Full Moon Kayak

Photo by Anne Burnett

“We found you,” a voice called out, and the dark shapes of our boats circled around each other. These kayaks had boat lights mounted on their sterns and we asked about where they got the lights, how much, who made them. Then Deb asked, “Who did you think you found?” “Bill?” said the woman. “No, that’s not us, but there was another group kayaking at the other end of the lake. You can see their lights out there.”

Last night was the full moon, and Anne had told me she and a group of friends were meeting on Pleasant Lake to kayak. “Yes,” David and I said. “We’re there.” We arrived at 7:00, just as the moon was clearing the trees on the east side of the lake. We had headlamps on, and Anne had a blinking red biking light hanging from her back collar. We were meeting up with Cynthia and Leslie later, and as we racked together by crossing our paddles over our boats, chatting and sipping wine, we’d seen lights approaching us from the north end of the lake.

Now we all laughed at the mistaken lake meeting, and the voices and kayak lights moved off into the thickening darkness, towards the points of light in the distance. Eventually Cynthia and Leslie found us, and as we gathered in smaller groups the headlamps of those further off moved across the water like dancers. The other group of kayakers was a cluster of lights floating along the opposite shore.

We paddled and chatted, a small party in the middle of a lake, air soft and fresh settling around us, reflected and shadowed light holding us in the night. When David and I pulled our boats out of the water, the moon was high and there was a loon calling from the lake. Even miles away, I can hear the loon through my open windows this morning.

On the Porch

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There are ten people on the porch this morning.  David is reviewing the hike up Mt. Isolation, and Anne is here to help convince him it’s doable, fun and scenic.  At 13.3 miles, David isn’t convinced it’s a hike he wants to do with the limited hiking conditioning we’ve had this year, though hike convincing isn’t why Anne came over — she’d never met Marianna and is here to see her, as well as Emilio, the attraction for Alison and John to be here.  Or a Sunday morning hanging on the porch is attractive in itself.  David’s brother Doug is here.  With a meeting in Boston later this week, a couple of days visiting in NH made sense, and I’m glad to have him here when it’s warm and there’s power.  His last visit was during a major ice storm and resulting power outage, and we spent the night at the house feeding the old wood stove to keep the pipes from freezing.  It was dark, dirty and cold, and we had to get water out of the half-frozen stream in a five gallon bucket to flush the toilet.  Hanging on a porch full of friends and family drinking coffee is a much better way to experience this house.

What makes me particularly happy is that I’ve been home long enough to keep my flower pots out on the steps and they look fabulous.  Flowers + family + friends = happy me.


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Somebody said to me recently that there are only 12 people in New Hampshire, and we all just change our hairstyles and clothes a lot.  Everyone here is connected in some way. We walked into Susan and Woodie’s big screen porch overlooking Squam Lake, and of course already had connections with the other couple there, though I’d had no idea they knew Susan and Woodie.  I once worked in the same building with Deb, who worked with Susan two jobs ago, and David and Deb’s husband worked together and I had met him last winter at a poetry reading.

Mark and Andi and other friends were out on their boat, so I texted them where I was on the lake and they came by the dock and got off for a visit.  More connections, of course. Mark keeps his boat at the marina where Susan’s son works so they know him, and Mark knows one of the carpenters who recently worked on an amazing house Susan and Woodie had been describing from a recent visit for a benefit party.

But the best part of the whole little Squam vacito was just the connection with letting go. We spent the afternoon overlooking the lake, chopped by wind and ruffled into a sparkled blue.  We took a short cocktail cruise in Woodie’s 1965 wooden motorboat, a gleaming beauty, and watched the fledgling eagles flapping their already great wings around a tall pine as the sun set through clouds over the Squam Range.  Susan and Woodie and David and I threw together a random dinner of nachos, garden green beans and caprese salad with goat cheese and ate on the darkened porch, only citronella candles providing light as we moved into an after dinner recounting of family histories.  And for David and me, we kept reconnecting with the reality that even though Monday morning was just around the corner of the upcoming night’s sleep, we didn’t have to go to work.


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David and I have been home for five days now, and have actually been having fun.  My sister and brother-in-law came for dinner on Friday night, we climbed Mt. Garfield yesterday (which remained in a cloud for the entire time we were on the summit, but it didn’t matter, we were off in the forest with good friends, the first date we’ve been able to keep since June) and then we came back to a dinner party with close friends, eating a wonderful array of fresh vegetables from Alison’s garden.  I’ve had time to take photos of the flowers around the house, and today we’re headed to an afternoon and overnight on Squam Lake, with a friend I recently reconnected with after years of not seeing each other.

David was reviewing a document from his parents’ lawyer this morning, outlining the duties of an estate executor, and he just declared, “I am done with estate duties and am declaring myself available for a vacito.”  Vacito = mini-vacation.  Good idea.

The Mannest Man Cave

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David and his brother Doug have a wonderful friend, Dan, who they call their “other brother.”  Dan lived next door when they were all young, and spent much of his childhood in the Coursin’s home.

