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.

Perseverance

I dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist. I figured that by my adulthood guys like John Glenn would be able to do more than just orbit the earth – astronauts, women like Sally Ride – would be headed for Mars. I was unduly influenced by the Jetsons, “B grade” outer space science fiction, and Miss Donadio, my kick-a¶• 7th grade science teacher. To prepare for off-planet employment, I turned part of the basement, next to my art studio, into a chemistry and biology lab. My parents were exceedingly tolerant of paint splats and searing odors of weird chemical compounds that were not inhaled or ingested. Another facet of preparing for space exploration was discovering stuff in local swamps and shorelines within reach of my bicycle. It was the 60’s when parents believed that kids should stay outside until the streetlights and adolescent hormones turned on.

Eventually my hormones kicked in and art won me over around the same time boating in general and sailing in particular allowed me to disengage from terra firma. Plotting courses, navigating new waters, timing adventures with the tidal cycles are small sips of my big dream of stepping through the door of a tin can to float around with Major Tom.

2:15 EST 2/18/2021 Perseverance NASA webcast begins. Artistic illustration NASA/JPL – Cal Tech

When it came to astrophysics, I didn’t have the grit required to cross out of my comfort zone and pass advanced theoretical mathematics. Then again, I didn’t have the raw talent or maturity to endure critiques and become an artist. Science and art became casual interests rather than careers. But tomorrow, I will listen to Bowie’s Major Tom and Sir Elton John’s Rocketman while watching in real time the harrowing seven minute landing of NASA’s Mars Rover, Perseverance.

The 21st century is a wondrous time for humankind. There’s a half a foot of snow in the cockpit of my sailboat that’s snug in her winter’s berth. That’s as it should be at this northern latitude. I’ve no need to sail anywhere on earth this cold winter’s day because tomorrow I am going to virtually sail off planet. With a laptop for a nav station, the course set and on autopilot, I’ll monitor the traffic patterns of five missions from Earth orbiting Mars while Perseverance jockeys for the finish line. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we learn that there is life on Mars? What if we living on the big blue marble next door are not alone? Join me on this solar sailing venture. https://mars.nasa.gov/explore/mars-now/

By using this link we’ll have the same view as NASA’s astrophysicists when Perseverance makes land fall 33 million miles from her home port. You don’t need to pass trigonometry to experience space flight after all. But, Miss Donadio was right about one thing; learning about how the myriad of interwoven complexities of science work within our universe is one of the most beautiful experiences of a lifetime.

https://www.space.com/mars-rover-perseverance-landing-webcasts

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

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)

Red Skies

Photo Courtesy of Scott Berstein, North Kingstown, RI July 2020

Over the past six months, regardless of whether we spend our days on bodies of water, deserts, or mountain ranges, many crew members aboard the great ship Earth have been keeping a weather eye open.  We’ve seen red skies at dawn and have been warned. Lots of folks are seriously under the weather in the midst of a raging tempest that’s not bound to the winds nor soothed by the sun. Some of us live in states that battened down the hatches, pulled up the gangplank, and quarantined those who were not already aboard before the downpour. It seems we’ve boarded a ship bound for Drakes Passage and are enduring the century’s roughest sea passage.

Sunrise, Jamestown Bridge, RI. Photo by Scott Berstein

Rather than spend my summer days being wary of lurking sharks (certain portends of death for superstitious sailors of old) I’ve been enjoying vivid coastal sunsets. Most days end with the sun hemorrhaging ruby rays into the crimson sea. These red skies are sailors’ delights.

Weather is the Jay Gatsby of Earth’s atmosphere. It moves from West to East where life seems more dazzling. Each day ends with sunlight being scattered by tiny bits of dust as high pressure sinks the air. Red skies at sunset forecast that morning will bear no bad weather and threaten tomorrow. Each sunset finds us on the cusp of a new chapter in our lives.

Narragansett, RI. Photo by Scott Berstein

Given the risks of sailing and the fact that for most of maritime history sailors couldn’t swim, and all boats leaked, “goodbye” is a word not to be uttered upon a ship. My grandkids and I always sing goodnight to the sunshine and thank it for a really great day. I never fall asleep without hoping for another great day. I know the color of the sky can’t promise a safe passage through any day or night. The best I can do, just in case dawn is born by red skies, is whisper a prayer for fair winds and following seas and hope these blessings are shared by you.

Jim’s Dock, Jerusalem, RI. Photo by Scott Berstein

Note: We are all rounding the Horn this summer. It’s a scary time for whether you look off the port or starboard rails, it’s clear we’ve not left this maelstrom a’stern. Scott Berstein is a Narragansett local, who I believe winter’s-over as a teacher. I found his posts on the local Face Book groups for Narragansett and South Kingstown. Scott set up a challenge to capture “perfect” sunset and sunrise venues in southern Rhode Island. His photos are posted at the beginning and end of each of these summer days. I can’t thank him enough for bringing forth hope and peace, and the promise of “carpe diem.”.

