November 23, 2009

Reverse Migration

I am sitting in the Richmond Airport terminal waiting for my flight (years of influence by my father have resulted in my tendency to arrive absurdly early for any flight or movie). I'm downloading episodes of "This American Life" to listen to on my cross country flight while I knit myself a scarf. If I close my eyes maybe I'll be able to pretend I am sitting in my big comfy chair drinking cider and being delightful, rather than trapped in a hellish recycled air filled flying tube of 70s fabric and used-to-be-pretty-now-just-eerie flight attendants. It won't be that bad. I actually sort of love the whole hassle of cross country travel, as a person who secretly loves unpleasant/fascinating situations (family reunions, chats with people you haven't seen in five years and never cared about to begin with, standardized tests).

Air travel also gives me the chance to experience one of my top ten favorite locations: airports. Airports have the incredible ability to transform the people within them into manifestations of their best or worst characteristics. Everyone has seen that immense midwestern mother screaming at the check-in staff. Airports also force people from all walks of life into one place and unite them by giving them a common enemy: air travel and the people responsible for enabling or hindering your success at it (namely, the poor unsuspecting souls behind check-in desks, gates, and security checkpoints). It is as if everyone who works at the airport is suddenly the principal from The Breakfast Club, and we, intrepid travelers, are petulant teenagers who would normally have nothing to do with each other. Instead of Molly Ringwald, you have first-class passengers (businessmen/women and trophy wives in Juicy Couture jumpsuits). Instead of Judd Nelson's John Bender, you have the strong-men throwing back Budweiser at the Ruby Tuesday bar, silently filling with rage until the inevitably lead their fellow travelers into a mob-like-frenzy with the utterance of a single complaint: "Excuse me, ma'am, but do you even know when the plane is getting here?" Anthony Michael Hall: herds of Japanese tourists. Allie Sheedy: actual crazy people who seem to have appeared from nowhere (how did this person get through security?). Emilio Estevez: members of the armed forces. And last but by no means least, Principal Richard Vernon: that sassy southern beauty queen behind the desk, shattering dreams, alarming everyone, and inevitably uniting the people with her crackling, indecipherable announcements over the airport intercom.

Airports are havens for people watching. Nay, the mecca of people watching. It's as if people from everywhere have been plucked from their normal lives and deposited there with inane and seemingly impossible tasks to complete on various time scales. Stressed parents give up on their children, leaving them screaming in the middle of the disgusting carpet (I think I have played the child in this scene). Awkward tween girls shoot daggers at each other from across the terminal while simultaneously experiencing parent-embarrassment-induced panic attacks. People attempt to read each others magazines, eavesdrop shamelessly on phone conversations, and try desperately to pretend that they are not where they are.

I mean, really, what's not to love?

November 15, 2009

Huntin' Season

There are earnest looking men in camouflage and bright orange hats driving around in pickup trucks full of hounds everywhere I look, which I assume means that it is hunting season. Hunting what, I do not know. What they do with what they have hunted, I do not know. Why they are so earnest looking, I do not know. I find their bright orange hats vaguely amusing. I find it hard to imagine that any of them could be mistaken for deer or what-not, as they all seem to be 30-50 and extremely tall and heavyset. How they can all be extremely tall and heavyset, I do not know. I imagine them crouched low in the leaves, meaty hands clutching guns, accidentally shooting one of their fellow hunters. Chagrined, one will exclaim, Well, you weren't wearing an orange hat! How was I to know that you are not a majestic stag?

I doubt they would share my amusement. And consider wearing more brightly colored clothing when I'm out walking. Woods-tromping may have to be postponed until the hunt is all hunted and the hunters all huntless. Whatever they were hunting. Deer I hope, because if it's pheasants or something the hats really seem extra ridiculous.

Woods-tromping may have to be postponed, alternatively, because Tropical Storm Ida has gone and turned the whole island into gooey salty marsh ground. I suppose it's all part of living in an area referred to as the Tidewater, but still, 5 feet high tide? Shame on you, Ida. The winds ripped all the bird feeders and bird houses down. The tide came crawling over the lowland and left, upon its retreat, great rambling lines of pine needles, trash, pine cones, and driftwood. I, of course, missed everything but the aftermath. Today the islanders emerged to pile the debris in their yards and set smoking, wet fires of brush. The ones that weren't out hunting, anyway.