Dan is a true mensch.  He’s been checking in on David’s parents regularly these past difficult years, and it was Dan and his wife who showed up the night of David’s father’s stroke to call 911 and make sure David’s mother was okay.  Since the stroke, Dan has been visiting the hospital regularly, and has been a key player in the cleaning effort.  He spent hours with me on Sunday afternoon wading through pounds of newspapers, magazines, plastic bags stuffed with folded papers and cut up tissue boxes, old cards, letters of David’s from his trip to Europe in the early 70’s, photographs, masses of Christmas cards signed and never sent, mounds of paper towel and paperclips and elastic bands.  Dan has located a food pantry to take all the extra food in the house, and is coming this afternoon to box it and carry it over there.  He’s helped us find a place to recycle all the paper, taken us to lunch, and stopped by every day to offer help, support, love and hugs.

And Dan has the mannest man cave I’ve ever seen.  We had dinner with him on Saturday night, and he took me to see his house.  A great hunting enthusiast, he has his trophies stuffed and mounted in a room his wife finally gave over to being the man cave.  It’s like walking into a museum.  There are deer, ducks, a large rodent that looks like a wild hog, and Dan’s greatest prize — his grand slam in turkeys, having bagged all four of the American major subspecies: Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s and Rio Grande.

Dan himself is a grand slam.

A Walk in Salem

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Though it felt like winter today — grey skies, cold air, winter chill wind — there were delightful reminders that spring really is here.  Carol and Mary and I had spent yesterday evening and last night together, trying to solve the problems of the world connected to the disconnect of violence against women.  We all run statewide domestic and sexual violence coalitions, so we have a lot in common, we are all exhausted and exhilarated by our jobs, and we have so much to talk about whenever we get together we can hardly stop long enough to get to bed and get some sleep.

This morning we got up and started talking again.  We went for a walk around Salem, Massachusetts where Mary lives, talking the whole time.  Salem is a lovely, seaside town, with a famous witch history and centuries-old colonial houses crowded on narrow streets. In spite of the cold, we saw early blooms, trees holding buds like pearls, about-to-burst magnolias and outdoor seating areas just beginning to look like they might be habitable again some day.

We were talking about tough stuff — the ridiculous feuding in different factions of the movement to end violence against women which feels like junior high drama, the almost total dysfunction of the criminal justice system in supporting victims and holding offenders accountable, the very scary budgetary issues everyone is facing, the way our jobs take over our lives so that we can barely find time to adequately feed ourselves. Literally. But as we walked and talked we saw gardens and beautiful old houses, hard wind pushing the Atlantic up over the rocks and all those tight buds on trees starting to loosen up.  We stopped and asked a woman trimming a wisteria vine about an abandoned house and got a 20 minute mini-lecture on the history of Salem, because she can trace back seven great-grandfathers to the founders of the city.

Hard work, cold wind, budding tulips and good friends.  A good day.

Mt. Jackson

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The snow has been disappearing fast around here for the past four weeks.  Four Saturdays ago I was cross-country skiing in the best snow of the season, and then there were a few inches of perfect glide snow that night and Sunday’s skiing was spectacular.  The following weeks were warm and rainy and by last weekend I was considering planting my peas.

I’m glad I didn’t.  It’s been a cold week, with snow twice, though nothing stuck.  But not up north.  Five of us gathered to hike Mt. Jackson today, and when we got to the trail head and got out of the car, a stinging wind whipped with snow squalls greeted us.  We dressed in our extra layers as quickly as we could and got into the woods, where the week’s snowfalls had left plenty of fresh powder.

Winter.  Again.  Still.  Luckily, there were snowshoers ahead of us, so we didn’t have to break trail.  As we hiked higher, there was more powder, the packed trail sinking deeper with walls of snow on either side, and the clumps on the trees thickened.  Hiking up on snowshoes was hard work.

But it was beautiful — sun periodically breaking through the racing clouds above and drenching the white world in yellow light, trees feathered with snow, fresh powder on every surface, and off to our south occasional glimpses through the trees of Crawford Notch, a deep cut in the mountain, a vast empty space below us as we climbed higher.

Getting tired, and thinking that the next corner would bring us to the top, or the next, or the next, we finally rounded a corner and could see the peak a couple hundred feet above us, a rocky knob above spindly winter and wind worn trees.  “I’ve had enough,” Anne said, and Ellen and June were still behind us, so she headed back to find them.  But Cynthia wanted to bag the peak.  She’s working on hiking all the 4,000 footers in NH, and this was one she didn’t have.

“Okay, let’s go,” I said.  It was wild, fiercely windy and wonderful.  We mistakenly took the trail broken by the young men we’d met on their way down.  “We lost the trail and got a bit bushwacky,” they’d said.  As we crawled and scrambled up the steep summit cone, hoisting ourselves up by spruce trunks sticking above the snowpack, we knew we were in bushwacky land ourselves.  But the summit was right there, we climbed the last bit of rock and saw the trail signs, then the summit cairn and Cynthia hustled over to it.  “Okay, I did it.  Thanks for coming with me,” she said.  “Happy to do it,” I said and we headed back.  It was too cold and windy for a photo, too hard to look into the wind to take in the view, and we wanted to be sure to follow our tracks down before they blew away.

We bagged it.