Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rumble. Boom.

For several months a mysterious sound has been emanating from beneath our porch.  The first night we tried to ignore it and assumed that it was a rodent (notice how accepting we are of rats sharing our house.)  Then, it happened the following night and it was loud.  It was a rumbling sound, a boom, a persistent rumbling booming sound.  At 1AM, armed with a flashlight, I tried to figure out what was going on beneath the porch.  I stood outside listening.  Silence.  I went back inside, turned out the lights and went to bed.  Rumble.  Boom!  Rumble.  I pulled the covers over my head and decided if the beast was only going to make noise then I could endure it, but if it tried to enter the house then I would need to get up and destroy it with my bare hands.  I lay in bed listening.  Boom.  Rumble.  It sent shivers up my spine.  Why was it so loud?

This became a nightly occurrence (that eveyone except myself slept through.)  I would go to bed and fall asleep to the rumbling boom of an unidentified monster inhabiting the crawlspace.  Some nights, spiked with the insanity of twin-induced sleeplessness, fear and panic would take over as I lay in bed hypothesizing a variety of horrific scenarios that could produce a rumbling boom.  Rats are fine, but I couldn't allow a serial killer use my crawlspace for storage.  Rumble. Boom.  I went outside again with my flashlight accompanied by Lula and Buckley.  Again, I found nothing and was unable to locate the sound.  I came to terms with the idea that I would just live with the beast unless it decided to come indoors.

Then, just a few nights ago, the sound started up again.  I decided to take another look.  I grabbed my flashlight and looked under the porch.  Nothing.  Then, I saw movement.  The large plastic vapor barrier started to move.  Boom.  Rumble.  The entire 8 foot piece of plastic was now bouncing up and down.  'It must be huge,' I thought, 'and maybe full of bloodlust.'  It stopped again.  I watched in horror as one end of the plastic started to peel back.  The beast began to emerge...all 10 inches of ferocious juvenile armadillo.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twin Lights!

Rockport Harbor

I'm sitting here, five days after returning from our trip to Cape Ann, trying to write a concise description of both our wanderings and my feelings after being reacquainted with our former home.  It hasn't helped that the past few days back at work have been too long and fairly difficult, and sure, Astral Weeks is playing quietly in the background.  I'm trying not to write an indictment of Florida (it's too easy and there are some places and people I love in Florida.)  

A brief  history:  I first visited Cape Ann in my early twenties and it immediately felt like home.  I lived in Essex, Gloucester, Rockport and Pigeon Cove.  I met Cymande in Rockport and we were married on the Back Shore in Gloucester.  I showed paintings at the Demeri Gallery, Lanesville, Gloucester and Ipswich. Some of our closest friends still live there.  I know the shortcuts, where to eat and where all the great walks are. Maybe its the natural beauty or that my ancestors from Newfoundland passed down a coastal-pastoralism gene, but it is obvious:  Cape Ann is still home.  

And Lake City is home.  Our lovely house, full of family and pets, sits in the middle of a field of blooming wildflowers.  I love our little island of sanity.  It has provided so much and taught me even more.  I just wish I didn't need an island or feel the need to build a levy or a moat or a twelve-foot stone wall with turrets around my oasis.  Back to Cape Ann...

Jenn and Daniel's beautiful home in Amesbury

When we first planned this trip it was to be a driving vacation.  We were going to pack up our Subaru and head North.  Then, I panicked at the thought of two babies crying for 24 hours straight as I sped toward Massachusetts.  I booked a flight figuring 3 hours of crying is better than 24 hours.  As it turns out there was no crying at all.  Our friends, Jenn and Daniel provided shelter and a delicious meal on our first night.  The next day we walked to a local orchard and had the requisite apple cider donuts.

Moss and Giles get strapped in

Bowie demanding fetch time

The next day we checked into our little Rockport cottage, the Sea Mist.  It had everything we needed (except two extra nights that I didn't book in time).  Located on Broadway, it was within short walking distance of Front Beach, Bearskin Neck, fried clams, eggs florentine, apple strudel and coffee.  Vacation started to reveal the effects of 4 months of non-stop parenting: it became a special treat for one of us to walk to the convenience store after the boys were asleep.  Oh the freedom of fifteen minutes on 2000 feet of sidewalk.  

Cymande, Moss and Giles napping at the Sea Mist

Breakfast at Ross and Sarka's home in Ipswich

On Sunday morning we all met at Todd Farm for a walk around the antiques and junk.  We also spotted the latest in trendy menswear: skinny jeans tucked into english riding boots (something I shall never attempt).  Todd Farm is the only Sunday morning ritual I could ever devote myself to and it felt great going back.  After Todd Farm, Sarka made us a delicious breakfast, but I must admit that we stopped at Marty's to reconnect with the intimidating staff and the boiling weak coffee and fear not, nothing has changed. 

Jenn, Cymande and Giles at Topsfield Fair

Cymande and Giles at Appleton Farms

We spent Monday walking around another North Shore tradition, the Topsfield Fair.  The windy cloudy weather nearly tempted us into a BBQ bacon dog, but we were distracted by the fried twinkies. Thankfully, Ross set us up with a pile of veggie tempura (with a side of vinegar...which apparently is "hot this year!")  We returned to Rockport to warm up.  Cymande started The Yearling which was included in the cottage's library.  It's an interesting, somewhat mystical coincidence because it is about life in the Florida scrub where we now live.  We are regular visitors to the Marjorie Rawlings Homestead in Cross Creek.

