Sunday, August 30, 2009

Between Heaven and Earth...


This is the only photo I have in my collection of our other summer camp; my much loved cousin Bren has told me she has many more she can send me when she unpacks her new home, so she'll send some to me in a few weeks. Anticipation!

I can't remember the actual name of the lake; we called it "Lakewood" because directly across the water was Lakewood Theater, a beautiful summer stock program that featured some rather fantastic actors. Some were famous, some not--but they were always wonderful. I believe I saw my first production of "Godspell" there--one of my favorite plays. Years later, I played The Prostitute at another program and had the time of my life. Always wondered what it would have been like, though, to play it at Lakewood.

This camp was near Skowhegan, Maine, near Madison, and the lake was ringed with cute little cottages, clapboard homes, boats, canoes, docks, and splashing children. Unlike Guagas, it was heavily popular and populated; there was no sense of isolation here. As much as I liked our more remote retreat, Lakewood was my favorite place to go every summer, and I looked forward eagerly to the day when we'd pack our car and start the journey north. For a girl like myself, who wasn't all that outdoorsy, Lakewood was my idea of a summer camp. We had hot and cold running water, a real bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen (small though it was), and electricity. If memory serves, we didn't have a telephone, but neighbors to the right and left did, so we were always able to contact someone if necessary.

There is a beautiful, expansive backyard that spreads down about five hundred feet to the somewhat rocky shoreline. Dad built a gorgeous dock that jutted out into the lake, and we'd have loads of fun having contests to see who could run and jump the furthest. My grandfather was a pilot and owned a Cessna...110, I think--a two-seat floater plane, and would literally park it out on the lake in front of the dock. This served as the marker point for swimming races. The water was clear and cool; you could see everything when you went under and opened your eyes. We'd swim out and drape our arms over the Cessna's floats, just dangling in the water, while tiny little fish would curiously nibble at our toes.

We had several boats; nothing fancy, but there was a small Sunfish-type sailboat, a motorboat, rowboat, and I think at least two canoes. My entire family tried so hard to teach me how to water ski, but I was a wuss. Having a deaf ear meant that my balance was just crappy, and for a preadolescent, there is nothing worse than feeling inadequately dorky in front of your conversely athletic and poised sister and cousins. Amy took to skiing like...well, like a duck to water, and Bren and her sister Cap were equally proficient, as were my father and grandparents. I was perfectly content to sit in the back of the boat and operate as lookout, shouting to the driver when a skier wiped out in the water. I loved being on the boats, but I was terrified of trying to get up on those skis. Now, I realize I was completely capable of doing it, but it was the potential humiliation that stymied me and prevented it from happening. I've still never managed to get past that particular childhood obstacle.

Canoe fights, however, were fun for me; me, Amy, my cousins, and the two girls next door with whom we hung out and played with nearly every day would pile into the boats and proceed to go to war with our oars and any other weaponry we could invent or pilfer, trying to knock our opponents out of their canoes or, better yet, sinking them in it. There were really no rules, and we were diabolical in our pursuit of championship, ending up either drenched to the bone or submerged in ignominy along with the fish. I would usually bail as soon as it looked like our canoe was about to go under, leaping gleefully clear of the doomed vessel, not caring if I was fully clothed or not. Then I'd swim over and try to tip the other team's canoe.

Mom was pretty happy when I was outdoors, being active and playing with the other kids, but I also loved reading for hours on end. Sometimes I'd find a quiet spot somewhere on the grounds and tuck into a good book--okay, I was hiding--or I'd sit on the dock while the others cavorted with waterskis and sailed. But my favorite spot was the sunporch. It was a beautiful, rustic room in the back of our small cottage, surrounded on three sides by windows that let the sun drench the walls with warmth and light. A porch swing hung invitingly at one end, and tucked into the wall was a massive collection of comic books. Good ones. Archie, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Justice League--even a couple of Superboy and Supergirls. I would lie back on that swing for literally hours, a stack of comics on the table next to me, a cool drink in my hand, and my nose buried avidly in the stories. It was a source of consternation to my mother--she just couldn't understand why in the world I would prefer to stay on that porch and read instead of being out in the sun and the wind and the water. My perception was; there's gonna be another sunny day tomorrow. Today I want to read for awhile; is that so wrong? It got to the point where my parents would let me read only during certain hours or if it was raining. For a while that worked, but now that I'm forty, I can reveal that I managed to sneak books and comics into secret locations and disappear to read them. One ideal spot was the graveyard across the lane; I'd tuck myself up behind a tree or one of the monuments, and they'd never find me there.

I was a rather bookish, isolated girl, mostly because of my own insecuriaties. I was a skinny, pale-skinned, awkward black-haired little girl with buck teeth. My sister and cousins, however, were athletic, tanned, poised, active, and absolutely gorgeous creatures who looked amazing with their hair wet and who could get up on waterskis. No thanks, I thought. I'll stick with James Clavell's Shogun.

