May 27, 2008

Summer, art, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and white shoes are go

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 11:12 pm

It was a holiday weekend in the US as well as in the UK – I think this is the only holiday besides Christmas and New Year where the dates coincide.

In England the festivities were originally Whitsun (Pentacost) but it doesn’t have any special significance now except that in certain rural areas (like where I used to live) there is altogether too much Morris Dancing, fiddle playing and beer drinking.  The holiday no longer even has a name – which confuses Americans.  They want to know what it’s for and are puzzled by the answer that it is just a bank holiday. 

In America, the last Monday in May is a patriotic day – like many holidays here. On this one fallen soldiers are remembered.  When I walked past the churchyard yesterday I saw that many of the graves, newly tended, had little American flags stuck into the ground beside fresh flowers. If there was some ceremony to mark this private duty I missed it.

The weekend, also the unofficial start to summer, was the first of the seasonal farmers’ markets on the island, and the artists’ studio tour.  The market was pretty low key – I suppose the cold spring means not much produce is ready yet.  The fire department sponsored a stall for the “Disaster Preparation Committee” with their motto, “Preparation Prevents Panicky Poor Performance”.  A note in this month’s community newsletter says the Committee is “getting out of the Winter Blahs”, which I guess is comforting to know.

I didn’t visit as many of the artists’ studios (there were 15) as I planned, but I did see a demonstration of raku pottery and dropped in on a display of computer generated art with wine tasting from the Island winery (no prizes for which of the two was a stronger draw). 

Sadly, I couldn’t find the place where they were offering to spin your dog or cat’s hair while you wait, but anyway, Fluffy recently had a haircut and didn’t have any to spare (if only I had known about this opportunity sooner) and Eloise already thinks I am the enemy without any attempts to harvest her fur.

I finished up my tour at the Permit Queen’s studio where she and the Headstone Carver were showing their work along with a young woman who made wooden earrings, boxes, lamps and wine stoppers.  It was late in the day by then and there weren’t a lot of customers, so when the Headstone Carver wandered off the three of us fell to chatting about creative energy – or, to put it more simply, the urge to make things.  Since, though our ages ranged thirty years or more, we are all mothers, that pretty quickly led to talking about making the most important thing we had made – babies – which led to a change of subject altogether.

The young artist has one child, a normal healthy little girl of four, who was delivered at 23 weeks.  Doctors gave the baby about a three per cent chance of survival.  Because the mother was really poor – instead of moderately poor and uninsured – the state covered about a million dollars worth of medical care, from the emergency helicopter ride to get her off the island for delivery to paying for gas and overnight expenses so she could visit her baby during the four months she spent in hospital.  If they hadn’t been on that program, she said, they would have been paying that debt their whole life and then passing it on to their daughter.

The artist mentioned that she was half Indian, from the Makah Tribe.  I asked whether that was why she got on the health program, but she said no, it had nothing to do with it, she got on simply because she had no money.

She only ever noticed one piece of special treatment on account of being half Native American, and when I asked her what that was, she replied that every year on Thanksgiving the federal government sends her a turkey.

I guess it doesn’t quite make up for mass murder and grand theft real estate, but it is an interesting idea.  I’m trying to imagine the Committee that set this up, and what its motto might be: Festive Fowl Fosters Fillial Feeling?

Meanwhile, summer rules until Labor Day. 

May 22, 2008

In the company of firemen

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 9:17 pm

To get the low down on what’s happening on the Island, my advice is, take a walk with a fireman.  Actually I am beginning to think it might be hard to take a walk without a fireman since all the men seem to have signed up.  Anyway, after my walk I know about the controversy surrounding children of the feckless poor playing in the fire pond, and that the guy who called 911 (999) the other night is just fine, and the sad reason for the power outage on Sunday morning.

This is America where, it seems, walks start with drives, and on the drive to the walk we swung by the fire pond next to the low income housing to see if kids’ toys were still there. We parked in front of the sign that said, “Fire Lane: NO Parking”.

“So you are going to park here?” asked the firefighter’s wife. (Not the firefighter who got me into my locked house. Different firefighter, different wife.)

“We are the fire department,” said her husband, which wasn’t strictly true, but the spot was conveniently close – clearly we weren’t going to waste any walking on the driving part of this walk.

On the walking part of the walk he mentioned he’d driven the driving part of the walk the night before, responding to a call out.

