Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tuesdays seem to be laundry days. It seems that each Tuesday the hamper is full and the sun teases that it might come out.
“Bye, Darling.” Hugh leans over the edge of the boat and kisses me good-bye.
“I love you, be safe.” I see Hugh off at the dock, sending him on his way to work.
I look across Shelter Bay, in the direction that Hugh is headed as he motors his way across the lake to Bass Cove, where his truck is parked. He looks back a second time and waves. “I love you too!” I wave back. The sun is playing peek-a-boo with me and the clouds. The water is relatively still but there is a chance of showers later in the day. Will the sun come out enough to dry the jeans?
A sure way to make it rain is to wash your car. Well we have to travel a good hour for the nearest car wash. But another way to make it rain, maybe, is to do laundry. I take the chance as the hamper is full and tomorrow’s forecast has a larger chance of rain. For the last few days the weather forecaster has been off by about 12 – 18 hours in his predictions.
I never know what is going to happen each day. Yesterday, Monday it was calm but overcast. (I was able to get a good signal then. Go figure.) There was a light breeze was out of the northeast. As I took my morning walk around I thought to myself “It would be a good day, I think, to burn the brush pile.” We had a late breakfast then I did some computer work while Hugh worked in the workshop. After a while Hugh came upstairs to tell me he was going outside for a while.
“I’m going to go burn the brush pile.”
“Oh! I’ll come! Can I roast my marshmallows?!” I had bought in town a bag of marshmallow in anticipation of this moment. I didn’t want to miss my chance. As I walked out of the house, I heard the roaring crackle of the needles and bark burning a couple hundred yards away. I had the bag of Jet-Puff marshmallows in hand and was in need of a stick.
“You’ll need a really looong stick” Hugh informed me. It was no wonder that I could hear the pile crackling and popping, it was burning quickly. Even though he had lit the fire a few minutes prior, there were already hot white ashes available for my roast. The heat was intense and yes I did need a really, really long stick to roast my marshmallows. The long stick was actually a small tree that had blown down a day earlier. Even though I was able to stand back from the fire, using my tree to hold my marshmallows over the coals, the fire was so hot it made my eyes water. Hugh laughed at me as I gleefully ate the burnt, almost sickening sweet and gooey sugar.
For that evening’s after dinner walk we started on the southwest side of the island so I could show Hugh an interesting growth on a fir tree. Then we headed toward the north dock. The water was calm, almost glassy.
“The water’s calm enough that it would be good rock picking.” Earlier in the day we had talked about how it might be a good day to go rock picking, but a few hours later the breeze picked up. Even a smidgen of wind creates a few too many ripples on the water that we can’t see the rocks that we want to pull off the bottom of the bay. Hugh piles up boulders and large rocks around the docks as protection from the winter’s ice jams. Our short walk turned into taking a leisurely cruise into the bay where we hoisted a 2000 pound boulder off the bottom and deposited it at the east dock.
Some days the happenings of the day fits a normal routine, like Tuesdays — I saw Hugh off, did laundry, worked on some emails to clients, tried unsuccessfully to send them, pulled out from the freezer fish for dinner and plunked down to write. But not always.
Two weeks ago, Tuesday, June 1st I thought it would be a typical Tuesday. The laundry was done, I had the fish thawing for dinner. And we’d have tapioca pudding for dessert. I’d make sure that I remembered to put the tapioca in the milk this time.
The first time I made tapioca was back during my first trip in April. Hugh had made some a week prior. Now I was making it for the first time on the wood cookstove. The milk and sugar were mixed together and starting to bubble in the pan. “Stir continually until mixture comes to a boil.” It couldn’t get much easier, but it certainly looked smooth. Where were the fish-eyed bumps? Then it dawned on me… I had forgotten to add the tapioca? All I had was gently boiling, sugary milk. This was definitely not what was going to be for dessert. I was able to make it work but it was a bit runny until after it had sat in the fridge overnight. The leftovers were fine. From then on I’ve told Hugh to remind me “Don’t forget to add the tapioca.”