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. 

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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

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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.

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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

 

 

Constant Vigilance

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Bald Eagles’ Aerie. Symbols of constant and eternal vigilance. They are there. Memorial Day, 2018, Photo JAL

Memorial Day weekend is here in the climate-confused Midwest where we are setting records for the hottest May Days outside of Hades. Choosing something to wear should be easy as nothing, fits. Nature crash and burned spring straight into the dog days of August. Nary a breeze can lift herself from the oppressive sun. The wind has sucummed to an overdose of humidity. Undaunted and perhaps unwisely, we spent the weekend aboard our sailboat, Ex Libris on the Mississippi River.

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Cap’n Barrett sporting his Brown Crew cap navigating his way around Catalina Island, CA.

Meanwhile,  our son Barrett, hopped a ferry from LA to Catalina where the winds were fresh, the seas were calm, and small boat rentals were affordable. Randall opted for the grand opening of his community pool much to the delight of my grand daughters who initiated the first swim of summer vacation.

Amberley explored fiords in southwestern Norway. It’s a country where where summer lasts for 23 minutes and SPF 200 is not adequate sun protection for the locals. As you can see by her photo of Bergan, the Norwegian harbors are just like the Alton Pool’s  except ours’ are the color and consistency of coffee dregs.

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Fiord Festivities @ Norway

Being a Mom, I worry about my family when they are far away frolicking with water sports. Accidents happen. Water always wins. There’s always a bigger fish. Your playground is homeport to mllions of non-human residents. We must all take the wizard of Hogwarts’ advice; “Constant vigilance!”

Paying attention is a survival skill for there are plenty of hellish things in the details that lie quietly and patiently seeking prey. Yesterday, we anchored off a mid-river island and were fascinated to observe a Bald Eagle family nesting. My attention was shifted by a subtle change in Marina’s panting. Although she was shaded, a 16 year-old dog is no match for the incinerating torch of a mid-day sun.

You Never Know

You never know what lies beneath or behind. 

We quickly motored back to the harbor to head home and escape the dangerous heat. Dockside was equally perilous. I was startled by ravenous Water Moccasin that swam a few feet from the dock and slithered along the shore. I knew the snake was hunting for if not for the hunger instinct it would’ve avoided the filthy water and been content to digest privately in an undisclosed location. I told Marina, who is mostly blind and deaf that if she fell overboard, she was lunch.

Freshly regenerated via the AC, we returned to Ex Libris. After a relaxing dinner aboard, George went to snag a cookie off the galley counter. He abruptly roared, “D¶•§ Son #$ %^$# BIT ME right on my head!” He swatted, swore, and swelled. I’d missed a wasp nest during my ritual debugging of the cabin upon arrival. Bees and wasps are avid boat lovers when people are absentia. The previous day I’d destroyed three wasps nests and too many mud daubers’ messy abodes to count.

George is allergic to bees. Over the years he’s had increasingly bad reactions to their stings. Still yelling, digging for ice in the cooler, he ripped off his shirt afraid that more bees were attacking. We boot-scooted home for emergency First Aid. George’s glaucoma eye was already swollen shut.  His armpits  and hands itched madly and swelled exponentially. Still, his testosterone-histimine-saturated-resistance to the logic of an ER visit prevailed as he ranted, “It’s a holiday, only drunks, car wrecks, addicts, and city shooting victims go to ERs on holidays.”

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Not Big G’s Best Look. Abundant hives too. Even his armpits swelled. 

Fortunately, Barrett was home from his island adventure and he took my call. He’s a physician and advised an immediate trip to the ER. He also inherited a tad of stubborn-ness from his father and understood negotiations were off the table. Dr. Bear recommended a double dose of Benadryl, a blast of Prednisone, ice packs, and spousal patience. His Dad survived.

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A family’s physician is never really and truly off-duty when Mom calls.

Constant vigilance is a mantra for those with the wisdom to know that the world sits at the cross roads of good times and dark times. My grandmother, herself a Gold Star mother, referred to this day as Decoration Day. She didn’t view it as a holiday but as a private holy day of remembrance and gratitude. I see the wisdom of both approaches. It’s a day to celebrate the eternal vigilance of our military. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It’s also a day to be aware of the vipers and wasps that live as they as they are even though their ways are often not compatible with ours’. We live in a brave new world where “eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.[1]” Hoist a flag. Remember. Be vigilant.

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Wrong, Captain Ron. It didn’t happen “out there” – it happened right here! Sioux Harbor, MO

[1] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. 1932