They're still gorgeous and graceful, and I'm still awkward and I weigh too much, but that's another blog entry...

However, I wasn't a total recluse. I'd get up early in the morning and go fishing with my dad. Despite the fact that I was no more of a morning person then than I am now, I loved that time with him, and would willingly forego my warm bed or tent to load up the boat with fishing poles, tackle, and bait, and go out on the water with him in the predawn hours. I wrote an article about it once: 

Once we were in the boat, out in the middle of the lake, my grumbling stopped, and by the time Dad and I started back towards shore, answering my mother's breakfast bell, I was always happy I had come, whether or not I had caught anything...Flashes of memory come back to me; the blue rowboat Daddy and I would sit in for hours, our lines in the water, no sound over the lake except a few early-rising loons.  I remember it was peaceful--so much so that it was tempting to just go back to sleep. but then my line might give a little tug, and my energy was suddenly renewed, like an electric shock through my body.  All fatigue was forgotten as I carefully reeled the line as my father gently encouraged and instructed me.

Although it has been many years since I've picked up a fishing rod and tackle, I remember the elation of catching a good-sized trout and knowing I'd be eating it for breakfast that morning. It didn't matter if Dad caught more fish than I did, or if we got none at all, really.  It was the effort and the work athat went into it that mattered--and the time I got to spend with my father that was just ours. 

Dad taught me how to gut and clean my own fish, and we'd have our fresh catch at breakfast that day. It's one of my fondest memories; being out on the lake watching the sun come up with him, and hearing my grandmother ring that bell to call us in to eat, the sound of it unmistakeably clear across the quiet water...and we'd haul in anchor and head home, ready to begin another idyllic day at Lakewood.

Gone Fishin'....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Girl in the Picture

The photo that you now see adorning my blog was taken when I was about 8 years old. We had two lake houses in Maine where we vacationed each year. When this photo was snapped, we were in a remote area near Ellsworth, where our family maintained a little, rustic, one-room cabin in the woods. It had no running water, no electricity, and a privy for which to answer the call of nature. The lake itself was more of a marsh, with snapping turtles and multitudes of frogs, and I remember myself, my sister Amy, and my cousins would spend half the day catching and releasing the little critters just for fun. There was a huge sawdust pile about a thousand feet or so from the cabin, and it was ideal for use as a slide into the water below. Or as a diving platform from which to launch yourself. Nearby, there were vast fields of wild Maine blueberries, and we'd make a day of going out with big buckets to harvest the juicy morsels. Fresh muffins and blueberry pancakes were a staple food each morning, and because we'd literally pick bushels of berries, we'd freeze boatloads of them and have them throughout the year.

It was all very Huck-Finnish, and I doubt back then we realized how lucky we were to have a place like that, something that was constant and fun and which we looked forward to every year. We were lucky, and I feel very fortunate to have had such a great childhood experience.

It was such a remote location that we couldn't drive in to get there - we had to hike for about three hours on a very rough, unmaintained road instead. We would travel there by car or truck to a designated stopping point--if I remember correctly, it was some kind of radio tower--get out, and start gearing up for the onerous foot journey. We'd change our clothes -- something that protected us from the ubiquitous mosquitoes and other bug life. Usually it was white turtlenecks, hats with pull-down netting, much bug spray, and good sturdy boots. After that, we'd haul our individual backpacks up and begin the trek.

I remember hating that walk; mostly because I am and was a fundamentally lazy girl. If I could have had a sampan and a couple of strapping boys to lift me up and carry me in, I would have been perfectly happy to make the journey, but alas, it was not to be. And even when we got to the cabin, we couldn't quite relax, because there was a good hour or more of setting up camp. Mom would have to get after me time and again to get off my butt and help out; I was always trying to tuck myself in a corner and hope like hell I wouldn't be noticed until everything was done. Heh.

But once camp was set up, the cabin opened, canoe perched happily at the edge of the shore, we had so much fun. Today I think I'd be pretty squeamish about swimming in that lake, with it slimy, soggy bottom and the various lifeforms that resided therein. But when you're a kid, things like that don't faze you in the least. When I wasn't burying my nose in a book (which was quite often--another thing Mom got after me about), I was joyfully playing in the water with my sister--and my cousins, if we were all there at the same time.

We haven't been there in many years, and I miss it every now and again. Recently my Mom lent me her computer, and there were some great photos of us back then. As I sifted through them, I was suffused with nostalgia, wondering if the sawdust pile was still there, or if it had eroded to a mere memory. Our camp log, which every member of the family had faithfully written in during each visit, had been stolen in one of many thefts and raids over the years, so a lot of our memories had been lost along with it. Whoever the bastards are that raided that place and took our stuff, may God visit that karma back on you tenfold. What we had there wasn't much, but it was important to us, and you just came in and took it because you felt like it. Assholes.

