Monday, March 27, 2017

Time Travelling

by Brooke, September,  2016  

We are in the apartment; four air conditioners are running and it is 32° Celsius in the bedroom, and it is nighttime. Adrian has taken his pillow out to the back room.  I extend my hand above my head and feel the heat pressing down through the ceiling, as if beyond the plaster the thin tarring of the flat roof has caught fire.  It will be impossible to sleep.

Adrian was here in Toronto already, for a recording session, and I had driven down from Britt early this  afternoon in a borrowed car, to be able to visit two friends from England, Tim & Shane Spall, here for the Film Festival. I had to get the exhaust pipe replaced after I made it to the city, as the old rusty one crumbled coming down the 427, and the car sounded like a B-52. Still it was great to have wheels.

The TIFF events start Saturday. I’m having lunch with Shane, and then meeting with her and Tim after watching "The Journey". They’ve gotten us four tickets to both of Tim’s films. The second, "Denial", is on Sunday and Adrian will be able to join us, and go to the swank party after. Culture shock. I’m to head back to the boat on Monday. Wonderful Pauline is feeding the cats in our absence. 

I should have had a swim before I left the marina this morning.  I think of the coolness of the night there and of the clarity of the stars. Of how, if the sky is clear in the evening, Sagittarius is directly across the river. That teapot shape is so bright within the constellation and tilts just above the trees in the darkness of the early night; its handle is to the left and its spout to the right. The tip of the teapot’s spout is a perfect invitation to the centre of the Milky Way. The hub, the home, the genesis of our spiral galaxy, is twenty-seven thousand light-years away in exactly that direction. I can rest in the swooning starlight on the top step of the fly-bridge, gaze across the Magnetawan River, and look towards the beginning of time.

Sagittarius by Hubble
One evening recently, the transient couple on dock three, on a Carver from Green Bay, came over to us and sat at the garden table and told us why they were supporting Donald Trump. It had a lot to do with terrorists and illegal immigrants and the necessity of a wall, and how Barack Obama had “destroyed” America. I found myself unable to listen to what they were saying, Karen and Mark, as they spoke in slogans with no ability to support or expand on their position, except that if you offered statistics to contradict the slogans, they would counter that those numbers were manipulated by Obama and that, by the way, he was rigging the election after having destroyed health care. “We’re Karen and Mark. You can remember our names because it’s like K-Mart. K- Mark!” 

I left the table, where Adrian was encouraging them to expand on their arguments, trying to understand how their points of view began. I slipped away from the garden, walked up the gravel drive and spent a quiet time slowly folding, unfolding and re-folding shirts and towels and knickers up in the wash house. This summer I’ve generally been able to avoid the news and the fear-mongering right-wing, and the police shootings (both ways). It strikes me that Fear-Mongrel might be a good play on words. I hear rabid murmurings but have no space in my life to be drawn in. That will change, undoubtedly, if in some bizarre twist, that Hollow-Man is elected.

Up on the bridge again, alone in the starlight, gazing across at Sagittarius. My heart aches at the twenty-seven thousand light-year expanse down just this one arm of our galaxy; and at the smallness of the world immediately around me. And my heart aches at my own potency and my impotence.

Above a lock on the Trent, some time back
When I was outside sitting on the grass, I killed an ant that had crawled on my leg. I wasn’t thinking, could have lightly flicked it away instead. Life can change in an instant; life can end or falter or begin. We can slide into depression, be cornered by fear or be slammed into disease. I am not bothered by spider-webs or biting insects. The wind can be a monster. The rocks hold, though, sometimes, our lines ashore do not. Lately, I seem to falter. I laugh and cry easily, sob deeply, but no longer know if it is because I am sad or because I am happy.
I do know I am very much alive.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Favourite Anchorage

by Brooke     July 23rd, 2016

Man, it was hot.  The thermometer read 32° Celsius.  We filled our tanks with fresh water, hoisted the dinghy to its chocks and hauled The Blue Merganser (my inflatable kayak) onto the aft deck. Left our slip at Wright’s Marina at 11:15 am. I asked Pauline to look after my garden.  She wouldn’t accept a tip, even though as Marina Manager she has plenty of other things to do, especially in the height of summer what with all of the Loopers coming through.  

At Wright's Marina, a transient PDQ is tied across from Mary Mary.

Each dock at the marina now has a garden box generously built by the owners
My tomato trellis made of willow and cherry sticks

On our way down river, we passed NHL Hall of Famer Gary Sabourin, somehow unaffected by the heat, stoking his fire barrel on the shore side of his screen-porch. He waved and shouted to us through the smoke, in his cheery crackling voice, to “Have a Good Time!"

Once out of the inlet, with the engines throttled up, the movement of the water-cooled air provided a thrilling release.   

While Adrian piloted the channel past the McNab Rocks I finished stowing the fenders, tied our dock lines in gasket coils and hung them on the bridge rail, and then flaked two floating lines in preparation to tie them ashore.

