#4 Walk About

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Water of sea-green denim and a husky lavender sky sandwich the burnt ocher-orange of the trees. We hear the wind blowing on the other side of the island but this east side is tranquil with calm waters. We’re on our evening fresh-air walk. Both of us spent our day elsewhere. Hugh was at the sawmill and he’s dusty to prove it. I went up to the Soo. My trip, as all trips to the Soo should be, was for many reasons. My first stop and primary reason for going was to get a broadband card from Verizon and set up an account for internet access with them. It was a good thing I took my laptop with me because we couldn’t get the card to work. “Leave it with me and I’ll call tech support,” the manager says. “Go do your errands and I’ll have it done by the time you’re finished.”

Two hours later, I walk back in and she’s still on the phone. My laptop battery is almost drained and I have to leave town in forty-five minutes to assure I’m in time for the 3:30 ferry back to Drummond Island and pick up Hugh about 4:30.

“Could it be the card?” I ask. The manager has installed and uninstalled the card too many times to count. They’d never had a defective card and it was their only card so she was determined to make it work.

“I’ll need to install it on our PC (rather than a Mac) to find out.” Sure enough it was the card. Defective. An old version of card did work on my Mac computer, but they didn’t have another of it, and it isn’t made anymore anyway.

“We can mail you a new one when it comes in in a day or two.”

“Okay. Call me when it comes in and we’ll go from there.” I had really been hoping to have better/cheaper internet access sooner rather than later. Mail might take another day or two. Someone they know who lives on Drummond, might be able to drop it in our mailbox. I’m disappointed but figure as long as I have it to work with for four or five days that will give me a good sense of if it will be better or not than AT&T’s. Fortunately Verizon has a 30 day “make sure you’re happy with it” guarantee. If it doesn’t do what I need I’ll cancel it and keep AT&T.

I was hoping to tell Hugh that I’d had a successful day. The women at the Verizon store told where the best grocery was along with a good liquor store. I got everything on our shopping list, including veggies, except dates and grits. He’d told me that the grits would be hard to find. And there were a few things I was able to find that weren’t on the list – like good chocolate and apple butter. At the liquor store I was able to get the last bottle of Mount Gay rum, Hugh’s favorite, and two of my favorite bottles of wine on sale.

I’d hoped to be able to go used furniture shopping for a dresser, but that was on the low priority list. I did get to the hardware store for electrical tape, new boot laces and work gloves that fit me better than Hugh’s. And I was able to stop in at the health food store a couple of blocks away, where I introduced myself and left a few of my bodywork cards telling the owner I’d be in Michigan through Fall. All that was left was to fill up the truck with gas as it was about 50 cents a gallon cheaper here than on Drummond.

The grocery store receipt had a coupon for 9 cents per gallon off gasoline at Holiday’s gas station, but I didn’t know where that was. The first gas station I found, as I headed out of town, was a Holiday’s. So I even got gas “on sale”! Oh well… the internet is only a small wrinkle in the grand picture. If that’s all there is for me to “complain” about, then I’m quite lucky!


“I’m sorry I was longer than expected.” Hugh said as he kissed me climbing into the truck.

“It’s fine. I’ve had my book to read.” I was at a good place a little while earlier so his timing was actually perfect.

What he next told me surprised me. “I was telling myself today how great and wonderful you are.”

“Aww. You’re sweet!” He does not verbalize feelings like that very often. And it is very nice to hear. My heart melts when he tells me things like this. Over the last week he’s become more comfortable with how much I love him and how I express it. I don’t think he’s ever had someone love him as strongly and as much as I love him. So it’s taken him some getting used to. I’m glad he’s more able to tell me how he feels.

I was working in the kitchen last night and he came over as if in need of something. “Yes?”

“I need a kiss,” he told me before he went out to grill the chicken.

Well maybe he didn’t need a kiss. It was sure nice to have him want a kiss and have him ask for one.


Going up to the Soo was important for me to do yesterday. I felt good about being not being dependent upon Hugh to do things. We enjoy doing tasks and projects together and there are times when it is just not feasible for us to both do something. So it only made sense for me to go up while he was working. It also allowed me to learn more about the area on my own. It helped me feel more at home here like I felt doing my “walk about.”

Last Thursday Hugh worked at the sawmill. It was to be my second day on my own. It was a beautiful day, in the 50s and full sun. I thought it might be a good idea to go for a walk and take some lunch with me. It would be a good time to experience a bit of the island on my own, without Hugh.

When a person is with someone doing something together, their experience is their own and it is also filtered by their companion’s experience. I thought it would be a good idea to begin experiencing the island without Hugh’s interpretations and filters influencing mine. Along with my camera, I packed my lunch, a bottle of water, and a piece of chocolate. With my hiking boots laced up, I donned my neck warmer, sunglasses and hat, pulled on my coat and strapped on my camera bag with my lunch in it. It was about 11 AM.