Last Tuesday, I was feeling the need to do something “productive”, other than writing. Yes, doing laundry had been productive, but it was more a necessity than a “cross that one off the list” productive task. More procrastination was provided by the sun beckoning me to be outside. Gypsy Meltdown needed her deck painted this season. For that we’d need washed and sifted sand to put in the paint to provide a non-slip texture for under bare, wet feet.
Sun, water, sand… what more fun could a gal have? I found some pans that would work for washing the sand. Hugh previously had told me in which drawer I could find the cheese cloth. All I needed was my camera. No, my camera wasn’t to help me wash and sift the sand, it was to have available should anything interesting make itself known.
I went down to the east dock and started washing my sand when in no time, I heard a loud rapping. “Rap, rap! rap! rap!” It was close and loud. Louder than I thought a bird or animal would get. My first thought was that it was a squirrel or blue jay trying to crack open something on a rock or log. I crept as slowly and as silently as I could toward the noise that was about forty feet away along the shore line.
Working away on a fallen tree was a very, very large wood pecker. I had seen him other times from a distance but this was the closest that I had ever been able to get. I hoped the sound of my shutter clicking wouldn’t startle the pileated wood pecker. He was slightly obscured by dead branches, so I had a difficult time getting an artistic image. After snapping away a dozen plus pictures I simply enjoyed watching him as he worked his way up and down the fallen tree. Rap, rap, rap and then up went his head, cocking it this way and that. Had he heard a noise? Was he looking for me and other predators? Or was he cocking his head looking for more ants? Bent back down and rap, rap, rap. Look around and then more rapping. On he went. I stood frozen watching him for what seemed to be twenty minutes, but was probably only five. With wide dark wings he flew off, his large red head bobbing through the air.
Back to playing in the sand. The upper layer of water was warm compared to the 50-some degree water just an inch lower. It was absolutely clear and drinking pure. I love water. Any time I’m able to swim somewhere, I’m the last one out. The water beckoned to me “Come in, come in. It’s refreshingly cool and crisp.” I was tempted but stuck to my “productive” task.
As I washed and sifted the sand through the cheese cloth the gulls called back and forth to each other. Warblers flitted through the woods as the squirrels hissed and chattered. It was a typical peaceful and calm Tuesday. My own mental chatter was running a narrative through my brain about what I’d do next, about what I’d next write. What I’d tell my family and friends and clients.
Behind me, coming from the woods I heard crashes. There were only three maybe four odd sounding crashes. I didn’t move. I listened attentively as I put my sand and pans down. Was it a moose? Nah, I had asked Hugh months ago about if there were moose on Shelter Island or Drummond Island. He said that there weren’t any around at all. Any elk? Same answer of no. Yes there are bears, raccoon, coyotes and the occasional wolf. But a raccoon is too small to make such a large noise. A bear is generally much quieter, as are coyotes or wolves. Could it be a person? That was the most likely scenario as people don’t move through the woods as quietly as they would like to think they do. Even though it was close to lunch time, Larry wasn’t expected and he wouldn’t be prowling around like that. And it wouldn’t be his dog, as Baron rarely leaves his side. There are no other dogs in the area. What was it that made went crashing through the woods?
I didn’t know whether I should be excited nervous that there might be something “big” in the woods and I might be able to take a picture of it. Or should I be scared nervous? Hugh and I hadn’t talked about what I should do if I encountered a bear, coyote or wolf. My rational brain knew that these animals were not active in the middle of the day. More than likely, they would be more scared of me than I of them. The house was a straight shot right up the board walk. Would I be able to out run what ever it was were it to chase after me? Would I be able to pull the large outer sliding door shut in time? Or would I just have to hope the regular house glass paned door would be enough of a barrier that it wouldn’t attack me? Would Hugh come home to no one waiting at the dock?