There was a bit of a breeze when we arrived at our anchorage.  It took us three tries to set the anchor, not because of the strength of the breeze, but rather due to its direction.  We had to adjust our position, which meant there was smooth rock bottom beneath us and the anchor couldn’t find a place to dig in.  We’d opted for the chain rode, because we'd heard (erroneously) that there was wind coming and knew that we’d have a short leash in this particular cove. It made for tiring work in the heat, having to haul the anchor up twice—and because a rock shoal was in the lee of us, there was added pressure to work quickly. Our windlass doesn’t have any teeth or notches to grab the chain/cable links, so you have to use strong legs and all of your muscles in teamwork with the winch.

Pulling the anchor with a windlass
How I imagine I look pulling the anchor
Just as we’d begun the anchoring process, and the 35 pound CQR was lowered for the first attempt, a Zodiac with four passengers cruised into the cove. As they approached, I gestured that they might want to steer clear—kind of a two-handed-please-slide-away gesture. They cheerily waved, and kept coming. Surprisingly, they circled in and around us and toured the tiny cove as we reversed and returned and weighed anchor and hauled it up and turned and dropped and reversed and returned and weighed anchor and hauled it up…. On the third attempt, after I'd dropped the anchor, Adrian once again put the engines in reverse, and the hook caught beautifully. I put my foot on the chain and leaned my weight on it to feel it set in, and when taut, it fairly sprung me up in the air.  I cleated the chain, and went astern to the kayak, and paddled the first of our two stern lines to shore, wrapping the line on the windward side around a sturdy white pine, with a piece of thick hose to protect the bark.  The rest was easy, as the boat was no longer threatened in the wind, and Adrian was comfortable shutting down the engines.

There is a piton of sorts with a steel ring up on the short cliff off our port stern, and I clipped the second line to it and Adrian hauled the line in tight.  But man, it was hot. I was exhausted with it at this point, and everything ached. I returned to get a cold beer, but as soon as I brought Merganser back to the boat and stepped on board, I changed my mind about the beer.  Already drunk with the sweltering work, I swung a leg up and tipped myself over the boat’s teak rail and plunged down the three feet of freeboard, fully clothed, into the gorgeous water.  That kind of blissful reward makes physical effort very pleasurable.

A Foot In Cold Water
And then…icy cold beer from a special compartment in the bridge freezer.

Cappie goes for a swim
With one stroke the kayak was propelled across to the low smooth rock on the west side of the cove, and after pulling it out of the water I released the air from it. The inflation of its inner chamber needed to be adjusted due to the fluctuation in temperature, and the rock beside the fire-pit provided a flat platform to tend to the job. Re-inflating it was my last task, and afterwards I stretched out on the granite and felt the heat penetrate the muscles of my back, then peeled off clothing and slipped into the water again.

Now it’s 8:30pm and the sun is 5 degrees or so above the treetops. The generator is running, with a few dips now and again—likely due to the freezer kicking in, or the fridge. It always feels so good when the systems work as they are meant to. I’d rewired the solar panel earlier this week for maneuverability reasons, but as a bonus, it’s generating more amps then it did before. We’d shut the engines off at 12:45 and the state of charge had only dropped to 94% by 8 pm, despite the fridge and freezer’s draw.

There is a flock of seagulls growing over the south west side of the island. Flock doesn’t seem right, the way their flight crazes madly around. It makes me think of one of those Renaissance dances we studied at the National Theatre School of Canada, but where all of the dancers are, to various degrees, insane. A madhouse Galliard. In this case, a Gulliard.  I thought I saw a pigeon among them.
Gull photographed by Adrian when we anchored at Beausoleil Island in 2012
To my mind, this spot is one of the best anchorages we've ever had. We have our own giant swimming pool, each direction is a landscape by AY Jackson, Tom Thomson, or Varley. Every aspect provides a tingling sense that clairvoyance is possible. And we cannot see any other boats. Climb around the island that surrounds us, you can see among the other hundred or so islands, the distant buoys of the small craft channel, see cruisers traveling up or down it, but they can’t see you….
Mister Hattie gazes out at her own A.Y. Jackson
Instead of facing the sunset, we have turned our chairs around to watch the effect of it on the rock cliff. It is turning pink, orange, rose. The wind calmed completely and now the water is still, except for the splash of a small fish, or the water-bugs, zipping around like bumper-cars.

Our swim platform is a mere 20 feet from the shore, enough to keep a bear from stepping easily aboard, but close enough for us to admire the wild rose, the lady slipper, the wild iris. The sun just dove under.  Everything is soft.

Mister Cookie, Boatswain, all tuckered out in her inflatable kayak water-bed
It is dark. I am sitting on the bridge still--sitting still, still sitting--perched atop the back of one of the benches.  I can hear the thunking and exhalations and the groaning of muscles as Adrian, down in the stateroom, puts the bed together.

The stars are a full-on slap in the head. I find myself repeating, “This is stupidly gorgeous. It’s ridiculous, how gorgeous this is.”

As I said...