August 21, 2009


There is actual weather in Virginia. I watch the Weather Channel every morning when I get up (particularly given the whereabouts of Hurricane Bill). It has been over 95 degrees for the past 3 days, far into the evening. I left Santa Cruz a month ago, and it's hard to believe.

I made the right decision to come here, though that doesn't always guarantee that it will be easy, or perfect. I still get nervous at night, although not nearly so much as in the first few days by myself. I have started meeting people on Gumthicket Road, my neighbors. They are almost exclusively over sixty. They have lived here, or in Mathews, for their entire lives. My last name gives me some legitimacy. The last name White is prevalent enough in the Tidewater to warrant a whole area called "White's Neck." Maybe that's why I feel so comfortable here. It speaks to my family, the stories of my family--stories I have heard for my entire life.

In the evening I sit on the indoor porch and watch the thunderstorms blow up out on the horizon, clouds darkening and piling and suddenly sweeping in. A week ago I found myself hiding in a closet on the ground floor, the lightning flashing every few seconds and the thunder shaking the house so hard I thought the lightning had hit the roof more than once. It turned out to have hit the neighbors, blowing their A/C unit. There is no weather like that in Santa Cruz. I thought I was over-reacting, a true come-here move, until R.C. told me that it was the worst lightning he'd seen in years. He claims he saw balls of lightning bouncing across the field across the street from his house, on Old Ferry. The storm sat on the house for an hour, but I felt somehow that I had survived a rite of passage in its wake. I'm making Haley's White Bean and Sausage Soup for dinner and waiting for the clouds blowing up in the distance to arrive.

August 7, 2009


Now that I am truly by myself I realize how integrated I am used to being. It is so quiet here at night. I am not used to being able to hear every creak in the house, every swelling of the pine and popping of the metal roof. My favorite part of day is the late afternoon when the light hits the grass and trees and water just so and the swan family leaves their cove for the shallow water in front of the house. I sit on the porch with a gin and tonic and wave at kayakers and boats passing by. Midday tends to be lonely. The island empties out during the week--the campers all returned to what I imagine to be depressing inland suburbs. The campground is all RVs, and every RV has a wooden placard personalized for the family that occupy it--"The Readings from Richmond, VA!" Several Rebel flags grace rudimentary flagpoles at the campground, even during the week when the campers are empty, the beach desolate.

I'm still anonymous here, though I am definitely noticed. I am overdressed for this downtown, in my dresses and sunglasses and nice car. They are rude to me at the grocery store, and I eyeball the pubescent gay bagger and wonder if he'll leave Mathews someday. I make too much food for no one.

A barn owl landed in the lawn last night, about twenty feet from my seat on the porch, and bobbed its head from side to side at me. A pretty accurate representation of my reception here. I tried not to become convinced it was actually an alien. At night I stare out the multitude of black, blindless, ground level windows and try not to hear the creepy Banjo riff from Deliverance, which I have vowed not to watch while I'm here.

The fig trees in the yard overflow with fruit and a flock of crows gathers beneath, pecking at the fallen figs. Gulls dive for fish in Milford Haven and fishing boats leave Barn Creek equipped for the evening fishing hour. I try very hard not to feel bored or lonely, and yell out to a woman in a kayak passing by. She obliges me, and I realize I haven't spoken a single word today.