If you dial 911 the firefighters will come right over.  In the old days they were called out by a siren from the fire station.  Nowadays they all have pagers, but the siren still blows, waking the whole island along with the firefighters.  The next day everyone goes around asking everyone else what happened until everyone knows. 

If you ask a firefighter he won’t tell you, on account of the Vow of Silence or something, but their wives are good sources of at least the outline details, like, “Oh somebody just took their medicine and then got worried when it worked.”

I used to think this was a remarkably accident prone island since the siren blows a lot, but it turns out it always blows on Thursday evenings to summon the firefighters to their regular meeting.  Or when they go out on manoeuvres, which they do pretty often, boys being boys.

The previous night’s emergency was a guy feeling dizzy, apparently.  The paramedics came, said he was okay and everyone went home.

The dizzy man was the fire department’s second call out in 24 hours and that’s when I learned that the reason we had no electricity was because an eagle brought down a power line on the shore road.  The poor bird lay – I guess this is the right moment, if ever, to say spread-eagled – dead on the ground, its wing span as long as a tall man.  The firefighters closed off the road and, as my firefighter friend put it, “secured the scene” until the power department came to fix the cable and the county took the eagle away.

Except for my next door neighbour, the Fire Chief, these guys are volunteers with other jobs  – or in the case of my walking companion, retired.  And judging by the way he huffed and puffed up the hill, I would say this really is a land of opportunity, where every little boy can grow up to be a fireman.

May 19, 2008

This wheel’s on fire

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 1:50 pm

The lawyer sister came to visit me this weekend. She’s notoriously late, always with a ready stock of excuses, but it was a beautiful afternoon, and, although I didn’t expect her at the appointed hour, I strolled down to the ferry landing to meet her just in case. I watched the cars unload, hers not among them, and wished I had lied about the departure time. I walked back to the house, where, predictably, the phone was ringing.

“How’s your driving?” my sister asked jovially. “Can you pick me up at the convenience store by the casino? My wheel caught on fire.”

This was an impressive excuse even for the Lawyer Sis. The ferry only runs once an hour on weekends, and the next one was about to depart, so I didn’t wait for explanations, grabbed the car keys and the dog and drove back down to the dock. This would be the first time I had driven off island by myself (and my first solo ferry attempt), but it was a straight run of six or seven miles up the road to the casino and anyway, I could hardly refuse. There wasn’t anyone else to get her.

My sister spotted our mother’s car and cheerfully waved me towards the space next to her 4×4. A man came out of the convenience store, strolled over and we shook hands. Looking at the grey green powder covering the back right tire and the tarmac around it I asked what exactly had happened. The man, who had been travelling along the same road, said he noticed the smell a mile or two back. He checked all his gauges and was sure it wasn’t him. He’d mentioned the smell to his kid. Something’s burning, he had said.

At the red light by the casino he pulled up next to my sister and asked, “Ma’am did you know your wheel’s on fire?”

“Well, no,” said my sister the lawyer, “as I matter of fact I wasn’t aware of that.”

The man then leapt from his car, opened the front passenger door of my sister’s car, grabbed the forty-eight ounce drink cup from her hand and threw its contents on the tire. His kid said, “Dad, what if there was alcohol in that cup?” As the lights changed, the man advised her to pull into the gas station on the corner by the casino.

He was defending this advice when we chatted. “I guess you’re not from around here?” he explained. “Because if you were from around here you would have known there is a water point just there.” And he gestured to the other side of the station. “That’s where I was hoping you would pull in.”

Instead my sister pulled into the main part of the station and four guys immediately appeared brandishing fire extinguishers and gesticulating wildly for her to take herself and her burning wheel as far away from the pumps as possible. The men discharged their extinguishers onto the tire, and, in a few moments, first the city police, then the county police, and then the reservation police arrived. They all strolled around the car and shook their heads while the red light man explained, “I threw her drink on the tire.”

After a few more minutes a large fire truck appeared and parked behind her car. The fire officer got out, crouched down, and solemnly sniffed the tire. He said, “It’s out.”

The men with the fire extinguishers said, “Well, yeah.” The man from the red light repeated, “I threw her drink on the tire.” The fire officer annouced, “Okay, I’m calling this cleared. Everyone can go home.”

