entering the port city of Ragusa. Crews and masters alike were not allowed to de-board for 40 days (in Italian – “quarantine”)

Quarantines spurred a novel coastal Italian cuisine consisting of spicy tomato sauce (ragu) layered between slabs of pasta and cheese. Losagna became a quarantine staple. Sailors who survived were allowed to mingle with the local ladies if they could say no to the question, “Ya seen a pestis?”. They may have left behind a few love bugs but the plague itself was abated. The Prince of Sicily declared Wednesdays as “spaghetti day” (a tradition still followed today by descendants of Anthony Martignetti de Norte Boston) to honor the boon to the local economy.

Spinning a hyperbole on history helps to explain why yearning for a hot slab of lasagna at Sunday dinner is actually triggered by a subconscious awareness that we’re going to get through this together. DNA holds a secret code for remembering things that make us feel better. Wellness is beckoned when we recall memories of being in a noisy kitchen crammed with family and friends. The yeasty scent of freshly baked bread reminds us of a favorite quilt on a winter’s eve. Tastebuds Tango as bites of melted cheese nestled between steamy layers of briny pasta glide down our throats.   We share a misty moment of gratitude for the freedom to gather, hug, and plan our next voyages.

Raise a glass to the day when all the rats and their nasty little fleas have left the sinking ships and be thankful that Boat US towed us safely back to home port.

These are the day dreams of the dog days of August. It’s a tale as old as time.

Some kind of Dog Day for Rex and His Cat (Photo by Jeff Cook)

Hoarfrost

Hoarfrost on the rigging of S/v Carina. Photo by Leslie Linkila

Winter in the Midwest is a little long. Our fleet is tucked away for the season of Hunkering Down. Our bodies, like our boats, become vessels for ultra cold matter. Everything within and around us takes a time-out and seems to pause. As the Mercury dips we have less energy to move about. It’s a quiet season. We gather around hot soup and blazing hearths. Winter is the time of books with many pages, layers of clothing, brisk walks, chills, shivers, and a sense of loss because warm sunshine has forgotten us. Looking at deep and silent snow after a blizzard it seems that everything is at rest.

Seemingly still on the surface yet always in motion below.
Ex Libris @ Sioux Harbor, Mississippi River. JAL

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nature never rests.

Nordic Explorer who adventured in the North and South Poles. Photo by AMLD

There are scientists whose life work involves trapping and cooling atoms to absolute zero. Much like the Norwegian Helmer (“Helly”) Hanssen, they are explorers of the deep cold ranges in our world. Ultra cold atoms are gateways to new fields of exploration involving infinitesimally small particles found in color, light, stuff, and all living things.  These particles are a primary source of motion in the universe yet they are minuscule and can never be observed directly. Scientists use complex mathematics about the ultra cold to learn how it works. They’ve discovered that everything, down to the sub atomic level, is eternally in motion thus anything that matters is perpetually changing.

All of the atoms, cells, bones, and organs that compose human bodies move constantly in the form of waves. A wave is a type of motion that’s described as a phase that takes place over space and time. Essentially, we’re in a continuous state of disequilibrium, always moving, always seeking stability that doesn’t really exist. We’re surfing the universe on the waves of time and light.

Narragansett Beach, RI. Photo by JAL

Just ask a teacher to describe a classroom of pubescent middle schoolers and you’ll learn more than enough about waves and human development. Teachers know that the wave effects on human development are chaotic, seemingly random, and transformative.

Surfers intuitively sense that they at one with waves – and that waves are part of their core being. Surfers use their understanding about the speed and length of waves in order to ride the lip or fly off a crest. The wave energy within us creates a flow of changes that affect how we move and where we go, physical and emotional growth, and the transformative life phases we surf from birth through death. Ripples to tsunamis – sooner or later the waves crest, grow quiet, evaporate or reach a shore. Waves within kids crest, barrel, and crash as they breakdown the shores of childhood and build up the coastlines of adulthood.

During winters when warm air drapes itself over cold water the conjoining forces bring forth fog. As the air temp plummets, tiny water droplets huddle together according to the rules of ultra cold and form hoarfrost. Standing aboard our boat we can’t see where we’ve been or what lies ahead. If we look closely at where we stand in this moment, we can learn new things that will allow us to discover the kind of person we could become this new year. We are energy, connected to light, and always in motion. The days will get longer so don’t be afraid to chill out and keep moving.