Yes, all these thoughts ran through my mind as I stealthily made my way up the boardwalk towards the noise, towards the house with camera ready to capture it. I scanned the undergrowth looking for disturbed bushes or trees or moving branches. All was peaceful and calm. The birds carried on with their normal chatter. Nothing had disturbed them. The water continued to roll up against the shoreline. The sun was still shining brightly on the clean laundry hanging on the clothes line. All was as it should be. Had I heard squirrels chasing each other so loudly that I had imagined what I had thought to be distinct crashing through the woods?
I proceeded into the house and looked out the windows for any signs of unusual life or movement. Nothing. Maybe I could see something out the cupola windows. I climbed up the narrow and steep steps into the attic, still with camera in hand ready to snap the shutter at anything out of the ordinary. Nothing! What could it have been? Oh well…
I let myself breathe. It was a good time to go to the bathroom and get a drink of iced tea. I must have heard a figment of my imagination. Maybe the enchantments of the water, her siren’s call, or the mystical powers of the Morgan le Fey was playing a trick on my ears. It had to have a rational explanation. But I couldn’t find one. Oh well, with a couple oatmeal raisin cookies in hand I went back to washing my sand.
“Gypsy M calling Peapod. Come in Peapod.”
“Morning Gypsy M, this is Peapod. How are you this morning?”
“Doing well, Peapod. Did you happen to see anything large last night?” Wednesday morning, the next morning, Hugh wants to know from Larry if he saw what I heard crashing.
At dinner Tuesday night I thought to tell Hugh about my large noise encounter. He’d been on the island for seven years. He’d seen the bear and coyote and signs of wolf. He could see boats on the horizon that I had to squint to see, sometimes even when using binoculars. There weren’t too many plants that he wasn’t familiar with. Hugh, as Shelter Island’s steward, understood a lot about what happened here and often had a rational answer for the most seemingly unusual situations. Perhaps he’d had an answer to my strange noise. Hopefully he would reveal that it wasn’t “all in my head.”
“Did you look for tracks?”
“No, I didn’t even think to.”
“Let’s go!” We were done eating dinner. Dishes could wait if there was something to find.
It’s easier to find a needle in a haystack when you know what the needle looks like. Over the past weeks Hugh has pointed out different tracks to me — raccoon, deer, gull, goose, coyote, otter, and snow shoe hare. I wasn’t surprised when within twenty feet of the house he showed me a large cloven hoof print. It was not a deer and not a cow. The only other explanation was moose or elk. But we both knew that there aren’t moose or elk anywhere near Drummond Island. One print lead to another and more. Prints lead up the drive way, from the north dock area toward the house. Then over, yes, over the boardwalk into the woods where I had heard the loud crashes.
We followed the tracks down the drive to the north dock. We guessed the animal might still be wandering around, headed north and off the island. We cut onto the inland trail and amazingly found tracks going the same direction as we were headed. Hugh’s instinct was correct. We quickened our pace, trying not to go crashing through the woods ourselves. The tracks were fresher. Hugh was convinced by now that it was a moose and he wanted to see it!
By the time we got to the end of the island and looked onto the marshy grasses between us and Drummond Island the sun had sunk behind the tree line. No moose was in view. Hugh searched around in patches of mud for more tracks and for moose poop.
“The next best thing to seeing a moose is having its poop.” He wanted to find solid evidence that I had been visited by a moose.
We walked back home along the shoreline, keeping our eyes peeled for larger-than-deer piles of poop. The moose was gone, but hopefully it left us a souvenir of its visit. We came across some clear tracks in mud. I did my photographer’s duty to record them. We might not find solid evidence but we now had clear visual evidence that it wasn’t a large deer. Back at the house we compared what we had found with drawings of tracks in a book. Hugh speculated that it was a young bull moose that had swum over from Canada, wandered around Drummond Island a bit and meandered across our boardwalk then returned to Drummond. I never would have thought that a typical Tuesday laundry day would end with moose poop hunting.