Tuesday, June 8, 2010
There’s something different about how time works when you’re here on Shelter Island.
Larry, one of the summer neighbors, arrived the end of May to spend a week at his cabin. His cabin is just off the northeast side of Shelter Island. Hugh met Larry in 2003 when Hugh bought the island. Hugh has access to the island via land, from Larry’s property. That’s where the Annex is located. (See #3 Which Way Will We Go?) Larry lives with his wife, Marlene, near Detroit, and they come up periodically for the summer. Larry came by himself this time. Other times Marlene or his daughter Annette will come up.
Many evenings when just Larry is at the cabin, Larry and Hugh have dinner together. The first night that Larry was up, was the Friday of Memorial day weekend and we expected that he’d be coming over to have dinner with us. Hugh had met up with him at the grocery store in town and they agreed we’d go help put Larry’s dock in that afternoon, some time.
When we went over that afternoon Larry had company., On the Detour ferry that afternoon Larry met some folks, Everett, Patty and Kim, from Indiana who came up for a morel mushroom hunting trip. Everett and Larry bonded instantly when they realized they were both members of the same national hotrod club. Larry invited them over to his place for a visit. When the dock was done the men decided that it was “Beer:30”, rather than it being about 4:30 PM. Then the grumbling bellies determined when it was dinner time, so we invited everyone over to the house for dinner. It was Mexican night. Beans were cooking on the stove and Hugh made homemade tortillas for burritos as big as your head.
The six of us sat around the dinner table talking about how morel mushroom time was past. There really weren’t any more to be found since it was the end of the season. Everett said he it was fine that they never went mushroom hunting that day because visiting Shelter Island was neat, something he hadn’t even imagined doing.
“You live the life of the rich and famous here” he informed Hugh and me, as he looked out the windows at a birds eye level, looking at the spruce, service berry, birch and fir trees with Lake Huron’s waves rolling in.
Later Hugh and I decided that he was “rich,” if that could be said for him as he was the one who owned the island. (He paid for it with his hard earned cash and some inheritance money.) We decided that I was the “famous” one since I had written a book. And neither of us were both “rich and famous”, but together we were very happy.
I had a great time — they were my first “company” at the house. Neither of us knew how long we’d be at Larry’s that afternoon when we initially when we went over there to work on the dock. And that was okay, that’s what I call “island time” is about — you just enjoy doing what ever there is to do and don’t worry. If were we in the Caribbean we’d be saying “Jus’ chillin’ mon!” with reggae music playing in the background. Here the sound in the background is of the wind and the waves pounding on the rocky shoreline with the warblers and squirrels chattering away to each other while the seagulls careen overhead.
Over the years Hugh and Larry established a routine. Each morning they turn on their “walkie-talkies” and contact each other at a specified time to check in. It might be a “hello, every thing’s good” or it might be a brief conversation about when to get together that day for lunch and a walk.
“Gypsy M calling Peapod. Come in Peapod.” Gypsy M is Hugh’s sailboat and Larry’s boat is Peapod. This is how Hugh calls Larry over the marine band walkie-talkies.
“Morning Gypsy M. Nice day for a walk.”
While Larry was up for the week, we took a number of walks with him. During the guys’ morning check-in they decided that at some unspecified time, “island time”, we’d go over to Larry’s for a walk. It might be that we’d do some tasks here then go over to Larry’s. Or it might be an ambiguous “We’ll check in with you after lunch and then come over.” The specific time really did not matter. We’d get together when we did.
Saturday afternoon we were done helping Larry with moving his hunting sheds and mentioned we were going to go for a sail. It was agreed upon that Larry would come over for dinner after our sail, “Oh, say about 5 o’clock?”
The only clocks we have in the house are on my laptop and on our cell phones. I’m not sure where there is one in Larry’s cabin. Both guys can estimate the time by how high the sun is off the horizon. So, Hugh and I went for our sail. I don’t know how long we were out. When we got back Larry was waiting for us at the house with a beer in his hand.
“I didn’t see the sailboat when I got here so I just let myself in, got a beer and thought I’d just wait.” It’s easy enough to do and quite okay as there is no lock on the door. These two come and go like uncle and nephew. Larry knew we’d show up soon enough. Who cares that the clock said it was 5:45 PM? No feelings are hurt when you live by island time.
On one of our walks, Larry showed us a really neat fen. A fen is similar to a bog, but different in that a fen has blackish, muck-like soil, different acidity than a bod and has water that is slow to drain. It was incredible! At first I tried to keep walk on, or more accurately hop from high spot to high spot, keeping my feet out of the muck. But after a couple slips into the mushy water my socks were wet and I gave up on dry feet. I knew my SmartWool socks wouldn’t be bothered by the water and being wool they would keep my feet warm enough. My new Keens, designed for wearing in and out of water, were perfect! They have drainage holes that let the water out as quickly as it came in.