Moss and I at Appleton Farms

Giles and Cymande in the Great Pasture

Tuesday was our Ipswich day.  First, we attempted breakfast at Stone Soup (closed on Tuesdays), but instead went down to Zumi's for coffee and bagels before heading over to Appleton Farms.  Ten years ago I took Cymande on one of our first dates there (raspberry wine, baguette, and brie in the Great could she resist?)  We then met Ross for a trip to the Crane Estate at Castle Hill.  We tried to explain to Moss and Giles that if they worked hard, saved and produced all the world's toilets like Mr.Crane, then, they too could have a Grand Allee that reaches the sea (though currently I would consider a job mowing it).  After the Crane Estate we visited Russel Orchards for more apple cider donuts and coffee.  We picked up some groceries and I bought a copy of  A House on the Ipswich Marsh which explains the natural history of Ipswich.  The farm animals were well behaved ('Caution Pig Bites!').  Then, back to the cottage for amazing and miraculous fresh vermont camambert and yes, raspberry wine. 

Ross, Cymande and Giles on the Grand Allee. Crane Estate, Ipswich

Moss napping in the wind-blown rain. Crane Estate

The end of the Grand Allee.  The southern tip of Plum Island is in the distance

The next day we tempted fate by going down the street to The (no longer Flav's) Red Skiff with babies strapped to our chests.  They were a hit with staff and customers alike and even seemed to enjoy the excitement of it all...even with hollandaise sluicing down their foreheads.  We walked around town and headed over to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester.  We lived three minutes away from this museum for three years yet somehow never visited.  Moss and Giles were utterly satisfied staring at Fitz Hugh Lane seascapes.  Then back to the cottage for the bedtime ritual. 

Giles endured a bumpy ride on the acorn covered paths of the Hamlin Reservation

Hamlin Reservation, Ipswich

Thursday was another Gloucester day.  Breakfast at Sugar Magnolias and off to Eastern Point Light followed by a drive along the Back Shore. The sun was finally out and the Autumn air was blowing waves past Twin Lights and washing them nearly to the dunes of Good Harbor Beach.  After our walk we delivered Moss and Giles to a very excited group: Great Aunt Carlie, Great Uncle Jerry, Aunt Debi and their friend Pat.  Moss and Giles were thoroughly enjoying all the attention until they abruptly fell asleep on the floor and couch. 

Black Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea

Jillian, Giles, Moss and Cymande.  Demeri Gallery, Rockport

Moss and Giles at the cottage. Rockport

Friday was our last day at the cottage and we grudgingly packed our bags hoping that somehow we could stay through Autumn...and maybe Winter.  Instead, we moved down the street to the Eagle House Motel and it was totally enjoyable.  We spent the day with Jenn, visiting the shops, eating at Roy Moore's and walking Old Garden Path.  We walked past my old winter rental on Smith Road and I'm still not 100% clear why she kept my security deposit.  Jenn and Daniel babysat while Cymande and I went out to dinner first time without the twins.  They didn't even miss us.  Cymande had Finnan Haddie, which she wants noted here because it is so exotic sounding and reminds her of growing up in Gloucester.

The ocean off Eastern Point.  Gloucester

Cymande and Giles.  Gloucester Harbor

My lack of planning finally led us back to the York's house in Ipswich for our final night in Massachusetts. We somehow packed ourselves into one bed.  The return flight was uneventful except for the humorless hyper-vigilant TSA agent that proclaimed that the twins' bibs needed to come off and get scanned.  If they really were worried about something explosive and/or gaseous Moss and Giles were both packing diapers more dangerous and certainly more offensive.  I'll write no more about this; I don't want them to end up on a no fly list.  Moss and Giles, Twin Bib Bombers.  Bib Bomber Brothers.

Eastern Point Breakwater.  Gloucester

Giles and Moss in the backseat

Good Harbor Beach.  Gloucester

Family portrait while walking on Good Harbor Beach

On the way to Old Garden Path.  Rockport

Carlie, Giles, Gregg and Moss

And of course...Motif #1.  Rockport

In the introduction of The House on the Ipswich Marsh, William Sargent opens with 'I fell in love with a field in the Spring of 2001.'  I immediately realized that this is the same feeling I have about many areas on the North Shore and elsewhere (particularly Appleton Farms, Halibut Point and many of the Trustees of Reservations properties). When you come to understand and love a forest or field you experience great sadness and anger when it is harmed or destroyed.  The North Shore is doing a good job or protecting these areas; sacrificing short term monetary rewards for the preservation of large swaths of undeveloped open spaces "for everyone, forever". I fear this is something that North Florida will never understand or value. I watch this community continually bury wetlands to build yet another hideous strip mall.  There is no interest or energy to preserve this place.  The locals don't seem to know the beauty of the place. I read the minutes of the County Commissioner meetings as they time after time up-zone light residential zoning to commercial zoning and thereby threaten our delicate Ichetucknee Springs. I told Cymande shortly after we moved here that there is only so much of this destruction that I could bear to watch.  How high do the oasis walls need to be? Or should we instead have a small garden of hollyhocks with the cold Atlantic in the air?

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