The county police and the city police took off. The man from the red light wandered away to the convenience store. But the reservation cop, though his radio kept bursting into life with reports of a man with chest pains, and then of a vagrant beggar, said he would wait until he was sure my sister was okay. He didn’t leave until a tow truck was ordered and my car was turning into the service station.

When the car had been towed away I drove us back onto the ferry where I got a hand signalled severe telling off for following the car in front of me instead of waiting to be pointed at. Newbie stuff. Now I know.

And now you know not be expecting metaphors.

May 16, 2008

Democracy island style

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 10:37 pm

It rained heavily and without let up for two nights and two days. When the water finally stopped coming down from the sky, it rose up again from the ground, and the air was full of mist. As I walked the dog I had to step carefully to avoid the dozens of slugs (and one snake) sliming along the roadside. And I thought England was wet.

Returning home, I met a visitor on motorbike, a potter friend of my mother and of G. The potter is a woman in her early sixties, tall and still striking with the strong features of Minnesota immigrant stock. She came to the Island thirty some years ago as a young woman with her potter lover.

When she had borne him two children, first her lover took other lovers and then he took himself away. She knew he wouldn’t stay after the children came. He’d left three to be with her. Living on what she could earn from her pots as she raised her son and daughter she finally found she couldn’t pay the mortgage and her father took it on. He owns the house and six acres where she now lives with a toothless headstone carver.

The headstone carving business isn’t so good, apparently, what with recession and cremation, and in her late fifties she decided that she was going to have to find a way to earn more money. Her elderly father agreed to pay her fees and she studied the offerings of the local technical college on the mainland, though for months she could hardly think of it without tears. Retraining was final proof that she had failed as a potter. But she found going back to “school” as the Americans call anything from kindergarten to PhD, was exciting and fun, and a couple of years later she graduated with two degrees, one in civil engineering and the other in surveying. There was a lot of overlap in courses, she explained, so she might as well get both at the same time.

Now she rides about the highways on her motorbike inspecting sewer pipelines and road building projects. “I’m the Permit Queen” she tells me, so I guess I should call her that.

Last summer, after sixteen years together, the Permit Queen and the Headstone Carver were married. She wasn’t quite sure why then, except that he needed looking after, given the down turn in the burying business. Besides, once they were married she could get him on her medical insurance. “He’s not in good shape,” she explained unnecessarily, though he is ten years younger than she. At the wedding he and a friend of her son brawled outside the diner; her son moved out, and now, after the way of kids, isn’t speaking to his mother.

As she took off her helmet the Permit Queen said apologetically that she had brought me some wine – islanders often pick up shopping for each other – only she’d missed a ferry and had opened one of the bottles.

I invited her in to carry on drinking the open bottle with me.

We fell to talking of politics a little, and I asked her about the peculiar American practice of caucusing. Voters registered for the party gather in a central place – on this island it was held in the Grange – and try to win over their neighbours. I have never taken part in a caucus – they are only held in a few states – and I was curious to know how it worked.

The Permit Queen said that everyone was told to go stand in a particular part of the room, depending on which candidate they backed. The confused McCain enthusiast was sent away, and then the number of caucasers for each candidate was counted before they regrouped and the supporters for the stronger candidates tried to win over those of the weaker ones.

When the first division was called she went to the Edwards part of the room. I asked her did people then try to change her mind?

“Oh yes,” she said, “After a while G— offered me a bottle of gin. So then I caucased for Hillary.”

May 13, 2008

Report from the Survivalists

Filed under: The Survivalists — Duchess @ 1:59 pm

Bear on the Cassiar HighwayThe Survivalists arrived in Manley Hot Springs Alaska five days after setting off from here. The website says that half the fun of Manley is getting there.

Their half of the fun went like this: from the ferry straight to Costco for a cooler, folding stove and more food to add to the supplies already loaded on the pick up. That evening they got as far as Hope, BC where they stopped for the night, having first negotiated Daisy’s (that’s Fluffy’s fiance) room rate. The hotel proprietor, a young man in Sikh dress with a white turban and elaborately curled moustaches said the dog charge was $10. An elderly man, also seeking a room, butted in that he had a dog too. “It’s a little dog; it don’t amount to anything and I ain’t going to pay.” An argument ensued with the old man repeating that his dog was too little to be charged and the proprietor insisting that all dogs paid $10. The old man started to walk out and the young man began to waver, and then my mother piped in that if he didn’t have to pay for his Pomeranian she wasn’t going to pay for her Toy Poodle.