As we wandered through the fen we spied a little purple flower whose petals had yet to open. We wondered what it might be. Could it be an orchid? Hugh and Larry had been telling me about the orchids of the area — calypsos, ram’s heads and various lady’s-slippers. Soon I came across the leaves of a pitcher plant and we quickly spotted the distinct bent-over flowers of nearby pitcher plants.
We carefully stepped through the hillocks and muck; looking before we put our feet down so as to avoid squashing anything delicate. “Oh, here’s one!”
“And there’s another!”
We were now spotting our purple flower in various stages of unfoldment. Later we determined that it was an orchid, the dragon’s mouth, arethusa bulbosa. An oxymoron of the plant world — a scary sounding name for a delicate beauty.
Along with the carnivorous pitcher plants, I found sticky-looking sundew. We saw cotton-grass also known as bog-cotton, lots of small yellow lady’s-slippers and bushes labrador tea. I hoped Hugh knew how to bring us back here as the variety of plant life was amazing. Each day and week different plants explode into full force, taking advantage of as much time in the sun as they can in the short growing season of the up north. I want to make sure I can experience as much of it as possible. And this fen (or bog) is truly a gem to be treasured.
“Thanks for taking us there Larry.” I don’t know how long we were on our walk. It really didn’t matter. We didn’t need to be anywhere else at any specific time, we were on island time. Life happens when it happens. Tummies were now grumbling indicating that it was “feeding time.”
One of the questions I constantly ask myself is “Should I take my camera?” The artist is always wanting to be able to capture what she sees so that she can share it with others for them also to enjoy. This creates a situation of experiencing the world through the filter of a camera viewfinder. “What would that look like?” “Would that make a good picture?” Sometimes things are just meant to be enjoyed in its own time with the memory being the picture.
The first Tuesday after returning to Shelter Island, Hugh and I went for a walk after dinner as we often do. Because I had been for a walk earlier and the sun was quickly making its way for bed, I thought we would be going for a short-ish walk. With a yogurt container of feed corn in hand we went down the driveway. Our first stop was to toss the corn in the west bay for the ducks and geese. Then on to the north dock just to check the boat as a matter of course.
“Where do you want to go?” He inquired.
“It doesn’t matter to me, I went for a nice long walk earlier, so it’s up to you.”
We proceeded down the next section of the driveway that goes through the woods, heading northwards. Just before the drive goes back to the shoreline we took the inland trail. I was beginning to wonder how long of a walk we were going on. “Well Julie, remember we’re on island time. Just go with it and don’t worry. Hugh knows where he’s going and is more aware of the time than you are. Remember, he can tell time by holding his hand up to the horizon. Just chill…”
I was not necessarily up for a real long walk as it was late and I had already been on a two hour walk earlier. Walks around here are not strolls on neatly groomed trails, especially when walking along the shoreline. Walks are good physical activity, because you have to carefully watch where you are going as to not step on the striped coral root or other delicate plant. You also have to watch where you step so you don’t twist your ankle on a wobbly rock. Sometimes sections feels like an obstacle course, twist in the trail here, duck below a branch there, and then step over a fallen log. We do this while looking for neat things – newly blooming plants, migrated birds, or cool rocks. There’s lot to a walk. And I was quite willing. Each walk we had been on had revealed something that I was glad I had not missed.
We finally approached the edge of the woods on the northern end of the island. As we stepped out of the trees onto the shoreline the sun was starting to sink. Just over the tree line on the opposite side of the bay I saw wings. Many wings came sailing in, ever so silently. Sixteen sandhill cranes came gliding into the grasses only a hundred yards from us. We didn’t dare move for fear of startling them.
To see maybe two or three cranes coming in for the evening would have been a normal sight to see. But sixteen together was quite unusual. It was an amazing sight to see. The photographer wished she had had her camera that had been left at the house. That was fine. This was something spectacular to just soak in.
In stillness and silence, our arms entwined around each other, we watched the cranes in the grasses looking for food. Any movement to swat the mosquitos attacking us would scare the cranes, so we endured. It was well worth it. The sun nestled under its multicolored coverlet of clouds as it slid behind the tree line. Darkness was encroaching quickly upon our precious moment. I whispered to Hugh as I hugged him, “It is for reasons such as this, that I never want to leave the island.”
“That sounds fine by me.”
Since then, almost each morning as the sun begins to light up the east bay I hear the cranes calling to each other. It’s still quite early. There’s at least an hour more of sleep to be had. I nestle into Hugh and he snuggles up to me.
“Yes, it is for reasons such as this, that I never want to leave the island” I think as I hear the cranes calling and I drift back to dreamland.