Ultra Cold Gnome Norway bound this January. JAL

Friction

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Our LX @ Low Tide in the Mouth of the Narrow River. Photo JAL

It’s time to bid adieu to a year that has been rife with friction. This year we experienced friction via Tweets, the daily news, stock market crawls, and while surfing (always look for the bright side). Friction is the resistance that something encounters when moving over something else. We should be used to friction as it’s been part of our world since Earth and the moon began their celestial dance. I’ll explain this marvel through tidal friction.

The oceans have tides because Earth has a moon. As Earth spins dizzily on its axis the Moon’s gravity makes the oceans appear to rise and fall. It’s an illusion of sorts. The moon generates colossal tidal waves that ebb and flow across the oceans in accordance with its  pull on our planet. This constant wave motion creates friction between the tides and the rotating earth.  Tides rub both bodies the wrong way. Over four billion years they’ve maintained a friction that makes the moon creep away and drains enough of Earth’s energy to lengthen day length (in the beginning it took just 22 hours to call it a day vs 24 today). There is an upside here, we now have about 35 fewer days a year (regardless of calendar – it’s the time it takes to circle our sun) to deal with the friction that is besotting our news feed. 

EarthMoon from Mars NAPS:UPL

Earth & Moon. View from Mars. Photo by NASA

Friction begets fiction, tall tales, and stories told ‘round the hearth about how good it used to be when we moved faster, back when our days were brighter and plentiful. We create legends about dark forces that eroded freedom and titanic clashes that rendered Nature numb. Some folks blame the dark side of the moon for over powering news cycles. That’s fiction. It’s really friction. We know friction as conflicts or a clash of wills between bubbles filled with us and bubbles full of them. Friction takes its toll. You don’t need to be a physicist to understand that whenever our social/political/emotional bubbles rub against each other the friction is going to wear one out as the other is pushed away. It forecasts an apocalypse of bald tires and pot holes, worn out records and dull needles, and busted bubbles. What we need is an ocean of WD 40 to lubricate the friction between rival fictions and factions.

So as the calendar year ebbs and we settle in for the longest nights, be content that there’s a balance in Nature that will keep the moon in view as we twirl about and circle the sun. Let’s get into the tidal ebb and flow by accepting that for each high we celebrate there’s a low we’d rather pass. It’s okay to slow down and hit the pause button as we end the year. Even the tides slack off for a bit between rising and falling. Be blessed by a Universe that works in accordance with laws that assure us of a future balanced by days and nights. After all, it’s not the fiction (fake) news that’ wears us down  – it’s the darn frikSH(ə)n that makes the news!

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The water is calm but the tide is moving.  The ropes are vigilant though they wear thin the boats rise and fall with the tides. Wickford Harbor, RI. Photo JAL

Salty Solstice

440px-Apollo_8_liftoff

Blast off! Apollo 8 – 3 guys in a tin can loving a ride to the moon and back. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Fifty years ago, my classmates in the class of ’69, on the shortest day of the calendar year (which provided us with the longest night to make out beneath the Christmas lights), witnessed the launching of Apollo 8. For the first time ever, at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (and really great music) the man on the moon wasn’t a space oddity, he was an Earthling! That’s how we Boomers celebrated 69’s hibernal solstice! Rather than hibernate until winter passed- we fired up a rocket ship and ventured off-planet to explore the moon. It was a three-day cruise to circle the moon, get a look at its dark side before Pink Floyd did, and snap a selfie of planet Earth. It was a short day that will last long in the history of great adventures.

520px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

View from Apollo 8 of our tiny blue marble. Photo courtesy of NASA.

I’ve spent the past week watching the sun slink into the Gulf of Mexico. The sun never seemed to get very high during the day. It slipped into the sea a bit earlier every afternoon bringing forth evening well before we were ready to call it a day. There wasn’t enough solar energy to warm the beach or seduce me to peel off a sweatshirt and bare my pale skin to its waning rays. Frankly, the sun seemed to be a bit depressed.

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Winter on Indian Rocks Beach.

Even at noon, our star sat so low in the southern sky that the sea appeared to forsake its blue hue for the colorless fabric of old jeans destined for next week’s charity pick-up.

At winter solstice our northern hemisphere tilts as far from the sun as it can without knocking the whole planet upside the head. This is when the rapport between our planet and the sun chills. Northerners hunker down for long winter nights. We ride the north face of our planet sans ample sunshine and like the astronauts, have more time to pay attention to the moon.

My seasons’ tidings on this winter solstice are simple. It’s been a dazzling year, thank you. So my brilliant, Sun, go ahead and rest a bit.

IRB winter sunset

Day is done. IRB. December.