At any rate, my cousins and I just got back in touch through the magic of Facebook, and it's really wonderful to be able to send them messages and stay in contact again. I've missed them a lot, and am so happy to hear that they're all doing so well. Hopefully we'll all be able to get together one day and have some fun again as a group. That would be the coolest thing.

Tomorrow I'll write about our other lake house and post some more images, but for now, I'll leave you with some previews. Ain't we adorable?

Me and Sis and the Sawdust Pile. My hair has not improved or tamed in the intervening decades.

Getting geared up for the hike to camp. Check out Amy's rockin' pants!

Morning coffee and cocoa with Mom.

BANZAI! Amy takes the leap.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


For those of you who were asking and wondering, here is a visual aid to accompany yesterday's post:

This is a Javelina. Nasty lookin' little shitter, innit?

By the Seat of My Pants

Yay! I got paid! This is a nice thing, even though I'll only have a brief, shining moment to admire my own largesse before pretty much all of it goes back out again to the billz. Ah, well. At least I'll have insurance and contact lenses - two very important things for driving. I may even splurge and buy propane a week early. Wheee!

This week I am determined to ferret out and query some new magazines for whom to dazzle with my writing prowess. Maybe I can even con them into buying and reprinting some previously published work - that's always really cool. You get paid for doing virtually nothing except getting the proper permissions and perhaps a quick edit. So basically, I get paid twice for a piece I may have written two years ago. Sweet.

I had a busy day today. A friend of mine had outpatient eye surgery this morning, so I drove her in to the next town over, dropped her off, and then went gallivanting off in search of a grooming mitt for Billy. Ya know, those rubber things that look like potholders, only with bristles on either side. You can brush your dog--or cat--and give them a little cuddle at the same time. I borrowed one from a friend, and Billy loved it so much that I resolved to find one for him. Alas, no joy. I evidently went to every shop in town except those that have the mitts in stock. I'll try again in a couple of weeks when I go food shopping. There are a few more places I can hit.

After this fruitless search, I drove over to the Visitor's Center to see a friend who works there--hung out for an hour or so catching up. Then it was off to pick up my vision-challenged pal for the drive home. By the time I got back, it was nearly 1pm, so I wanted to finish this blog entry before I have to go into Tombstone to get some stuff out of storage. Wouldn't you know, the damn Blogger service somehow lost my login information again--insisting vehemently that "that account doesn't exist". AAARRGH! Took me several refreshes, a bootdown of the computer, a maniacal call to Google (who was no help at all, thank you very much), and a few primal screams before I managed to get back in. And I just KNOW it'll happen again. I'm Irish. That's what happens to us.

So anyway, I was planning to write something interesting and perhaps profound in this entry, but find that my nerves and my patience are both worn too thin to attempt such erudition. Maybe I'll manage it later in 140 characters or less on Twitter. I suppose anything is possible.
For now, I'm going to get a quick shower and buzz up to the storage unit before it's time to feed Billy and myself. Toodles, everyone. I'll try and be more bedazzling tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

This Little Piggy Went to Market

It is 7:15 AM, and I've been up for forty-five minutes. Being the veritable antithesis of a morning person, this shocks me as much as it would anyone who has known me for a couple of hours. I do not LIKE getting up early, and never have, but ever since moving out to Arizona, a strange phenomena has manifested itself. You see, Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time--which I love, because we never have to deal with the nonsense of changing clocks and circadian rhythms--so, consequently, around late spring, the sun comes up earlier and the days are longer. Back in New England, even in summer, it was still blue-pink dark at 7am; who wanted to get up? It was difficult for me to do, especially when I was working a regular job, but not much easier even when I worked at home. I'd have to set my alarm for three different times just to make sure I didn't stay in bed most of the morning.

Anyway, now--not so much. And it's kinda nice. One benefit is that it's so much cooler in the early to midmorning here, and I can get a lot of stuff done around the house and yard before the temperature becomes too much for me. My appetite is better; I actually eat a healthy breakfast sometimes BEFORE having coffee (another detail which should shock my friends and family). Around 9-10AM it'll start getting hotter, and about 11am I start kicking on either the fan or the AC and try to stay as cool as possible until evening comes. But the mornings are nice, and I'm glad I'm able to enjoy them.

This morning I got up before Billy did--also unusual, but evidently he was too comfortable snuggled in his little blanket, nose tucked between his paws. He waited while I washed my face, flossed, and started the coffee before rising on all fours in a luxurious, spine-popping stretch, his tiny bum pointed skyward in a canine display of laziness. When he saw me observing him from the doorway, he immediately flopped over in one motion to beg for a belly scratch, grinning at me as only your dog can do. Of course this is irresistible, so for the next five minutes he managed to fleece me into a full body massage before finally getting up, giving himself a shake, and trotting to the door for his morning constitutional.

