#3 Which way will we go?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today was the first day that I saw a person, other than Hugh, since I arrived a week ago Monday. One of the “fun things to do today” was to take a table to a little cabin that Hugh built on an easement he has. He calls it the Annex. He has deeded land access from Drummond Island to Shelter Island, so he has access to walk into the island when and if necessary. He built a small 10 X 16 cabin to establish active use of the easement. He’s a very smart man and very skilled.

Anyhow, he has a table that he hasn’t had use for, but didn’t want to get rid of because it was his grandparents’. So he decided to put it in the cabin, which he is slowly furnishing. It has a bed (mattress and box spring, but no frame yet) and a small wood stove. That’s it! Well for now at least that’s it. It could be furnished more and used by guests, but then it’s a good half hour hike from there to the main house. And there’s no outhouse for it, yet. The “real” guest cabin, which is actually a little smaller, is closer to the main house — right next to it and conveniently located to the outhouse. Hugh thinks of the Annex as a place to spend the night if he can’t boat out to the island due to arriving too late or bad weather (strong rain, high seas or snow).

Well to get the table to the Annex we could do it a couple of different ways. We could carry it over land. Shelter Island, Hugh’s island is actually a peninsula. It has a very small slip of land that prevents the two bays from connecting. When the water is low as it is this spring, nine inches below normal rainfall, it’s easy to walk out to land (Drummond Island). When the water is higher then you have to wade through marshy waters — no thanks.

We could put the table in the boat and make our way around the south side of Shelter to the beach (think lots of large rocks rather than sandy Bahamian beaches) near the Annex then carry it. That would involve trying to find water deep enough to pull the boat up, which there really isn’t any there so we’d have to wade in 38 degree water. No thanks.

Or we could load the table on the boat and teach Julie how to drive the boat back to Cal’s dock where the truck is parked, then load the table into the truck and drive around to the Annex. That sounds better. Definitely a lot less carrying!

Saturday night I asked Hugh to teach me how to drive the boat. I’m having him teach me as much as I can. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. First I want him to fully know how much I am truly interested in being here with him. And of course, expressing interest in his interests is the best way to indicate that. Second, I want to be useful and helpful. There have been different jobs he’s been working on, when not at the sawmill that having a second pair of hands have made it just a little easier, that he didn’t have to do everything. I’m available so why not? Plus if I sat in front of my laptop all day I’d get bored.

Third, I want to know how to do something should there ever be a situation where it was imminently important that I know what or how to do something. There is no such thing as Medivac emergency medicine helicopters in this part of the world. Yes, that’s how remote we are. I’m glad that I have my background as an emergency medical technician to draw on should someone need emergency help. And should I have to drive Hugh somewhere I want to be able to do so safely, not just trying to remember by watching. I don’t want to be scratching my head on questions like “Oh which switch did he first turn on?” “Didn’t he then do something with the propeller to put it lower in the water?” and “How do I make this thing go faster than the speed of a snail?”

Last Monday on the ride to the island he showed me landmarks to navigate by and water color changes to indicate low water areas and boulders to avoid. So after we put the table in the boat he worked the motor speed and showed me where to steer to. Nothing to it!

Cal and his son, Scott, were sitting out enjoying the sunny day when we tied up to the dock. Cal has deep water frontage. When Hugh bought the island in 2003 someone said “You need to know Cal. I’ll introduce you.” Cal was gracious enough to allow Hugh to rebuild his dock and use it freely. Hugh parks the truck at Cal’s and comes and goes from the island by boat.

We loaded the table into the truck and then I got to say “hello” to them, the first people I’ve seen in a week. It was kind of strange and yet not. I’ve talked to a couple of people on the phone, mostly CJ at Verizon. I spent about 40 minutes on the phone Friday with her getting information about how to get better internet access; better than the expensive stuff AT&T has to offer.

“Maybe you can use your phone as a modem?” Hugh suggested. “That’s what I do with my Blackberry. It’s slow like dial-up but it works.”