November 6, 2009

The Splendid Quiet

It was hard to be calm at first, in the silence. The quiet here at night can be all encompassing, almost unrelenting. Sitting on the porch it is possible to hear fish jump in the dark water, an owl's wings as he lands in the pines. It is that quiet. Before moving here I would have not believed myself to be a person intolerant to silence. But, growing up on a street within a block of a high school, elementary school, and junior high, I became used to the constancy of sound. Lunch time at the elementary school yielded a ceaseless din. The high school echoed with bells and announcements. Band practices, soccer practices, football practice, Vanguard practices on the weekend. A life set to the omnipresent thunder of the drum line. Santa Cruz was not much different. On campus, the all-hours cacophony of college students, drum circles, quad protests. Off campus, the orchestra of sorority girls vomiting beneath my window, the incoherent proclamations of yet another intoxicated homeless man, the blip blip of rookie police officers sounding off on Laurel Street. Ever present sound.

I should not have been surprised to find myself unnerved by prevailing silence, but I was. The near constancy of sound in my life up to this point seemed unimportant until its absence. There are times, in this house, when I will hear the rumbling off board motor of a fishing boat across the channel and run to the window, convinced a convoy of motorcycles has thundered up the drive. In the absence of sound wind can be unsettling, the creaking of a twenty year old seaside home settling, rocking, enough to drive me from bed. To hear myself breathe every breath, uncomfortable.

I have accustomed myself to living in silence. The sound of my feet on the hard wood floor no longer surprises me, the sound of the phone no longer makes me jump. I do not rise in the night to suspiciously stare out the window onto the driveway, convinced I heard pebbles crunching beneath the tires of an sinister assailant's van. I do not leave the TV on to comfort me. Now, I seek it. I walk barefoot down the salt-worn planks of the dock at night and sit, feet dangling above brackish water, listening to the softest lap of the tide against the marsh. I listen to the Canadian geese at Hole in the Wall, all cackling and ruffling and honking as they set to rest. I lie back on the boards and watch satellites and stars and clouds moving in. If I leave here having accomplished nothing that I can hold in my hands or describe to another human being I think I can still be content. I will know that I came here afraid to hear myself breathe and left content to live in the quiet.


After a somewhat whirlwind Halloween weekend in Brooklyn I have returned to my beautiful corner of the country. When I stepped off the train at Penn Station I had a definite moment of "I have not seen this many people in the last 3 months combined." It was somewhat overwhelming, and a strange realization. I found Jessica and Travis well and lovely and much as I'd remembered them, though now relocated to Brooklyn, which seemed like a very grown up, hard-co Santa Cruz. A hella legit version of Santa Cruz, one might say. When I was in high school a boy a year or two ahead of me campaigned for student body president with the slogan: Rohit. Hella Legit. Ah, Fremont.

It is good and comforting to be back in my hermitude. One of the strangest parts of life on Gwynn's Island is that I can't just invite someone over every time I feel lonely or antsy. To the left is a map of where I live. It looks awfully small, though I still get the feeling that I haven't explored most of the land I live on. A good half of it is still forest-locked or water-locked, and I admittedly haven't suited up and gone tromping around the dingle and thickets yet. I live right around the tiny 5, by the way, on the mainland-facing side of the island. So, on my list of things to accomplish: tromping. I stick mostly to the bicycle and exploring the roads, as it is easier and less insect-ful. I've found that in living alone, staving off descent into chaos is most easily achieved by developing some kind of routine. My routine is very loose in nature, built around unpredictable things like the calmness of the water or more concrete things like what time Gilmore Girls is on ABC Family. Yes, I just admitted that. Right now I am indulging in one of the looser aspects of my routine: mid-afternoon sitting in bendy chair on indoor porch and drinking hot beverage (today, home-made apple cider from a vegetable stand in Gloucester). My grandparents arrived this morning to stay the weekend; Aunt Lynne, David, and Zoe arrive tomorrow. It no longer disrupts my routine to have people here, though I find it harder to write. All in all I would say that I am fairly content right now, and feeling somewhat forward-looking for the first time in a year or so. I registered for GREs on a whim and have been researching Creative Writing MFA programs, including the highly-touted one at the University of Virginia. Rather silly perhaps to apply to graduate school in a field I have had so much trouble with as of late. Maybe brilliant.

My big crumb coffee cake is ready to come out of the oven and I must get in a bike ride before the sun sets. More to follow.