The proprietor stepped good-naturedly from behind his desk and, barefooted, said he would go out and see these tiny dogs. After inspection a $5 charge was agreed in both cases, although the Pomeranian, wearing a red sweater, was smaller, as well as more fashionably dressed.

The second day they drove along the Fraser River to Cache Creek and along the Yellowhead Highway to Vanderhoof. The following morning, as they started up the Cassiar Highway, it felt to them as if they were entering the wilderness at last.

They stopped at Dease Lake on the Cassiar and, with almost everything still shut for the winter season they set about doing some illicit motel cooking. When they had set up their little folding stove they realised they had no matches. The only store had closed up early and a truck driver smoking a cigarette outside only had a lighter that he wasn’t parting with. They drove about town looking for some place open and came upon a restaurant with lights on in the back, where the cook was closing up. He gave them a disposable lighter cheerfully adding that it was guaranteed for 1000 lights and he thought he had probably only lit it 999 times.

My mother’s messages are often foody, and this one made me hungry. Here’s how their day finished:

We got the stove lit. I put the carrots in the frying pan with a bit of water and some butter and salt and partially cooked them. I boiled the rice, and when the carrots were partially cooked I poured the carrot-butter water into the rice. Then I coated the chicken breasts with Italian flavored breadcrumbs and browned them in the pan with the carrots and some garlic, olive oil and butter. We sipped wine, it smelled lovely, and we began to feel competent once more. I made a little salad. After a while we had dinner, and while I washed up in the bathroom basin with motel face soap Jerry put the stuff away and closed up the stove. While doing that he discovered that it had a lighter switch.

Which is all very well, but while they are in Manley I think they are going to have to brush up their survivalist technique.

May 11, 2008

Crime and punishment

Filed under: A long way from home,misc — Duchess @ 8:55 pm

The sun came out while I was considering a blog post on the route the Survivalists had taken to Alaska, so I thought I would have a break and do a bit of gardening. When I tried to go back in for a late lunch I found the door locked.

I remembered, unhappily, that the night before I had had one of my British attacks. In Britain one closes windows and locks doors at bedtime. Once, on a hot summer night many years ago in Oxford, I didn’t close the window and someone crept in and stole all my husband’s jackets. At first I refused to believe it. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said to my husband, who seemed to be accusing me, “who would want your jackets?” Apparently not even the thief did, because the jackets were afterwards discovered in a nearby alley.

A year or two later we bought a house in rural Oxfordshire next to the combined post office and village shop. Two weeks after we moved in I stood idly watching out my kitchen window as three men entered the shop. In just a few minutes they came out, jumped into their car and drove away. When the car went around the bend faster than I thought appropriate I memorized the number plate. A moment later the postmaster appeared in his doorway, blood dripping from his forehead. I went round to see if he was all right, and when the police arrived I explained that, although I hadn’t actually realized what had happened until the robbers were gone, I had noted the car number.

The policemen were somewhat puzzled by this. They said, “Why would you do that?”

I said, “I’m a very irritable person, and I take down people’s numbers all the time.”

The next day the headline in the Oxford Times was “Have-a-go-hero foils armed robbers”. When the postmaster called his dog instead of handing over the cash the would be robbers hit him on the head with their air gun and fled. The article mentioned that information from a “sharp-eyed villager” had led police to the abandoned getaway car. Although the baddies were never caught, the shopkeepers got invited to a celebration in London of brave postmasters and mistresses and were awarded a medal.

Meanwhile I was repeatedly assured that such a thing had never before happened in the village.

About a year later a man knocked on my door, said he understood that I had done the Post Office a service a while back and with my permission he would like to come for me in a week’s time so that the Royal Mail could express its gratitude.

On the appointed afternoon a large Rover car arrived at my house. The driver wore a hat and there was a clean piece of blue paper on the floor so that I didn’t have to put my feet anywhere other feet had been. I was driven ten miles to the Swindon Sorting Office where I was given a tour and a nice cup of tea with two bourbon cream biscuits (that’s a British cookie containing neither bourbon nor cream) and a cheque for £30, before I was chauffeured back home. I always meant to buy a letter opener with that money.

