Greens

David and I got up this morning, a week into our two week vacation, sat on the deck drinking cappuccino, moved to the porch to get out of the sun, too hot even though it was a cool morning, and talked about what we would each do today.   David was planning to continue sorting through paperwork in his studio, then work on the barn, either doing more organizing of the detritus of our blended lives, or painting in the summer studio he’s creating in the cleared out space.  I was going to bike and swim (tri prep), water the garden, and write.  We both would grocery shop, then cook for the dinner party with old friends.

“Let’s forget all that and go to the coast and kayak,” David said.

“We can get fish for dinner at Seaport,” I said, the fish market Eric and I shopped at for dinner parties.  “They have incredibly delicious smoked salmon that they smoke themselves.”

An hour later we were on the road, two hours later we were in Little Harbor, paddling towards the mouth against the tide.  I was riding on a sea of green — the green of the water above the sand and rocks, just feet below as the water swirled in to fill the harbor and creeks and marshes.  The line of marsh grass and low, scrubby trees lining the edges of the water was reflecting a deeper green onto the sea green.  The sky was as much cloud as blue and I thought about my blue kitchen, how I want it to be green.  I thought about how I wasn’t thinking about anything.  The boat was alive under me, twitching with the water pulling in with the tide, rumpled by wind, and my own strokes of direction.

Now it’s bedtime, the dinner party over, the smoked salmon raved about and devoured, the dishes done.  The green is in me and I feel full.

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The Short View

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Yesterday I paid attention to the short view.  There were single toadstools along the side of the trail, red, yellow, umber, small pops of fungus from the green moss.  A toad jumped into the leaf debris on the side of the trail and stopped, under a pine bough, his mottled tan hide hiding him.  There was an occassional flower, creeping alpine plants hugging the lichen coated granite blocks on the summit.  The ridge walk from Mt. Hight to the Carter Dome Trail was cut into the moss and pine needled ground as if chiseled out with square spades.

But I drank in the long view too, especially of the Royce-Bald Range to the east of the Carter-Moriah Ridge.  Smaller mountains in a relatively wild area, they are seldom seen from White Mountain peaks, hiding behind the higher Carters.  Looking off to the east and south, I could see the Baldface Circle, the mountains of Jackson, the fields near the Eagle Mountain House where we spent the night.

Two days in a row of hiking, almost 19 miles, over 6,000 feet of elevation work, my legs are tired this morning, but my feet have stopped screaming.  I need new boots.  I need to plant beets and swiss chard today, getting the fall crop in.  Get the seeds in, reap the vegetables as the days grow shorter and cooler.  The short view and the long view, when we see what is right in front of us, what arises in the distance is just another view.

Ridge Walk

Blue White Mountains

The man and I walked Crawford Path along the Presidential Ridge in the White Mountains yesterday.  It was a glorious day — clear, dry, windy, with enough sunshine to fill a week. 

“The man?”  My daughter used to refer to her then boyfriend, then fiance, now husband as “the boy” in her blog Are You Really Interested.  The man’s son’s girlfriend is blogging from her stint on an organic B&B farm in France right now (What We Feel Most) and calls her guy “the boy.”  I asked my daughter what that’s about.  “I think it’s a 20s-something thing.”  I’m in my 50s, the man is in his 60s, so “boy” seems ridiculous.  So does “the man.”  He’s David. 

David and I are up in the mountains for two days hiking.  We’d planned to summit Monroe, then Eisenhower, giving us a chance to walk across the open Presidential Ridge, a rocky, scrambly, view-infused walk.  We changed plans at the last minute and went up Edmand’s Path, thinking we’d only get to the top of Eisenhower, maybe walk a bit towards Monroe if we had the time and energy.

But when we got to the ridge, we decided just to walk Crawford Path.  We had half a thought of making it to the summit of Monroe, but we never got there.  We trekked north, buffeted by the crazy winds sweeping up the gulfs to the west, over the ridge, winds which have made the Presidentials notorious for hiking deaths in every month of the year.  There were grey-green lichen washed rocks, scrub spruce, alpine plants, an ant, a caterpillar, a butterfly, Mount Monroe a 5,000 foot triangle of granite blocks in our faces, the Mt. Washington observatory and buildings rising over 6,000 feet behind. 

When we turned south to hike back to Edmand’s Path, all the White Mountains to the south and east and west were layered in mountain blue before us.  Wave after wave of peaks cut the sky, hard blue and whipped clear.  I could easily pick out the mountains, having hiked many of them in my completed quest to join the 4,000 footer club.  A jut of rock to the immediate south was Chocorua, which we’d just hiked on Sunday.

Walking out on Edmand’s Path we walked into forever.  Feet screaming, legs aching and pulling back against the gravity that feels like it will roll you down the ridge, every dip and turn in the trail just showed more trail.  Sunlight through the spruce, then pine, than hardwoods highlighted the rocks and roots ready to trip us.  Step after step got us closer, but we could only think about how far it seemed.   “This trail sure is taking its sweet time coming to an end,” David said.  And then it did.  We crossed the bridges I remembered from the beginning of the hike and then I saw the flash of metal, cars, through the trees.  Forever was over.

Floating Down River

In March of 2006, my son Sam was home from college for the weekend.  There were a bunch of us at dinner, Sam’s friends and ours, mine and Eric’s, Sam’s Dad, my husband.  Nearing the end of his sophomore year, Sam was insisting that he drop out of college and open a restaurant with Eric.  Eric had worked in food services his entire life, first at his Uncle Babe’s fish market, then at Babe’s snack bar on a lake in Connecticut, he’d waited tables at countless restaurants, fancy and simple, and for almost three decades had directed food and nutrition departments at hospitals.  He’d often fantasized about owning a restaurant, and Sam is a plan-a-minute man, so he thought Eric might bite.
“You should stay in school,” Eric said.  We all agreed.

“What about the bunch of you?” Sam asked.  Of the eight adults at dinner, only one had finished college in four years.  All of us professionals, three had never gotten degrees, one had dropped out of high school but still ended up with a BA in philosophy, one had started her degree in her 30’s, Eric also didn’t get his BS until his late 30’safter attending four different undergraduate schools, and my own college history included a bad marriage break for a year and a half.

“The world is different now,” Eric said.  “You need a degree.”

“Look,” I said.  “This is the path you’re on right now.  Stay on it and see where it leads.  Life is more about floating down river than it is about marching across a field.”

“Where did you hear that?” John asked.

“I made it up.”

Two months later, Eric was dead, at 54, from metastatic ocular melanoma that we’d had no idea was busy eating away his insides.  The river got really turbulent for a good while, and still does from time to time, but we’re still floating and the water is still moving to the sea