May 29, 2011

And The Livin' Is Easy

This is what summer is.

Barbecue brisket sandwiches with cole slaw and sweet corn, dripping on white china plates as we sit on the indoor porch, a wall of screens the only thing between us and the sun setting over Milford Haven, and the first summer mosquitoes. We eat them at the long kitchen counter the next day, washing back the settling flavor of the meat with long draughts of beer from the outdoor fridge. We bike to the beach at Tin Can Alley with full bellies and swim to the sand bar in the sun-warming water, and the Chesapeake smells of oysters.

Jam night at Southwind pizza. A circle of men sit atop stools playing songs they've played before, many times, some bedecked with new mustaches. The drummer turns forty, looking all of thirty-five, and everyone hollers and raises a pint. We eat fried crab bites, a stringy, delicious pot of artichoke dip, and petite pizzas with perfectly crunchy bottom crusts. People dance in the back of the bar, and it is the kind of loud born of people who not only know each other, but are happy to. Everyone sings the choruses, and the waitress pouring off pint after pint of Legend Brown Ale grins as people congratulate her twenty-four-hour-old wedding, and she is beautiful in her happiness.

Campground house party. The campground, empty and desolate all winter, fills with pick-up trucks and trailers and golf carts. Boys throw lines into the bay off the high-deck and old-timers park their carts side by side on the sand and gravel road, chatting over steering wheels as in the tent grove, country blasts and men whoop from the bumpers of their truck beds. Teenagers gather on the beach and smoke cigarettes and slurp at stolen beers, eyeing me suspiciously as I whip by on my bicycle, still wet from my dip in the water. A man yells at me: Slow on down, girl!

Billie Holiday and asparagus hash on the new creek-side deck. I poach eggs, smooth and white as pillows, to slice atop a hash of asparagus, bacon, and potatoes. We watch the sun slide down below the trees on the point and don't say much at all.

Jumping off the dock in the last light of the day. The dock is alight with rarely used lights, and from the water they look like strung lanterns dangling between the salt-beaten pylons. A small boat trawls for flounder in the shallows in front of the house, and I leap off the end of the dock, carefully tucking my feet up under me so I won't touch the bottom of Barn Creek, its mud as soft as pudding. I float around on my back and watch as the first summer fireflies draw blinking trails across the marsh and over the lawn. My gin and tonic sweats on the dock's sink, where brackish water pumped from the Haven powers a hose used to clean blue crabs, or spot, or trout, if we're lucky. A neighbor sets off high, illegal fireworks, and the water is lit red and white and gold and the forested shore rings with the pop and crackle. I cheer aloud, toes grazing the creek bottom.

May 18, 2011

Big Time Lightning

Today I became determined to go swimming. It hasn't been a warm May, and as such the water, though summertime briny at this point, has remained cool. Now, I'm no wimp about cold weather; I have frequented many a cold body of water, including the Pacific and Lake Tahoe. I've spent so much of my life accidentally falling into water (fountains, creeks, ponds, puddles, ditches, you name it I've fallen in it) that I have a pretty good tolerance for unexpected swims. Last year, I very gracefully fell into Milford Haven while trying to board my kayak in the middle of December. Everything you just read reflects extremely poor judgment on my part, though in my defense I think it was the darling dog, Zoe, that sealed that particular icy fate. Her excitement over what she was sure was going to be an unexpected, mid-winter ride in a one person kayak proved too much for my not-so-considerable ability to maintain my balance. Anyway, today I was bitten by a mosquito while trying to clean my car. If mosquitoes don't mean summer, I don't know what does. Swim-suited and bitten, I made my way down the dock. The osprey nesting on the platform some forty feet away shrieked at me, but I paid her no mind. I was going to swim, dammit. I boarded the boat, dangled my feet into the water, bracing myself, and just as I was about to slide into the smelly, murky waters of Barn Creek, the weather announced its intentions. An outrageously loud rumble of thunder almost sent me tumbling into the creek. I looked out across the haven to the mainland, and sure enough, quite without warning, black, dramatic clouds were rolling towards the island. Branches of lightning lit the clouds, and I sighed and ambled back to the house, feet itching with quick-drying salt. I would say summer has arrived.

May 16, 2011

Gwynn's Island Time

My grandparents left this morning, leaving me alone at the house on Gwynn's Island. It has been a while since I have been here by myself for more than a day or so. I am finished with my first year of graduate school, and find I am overwhelmed. This place is a fixed point, an unmoving mark by which I can measure myself and the distance I have traveled since I was last here. Little things change, but largely, Homagin remains Homagin. The house smells of my grandfather's pipe smoke, the attic of summer and dust, and the marsh like salt and mud and raw oyster brine (which I am attempting, at the insistence of my grandmother, to develop a taste for.) The woods are green again, but I know the trees now, and though I marvel that they have made it and have grown or broken or tilted askew in the quick-sinking mud of this island, they are familiar. They do not surprise me now. A young bald eagle, brown and somewhat less magnificent than the adult he will be, frequents Barn Creek, and I watch the returning osprey pairs chase him down the water, swirling behind him like kites over the marshes and docks. I watch the spring mallards on the pond, and the red-pointed claws of a blue crab in the muck, and sink barefoot into the swamp, sacrificing the cleanliness of my toes for the fresh, crisp taste of the wild asparagus that grows among the reeds. Everything is as I left it, before DC, before American.

On Saturday I shook off some leftover come-here nervousness and went to the Sausage and Beer Festival put on by the Rotary Club, hosted at the community art school. I sipped tiny, tiny, tiny, cups of local micro-brews and found I knew more people than I expected to, and met more still. DC has made me braver, and a little more willing to open my mouth and speak. Unlike DC, Mathews lacks anonymity. I have a feeling that as I meet more people here this will prove wonderful and a little bit awful. I like it, and I like the people here more and more, as they come to know me a bit better and I grow less wary of them.

The wind came up fast this afternoon, and I'm sitting on the new porch on the side of the house, just out of the gusts off of Milford Haven. The male mallard lands in the pond, where I suspect he has left a lady-mallard nest-bound and waiting. I have a few days to myself, and I find I don't quite remember how I did this. I am happy, but antsy. I find myself making lists, anxious to forget what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. I try to remember how to just be here, but I'm afraid it's going to take a little more time than it used to, so accustomed am I to the pace of the city and the demands of my school schedule. For tonight: gin and tonic, mallard watching, spaghetti and meatballs, and an early rest.