Like my village, this island is mostly a pretty peaceful place. A “crime wave” was reported some years ago, but it turned out a lot of teenagers were stealing their parents’ stash. And then there was the night a group of young men came over from the mainland and broke into five or six houses and loaded up their car. Unfortunately they missed the last ferry back, fell asleep waiting for the first one, and were arrested at dawn.

Nevertheless, locking the door seemed a sensible, British thing to do, although I am assured no one else on the Island ever bothers. How was I to know that these Yankee door knobs were made so that even while locked you can get out, but it stays locked so you can’t get in again? Far as I know we don’t have this sort of treacherous device in the UK.

When I found I couldn’t get in the front door I went unhappily around the back, where my memory that I had diligently locked that door too was confirmed. I checked the windows – all also locked.

I went into the former garage, now my mother’s studio (unlocked), and poked about for a spare key. I found several spare keys to the studio.

Because I had only popped out to pull some dandelion weeds I had no phone or money or car keys, and only slip-on gardening shoes. I know few people here and no one’s number. I doubted there was a locksmith on the Island or that anyone else would have a key to my mother’s house, but every other man I had met so far was a builder or a firefighter or both. Surely either could fix this.

Fluffy had no collar or lead (leash) so I shut him in the fenced back garden, got on my bike, and rode around to one of my mother’s best friends, G, a woman about my age, whose husband, 17 years her junior, is of the both sort.

There was no sign of G, but not only was her house unlocked, the door was ajar. I went inside, shouted to see if anyone was home, and looked around for pen and paper. Not finding either I saw G’s handbag on the table, and, after a moment’s hesitation, riffled through it. Wallet, but no pen. It occurred to me that mine would be a very compromising position if G or her Firefighter Builder husband should come in.

In a pile of post there was an open letter, official looking, about some structural building work, but it was the only full size sheet of paper I could find. In the living room I discovered a blunt pencil, and reasoning that 1) they wouldn’t fail to notice a note written on the back of this document and 2) as I was only writing in pencil it couldn’t do any serious harm, I left a message.

I wrote, for good measure: “Cold, hungry and homeless,” and then bicycled home, back to gardening. The studio holds one of the three refrigerators here, well stocked with Diet Coke, and in the rental apartment (also unlocked) I found some old mixed nuts left by the last occupants. Nor was I really cold in my gardening tee shirt, as long as I kept digging and raking. But homeless, except for the rental, sans computer and current book, was looking possible. It was late afternoon on a Friday and I was banking a lot on G and her Firefighter Buider.

I hadn’t put my watch on before I went out and there didn’t seem to be a clock in either the studio or the apartment. As I gardened I tried to guess what time it must be, and how long before G got off work.

Early evening G pulled into the drive and a tall woman wearing a black straw cowboy hat got out with her. The tall woman had long black hair with grey streaks at the temple, a strikingly white face and heavily pencilled red lips. She looked like a western Cruella de Vil and introduced herself as a former model and current makeup artist, fourth generation Island resident.

G said her husband had called her with my message. “Didn’t that document look important to her?” he asked. “The engineering report to be filed with the county?”

The three of us surveyed the house. G remembered that a window, reachable only by scurrying up one side of the roof used to be left open for the cat Abelard. We could just see it from below, and it was clearly closed now, Abelard having been dead for some years and Eloise not able to jump higher than a bed. But there was a chance it might not be locked. Cruella didn’t volunteer to climb, and G and I were both too short to reach the bottom of the roof from the ladder we had. At last G declared that her husband was my only hope.

The Firefighter arrived, fetched a longer ladder, lifted himself onto the roof, made his way to the top, removed the screen, opened the window and climbed in, as we cheered below.

Later, in the Island diner, Cruella grabbed my chin, plucked off my glasses, and turned my head side to side. “You have wonderful bones,” she said, “I’d love to do your make up.”

I bought G’s dinner (the Firefighter having gone home). Just before they parted G and Cruella exchanged prescription drugs in the car. Cruella advanced G some valium and in return G gave her something more interesting. “These are for dogs, though,” G said tentatively.

“No problem,” said Cruella.

And that, sports fans, is why there was no blog post on Friday.

May 7, 2008

Housesitting chain reaction

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 1:48 pm

EloiseThe deal is: my friend doesn’t have to have her estranged husband (the out of work musician) living in her garden shed, because he’s living in my house.  I don’t have to keep looking at the for sale sign on my garden gate because I am living in my mother’s house.  And my mother doesn’t have to take Eloise to Alaska.