We live in a small valley-like depression on the outskirts of Tombstone with a fantastic view of the Dragoon Mountain Range and the Chiracahuas to the East. I took a moment after putting Billy on his line to appreciate the beauty of a Southern desert sunrise before shuffling back into the kitchen to pour my coffee and turn the computer on. After a few moments, as I always do, I went to check on him as a safety precaution.

Good thing I did. He was on point, just outside of the door, staring off to the south. Following his eyeline, I was greeted with the sight of an impressively-sized Javelina just 100 feet away. Aforementioned Javelina was gazing at Billy with equal and unbridled interest.

Now, if you've never seen or heard of a Javelina, go look on Wikipedia. They're the ugliest creatures that God ever made. With high shoulders that slope down into a stubby rear end, they kind of look like a cross between a pig, a hyena, and a really big rat. Beady little eyes, coarse fur, and a snout festooned with little tusklike teeth complete this unholy vision. They're just hideous; there's no way around the fact. These little ferkers are indigenous to the Southwest, and are found throughout Mexico and Central America.

I could deal with their general unattractiveness if they didn't have temperaments to match. Their ugliness is compounded by the fact that they're plain nasty, mean, aggressive and sneaky little sons of bitches. Woe betide anyone who is unfortunate enough to get between a female and her pups (which are actually kind of cute), and God help you if you run afoul of a pack. They have no fear of humans, and they like the occasional free snack.

Which brings me back to Billy and his throwdown challenge to the little bastard across the way. Billy is, as I've said, a Miniature Pinscher. He is teeny, although if you asked him, he'd say he was as big and tough as a Rottweiler. At fourteen pounds, he'd barely make an hors d'oeurve for the piggy that was sizing him up, although I'm sure Piggy wouldn't have complained. Whatever he was rooting for at my neighbor's house paled in comparison to the juicy morsel Billy presented, judging by the look of intense concentration he displayed.

Both animals were stock-still, Billy straining the tension on his line, while Piggy lowered his head a few inches as if to get a better look. Here I broke a cardinal desert rule--it's not a good idea to go outside barefoot. Critters, cacti, stickers, and other flotsam and jetsam can end up in your skin, and are more often than not extremely difficult and painful to get out. Thinking only of getting Billy out of harm's way, I barreled out the door and snatched him up, giving Piggy the dirtiest, most menacing look I could muster. Unfazed, Piggy continued to stare as I carried Billy back inside. Piggy continued to stare for a few minutes until, with a porcine shrug, he went back to his foraging.

Folks, if you've never been to or lived in the desert, there are things you should remember to do as a rule: Have lots of water on hand, because you can drop from heat exhaustion before you even start to sweat. Keep an eye out at all times for snakes, because they can hide literally in plain sight. Shake your shoes out before donning them, because scorpions love to crawl into the toes and hide there, and those stingers HURT. And always, always, always check your environment in the early morning and early evening for cougar, coyote, and the annoying, peckish, and frighteningly implacable javelina.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Emerging From the Ether

Okay, okay...yeah, it's been three YEARS since I last blogged. So sue me. It's been an eventful three years. I've been writing some stuff I actually got paid for, which was great, got a job and then got laid off--which wasn't so great. In all the melee, the blog kinda got lost in the shuffle. You know how that can go.

Anyway, I'm still in Arizona, and loving it. I don't think I'll ever go back to living in New England again, although I'll visit. My sister is there, and my niece and nephew, so of course I'll want to see them regularly. But I can live happily without ever seeing snow and sleet again, not to mention subzero temperatures. Not my idea of fun.

Well, what else is new? I got a dog....a little MinPin named Billy, who has now been with me for...well, three years now. I got him almost literally my first week out here. He's a rescue dog. I didn't go to the shelter with the intention of adopting--I was just going to check out a dog-walking job. But there he was, peering up at me from his cage, looking so tiny. Then they let him out to run and visit with me, and he was a little ball of energy rocketing across the yard. The next thing I knew, I had written a check for $25, had a carrying kennel, toys, and dog dishes in my Jeep, along with a very excited and happy little runt of a dog. Go figure. I'll post pictures of him as soon as I remember how one does that, but for now, you can go to my twitter pic page and check him out at . He's a little love, but boy, he runs me ragged.

Not much to write at the moment--I had an epic struggle trying to recover my username and password to reclaim this blog, and that in and of itself was frustrating enough. My brain isn't on creative mode at the moment, but give it time. It'll kick back in.

Hope to see some comments soon--when I write something worth commenting on. Have a great Sunday, everybody!