My plan was to walk the western shoreline to the north end where the large “orange” rock was. There I’d have lunch then take the inner trail back to the house and go to “work” — writing my book. I figured it would take me about an hour or so for my walk and then have lunch. I should be back to the house about 1:30 at the latest.

There was lots to catch my attention — mirages and boats on the horizon, sea gulls and geese posturing and honking noisily. The American merganser pair kept feeling intruded upon so they’d fly further down the water, only to have me come along a little while later. Honestly I wasn’t trying to bother them. I was trying to be very respectful and I was being quiet. But even a couple hundred yards close was too close for them.

There is a myriad of types of rocks here. The bedrock is dolomite with pock-shaped solution holes. Solution holes are made due to a natural chemical reaction between the water and minerals in the rock. As of yet I do not know all the various types of other rocks. There is a crayon-box assortment of colors – white, black, grey, red, orange, yellow, green, and even a dark purplish almost aubergine (aka eggplant). Some are flecked, speckled, banded or striped. There’s one type that is black with yellow circular inclusions. Hugh thinks it is called something like “Sun and Stars.” And of course if you’re keeping a close eye out you might find a puddingstone or two. I refrained from carrying more than one puddingstone back to the house. There are various lichens on the rocks, including one that is a brilliant orange. It grows on rocks that have particularly been pooped on by birds and helps to absorb UV-B rays.

I don’t have my polarizer filter with me. Unknowingly, I left it in Baltimore. With the sun at its highest colors get washed out easily, so some images aren’t turning out as spectacularly as my mind perceives them to be. I’ll be bringing it with me in May.

By the time I got to the orange rock (orange from the lichen) at the north end of the island it was 1:30. Yes I had dallied. I took my time but I needed to. This walk was turning into more than just a walk for a picnic. It was something deeper.

There I enjoyed taking off my coat and feeling the warmth of the sun through my long sleeves. My lunchtime entertainment was watching the black ants explore my coat. Fortunately they were not pesky and didn’t beg for handouts. The mergansers were still in sight, now on the other side of the island.

A couple different types of birds flew overhead that I wasn’t able to identify. One of which was gone quicker than I could react and get my camera to shoot it for later identification. I’m hoping to see it again.

“Yes,” I thought, “I need to walk the entire island. All at once. Not a bit here and a bit here. All in one  journey and by myself.”

“I need to do my own walk-about to start to establish an understanding and connection to Shelter Island, this place I hope to call Home.” I knew that with it being close to 2 PM and not taking the inner path straight back to the house would mean that I wouldn’t get any writing done. Writing would have to wait and it could. Walking the entire island was something that I needed to do.

All packed up and ants gently brushed off, I strapped on my bag and continued, scrambling over the rocks, feeling sure-footed like a billy-goat kid playing amongst the rocks. I caught myself intrigued by how sure-footed I felt. I have done quite a bit of hiking. I have strong ankles and generally I have no problems on rocks. Here though, I had fun taking small jumps from rock to rock, often on the edges of the rock.

Why was it things felt different? Was it because my balance was secure? Partially. All the contra dancing I’ve done over the last year has certainly improved that. As I continued along I felt what happened. Different rocks had different feels to them. But it was something else. I felt within me. It was joy in my heart that was in my step.

I approached the dock by the house. It was about 3 PM and getting late with things to do. Easily I could “cheat” and stop here and resume another day. But I couldn’t. I needed to finish. My soul needed to see the other end and walk back the trail to the house at which I started. On the exposed south end, the wind was colder and stronger. And it was invigorating. It was worth it. It allowed me a deeper sense of fully being here.

As I came to the path leading back to the house. I was almost sad that my walk-about was complete. My heart was filled with happiness. I now knew the island a bit more. I now had a connection to it that did not directly involve Hugh.

I’m very happy here. The obvious reason is because Hugh and I are together. And separate and independent of our relationship, even if he weren’t here I’d be very happy living here. Being surrounded by nature nurtures my soul unto itself. To live here, even with its challenges, would be easy and good. I wouldn’t want to be completely alone as Hugh can and often likes. Yes, there would be things I would miss about Baltimore or any other place I could picture myself living. But there are more things I would miss more about Shelter Island.


This morning at breakfast I told Hugh that I had a sad thought after I woke up. “I have to go back to Baltimore in a week and a half.”

“Oh, you’ll have fun in the bright lights and big city.” He quickly replied, I think trying to make me feel good. Yes, I’ll enjoy seeing friends and clients, my cat and going contra dancing. But I’ll miss him and the island very much.

Am I coming back as planned in May? I hope so, I plan on it. Yet Shelter Island, as much as I would love to call it Home, is not yet my home. So I need him to ask me to come back, to come Home. Will he? If last night was any indication I think he will:

“I love you, darling.”

“I love you too.” I reply as we drift off to sleep.



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.
This entry was posted in Contra dancing, Internet, Nature, Puddingstone, Shelter Island, Walk, Water and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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