“Good idea.” So I called and CJ informed me that my phone wasn’t expensive enough to do that. Oh well, I’ll just try their broadband modem. I can get a decent Verizon cell signal a majority of the time. Sometimes even when Hugh can’t even though he’s on AT&T and AT&T has the closest tower, 20 miles away. Verizon has broadband service available of 5 GB for $60 rather than AT&T’s 50MB for $60. Big difference.

Because of the cost for so little data usage, I’ve been rationing myself with my AT&T service. I’ve only used it to check email and do absolutely imperative web viewing — aka no Facebook postings 😦 It has also meant no marketing of my classes or book signings or paying bills. I’m glad that I paid all my bills before I left and had my bank accounts all in order that I don’t have to do anything to them if I’m not able. But I do miss being able to do research for my book and say “Hi” to all my Facebook friends.

So meeting Cal and Scott and talking with other people was fine. Really nothing exciting. No lively discussions. Tomorrow might be more interesting though. I’m going to the big city of “the Soo.” That’s the local’s term for Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Sue Saint Marie), which is about 90 minutes from here, not including the 15 minute ferry ride. I have to go up there to get my Verizon broadband modem and account set up. I’ll also be doing some grocery shopping and a few other errands.

New laces for my boots and some work gloves that are a size smaller than Hugh’s would be helpful to have. If I can’t find them in the Soo, I’ll be able to make do until I go back to Baltimore. I’ll also check out the Habitat for Humanity resale shop for a dresser; although I really like the shelves that Hugh built me. But I think he feels funny looking at my pile of underwear, regardless of how tidy it is.

Was it Saturday evening that we went canoeing? Yeah, it was. The days are starting to blend together a bit. Time takes on a very different feel. Yesterday was Sunday because Hugh wore his holey pants to work in. Almost each day we’ve gone for a walk. By Saturday evening the wind had settled down a bit. Towards the end of dinner I’m asked, “So now what fun thing are we going to do?” I suggested I do some Craniosacral therapy for the ringing in Hugh’s ears. He was happy to hear that but his face belied the fact that he wanted to do something else.

“Did you want to take a walk?”

He perked right up, almost like a puppy dog who was told he was going to get scratched behind his ears, which he really likes, but who much rather go outside and play. “How about going for a canoe ride?”

“Sounds nice.” So we did.

As we went around Little Shelter Bay, yes that’s the official name of the bay right off the dock by the house. There is even a guide book that lists it as the last undeveloped bay on Lake Huron. “Well now it’s developed” Hugh tells me, implying that since he has two docks and a house on the bay it is now developed. He has a couple of short stories to tell me about boats that people try to moor in the bay but they’ve gotten stuck or dragged lots of anchor overnight and denied it. I’m sure he’d be happy to tell you the next time you see him.

As we’re paddling around I’m a stream of questions, as I have been since I arrived. “What is that bird…?”, “What about this?” and “How do you…?” I asked him a couple of days ago if it bothers him that I’m asking all these questions. I tell him that I want to know for the same reasons that I want to learn how to drive the boat. He’s happy that I’m so interested in his life and his island.

He’s not surprised to hear me ask “What’s that?” as I point to the bottom of the bay at a straight, too straight to be natural, thing sticking up between two rocks.

“Good eye, that’s an anchor. They were used primarily for fish nets. That’s why there aren’t many fish in this area of the lake.” He tells me. “I thought I had found all of them. We’ll have to come back and get it later. It’ll be a fun project.”

I love the man. It is so obvious, how much he enjoys all that he does here. It’s really wonderful to be with someone who enjoys his life. And the more I see him do and the longer I’m here I understand why he is quick to tell me, “And it gets harder and harder to leave.”


About juliemckaycovert

I am a therapist, teacher, photographer and published author. I am a lover of life and nature. My husband, Hugh, and I live off the grid on a remote 40 acre island, Shelter Island, just off of Drummond Island in the far eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This blog is about my life, a life I thought I'd never be able to live. This blog is about dreams and ideals being manifested. It is about daily events with a backwoods twist. It is about the simple pleasures and wonders being brought forth. I invite you to be inspired and even, as some friends have, live vicariously through my words.
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