You’ve got a long climb ahead before it’s  time to play “Even Stevens” with Night at the equinox and then dazzle us on the summer solstice. While you’re building up steam for hot summer days, I’ll be savoring long night times, tucking in, reading by the hearth, and snuggling beneath a down comforter. Winter is here but so far it’s never lasted forever. I’m not hibernating from Solstice to Equinox. In fact, like the Apollo guys and Musk’s Rocket Man, I’ll steadily be gaining energy, rising earlier, and settling down later. While my sunshine will dawdle through winter, I’ll be stocking up on SPF 50 while planning for my 50th high school reunion and next season’s bright adventures, across, at, and on the sea. Shine on!

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Givin’ it a rest on IRB.

Yes, We Must

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Waiting for the Sun While Turtled @ Wickford Yacht Club. Photo JAL

Summer vacationers in the Ocean State are all too familiar with the verb, must. The word must is the compelling force that propels vacationers to set daily agendas based on what they’ve heard about “must see and do” local attractions. FaceBook grazers are inundated with vacation photo posts, “it hardly ever rains here at the beach, golf course, or hundred year old coastal cottage.”  Narragansett Beach photos challenge FB “friends” to play “Where’s Waldo” and identify their friends frolicking among hundreds of people jammed together in the sunshine and fresh salt air amidst a plethora of sand buckets, beach towels, life guards, surfers, sunglasses, boogie boards, and gallon jugs of SPF 50 sunblock. The message is clear, we must be having fun! Rule number one of family vacations is: to really have fun together you are obliged be here with us ALL right now! We must make memories!” Here must is used as a synonym for “gotta”.

Ah, the magic of grammar.

Many coastal residents refer to the word, must as a noun. Those living close to bodies of water, whether fresh or salt, are familiar with the moist scent that that distinguishes mildew from the pungent odor of it’s pal, mold. For example, locals wax nostalgic at the Autumn Equinox when a beach cover up is found at the back of the closet. They give the article a quick sniff, quickly recognize the musty scent and exclaim, “I so miss summer at the shore!” Must is born of high humidity, heat, coastal weather in general.

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June Gloom @ Narragansett Beach

From late spring through summer, the ever-so-slight scent of must is an accurate predictor of upcoming family reunions, unsubscribed time to catch up with friends, and lazy days of beach reading.  Just a quick whiff of must sets off a tingle of anticipation – must is the oracle summer. Of course, as those who are blessed to own seaside homes know, the fungi that compose must are hard to deter and get rid of – like summer visitors. Sometimes the only way to treat either is by pickling them (vinegar for the fungi and White Russians for the guests).

Visitors to the coast are welcomed by hugs that envelop the greeting with the slightest hint of must. It’s often thought of as salt air. Within that instant, tiny microscopic specks of a scented fungus fly from the Greeter into the Arriver’s sensitive olfactory nerves. The visiting sentinels pick up the chemical signature of mustiness. This triggers the Arrivers autoimmune system’s first responders, histamines. They defend the visiting body with copious mucus production that culminates with a series of sneezes designed to strategically expel the invaders.  Exclamations of “It’s wonderful to be here – we must make an agenda” are followed by a quick pocket check for a twice-used wad of tissues.

WYC Lowtide ramp

Gray Day @ Wickford. Photo JAL

Must, the New England term for mildew, is found in every coastal home whether its appointed with trendy quartz counters, or cluttered with overstuffed wicker chairs.  Musty colonies thrive on tee shirts crammed in the bottom of beach bags, canvass totes, and tennis socks. Must finds comfort living in shoes that were purchased in cute boutiques, toted home in fancy bags with rattan handles, and then casually tossed into dark closets. Must thrive when soft rains fall and humidity soars.lo

Vast communities of must claim colonial squatters’ rights. Over time, coastal residents learn to cohabitate with fungal colonies. Their noses are numbed and allergies tamed by the musty scents of summer. Let’s face it – coastal residents and visitors are a lot like mildew and mold. During the summer they jam-pack beaches, choose harbors teeming with boats, swarm to restaurants with sea views, and congest traffic. They are everywhere. I’m good with that. Humidity comes with sunshine and rain – it’s a bargain made with nature to live in a coastal climate. I’ve been known to tell my guests as their noses crinkle upon my welcoming hug, “Oh that smell! Salty! Briny! Musty! Love it ALL! Savor the breath of the sea!” My guests sense that the seashore has halitosis. Yet, in rhythm with the tides, they breathe in and out. Mustiness is at the core of coastal living. As is sunshine, families, friends, and, you really must try the local chowdah.

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Low clouds @ Jamestown. Photo by JAL