Eloise is a large, black, eight-year-old cat.  There used to be two cats here, and when new people came over my mother always introduced Eloise first, then paused.  Guests who said, “Oh, is the other one called Abelard?” got on her A list for dinner parties.

Unfortunately, Fluffy is not a cat lover.  My next door neighbours in England have a current cat population of around 40 (they aren’t quite sure, exactly). A high wall divides my garden (yard) from theirs and the cats walk along the top teasing Fluffy and driving him into a frenzy of barking and leaping.  (My neighbour writes that the cats are not having half so much fun now that he is gone.) 

“Scaredly-cat” could have been coined for Eloise; when she sees Fluffy she runs, and when she runs, Fluffy chases her.  My mother consults a dog psychologist.  The psychologist tells her that the dog must learn that the cat is boss.  The way to do this is to lock them in a room together, making the dog lie down while you stroke and praise the cat.

I tried this two evenings.  Since the cat is significantly larger than the dog (and weighs about twice as much), and since she spat and hissed, swatted her paws and swished her tail, Fluffy certainly learned she was the boss.  Fluffy is now terrified of the cat – and looks at me as if to ask how I could have so betrayed him.

Meanwhile the cat is still scared of Fluffy, and now of me too, because I am the madwoman who locks her up with a dog.  She runs when she sees me, and I spend half the bloody night prowling outside in the dark crooning “Here kitty, kitty, good kitty, kitty.”

May 5, 2008

Cinquo de Mayo

Filed under: A long way from home,misc — Duchess @ 10:48 am

I woke up feeling hard done by because it is a Bank Holiday in the UK. I had already missed the traditional Oxford May Morning celebrations, when Magdalen choir sings from the College tower and there is dancing in the streets, and now I was missing my day off.

This was not entirely reasonable, since every day for a fortnight has been a day off for me, but today that is about to end. I have a “job”. I have put it in inverted commas (that’s quotes to Yanks) because it is possible that it is only a rumour – I don’t have a job title, job description, contract, or anything else in writing; no one has asked for my social security number and none of my employers is likely to be around when I report to the office later today.

I did think I might find out a little more about their projects at a community meeting planned for last Saturday, which I risked my life getting to, on account of bicycling on the wrong side of the road. Sig.ra La Kitchenette, a board member of the local non profit that has “hired” me, was meant to give a slide show about their work. Seven people stood in the car park (parking lot) for half an hour, but Sig.ra did not arrive. There was no meeting and I am none the wiser, yet.

May 3, 2008

Taking stock

Filed under: Uncategorized — Duchess @ 6:17 pm

When I was alone in the house I did an inventory. The right side of the road is the wrong side for me and since I am hoping not to have to drive for a week or two I wanted to see when I next need to go off Island to shop.

There are three refrigerators and three freezers here. I find dozens of hamburgers (good for feeding Fluffy), eight pork roasts, five chickens, fifteen lamb chops, four steaks, several bags of fish, a dozen or so chicken breasts and at least as many thighs, two boxes labelled “sausage patties”, and among several nameless, dubious cuts of meat there is one that I am quite sure is a beef tongue.

In the back bathroom, still in boxes, are sixteen tins of chopped tomatoes, five and a half pounds of spaghetti, a ten pound bag of rice, eight cans of chicken noodle soup, a case of Gatorade, some “brownie bites” and enough capers to see me through a decade or two. Also 1500 square feet of plastic wrap, 1000 square feet of aluminum foil (that’s aluminium to my British computer), 300 zip lock bags, 100 garbage bags, 3 gallons of bleach, a gallon of washing up liquid (I’ve forgotten what the Americans call that, but I don’t need to worry because I won’t be buying it), 36 rolls of toilet paper, 12 boxes of Kleenex and more than a 1000 napkins.

I realize that I have fallen amongst survivalists – of the particularly tidy eater sort. I begin to worry that the supply toilet paper and Kleenex is dangerously low.

May 2, 2008

Departures and arrivals

Filed under: Uncategorized — Duchess @ 5:14 pm

I watched my mother and her husband load the pickup for a five month exodus to a cabin in interior Alaska. The preparations had taken longer than they thought and they were both stressed, worried they would forget something, and anxious to get away. Jerry calculated how many tools he could take – they would spend the spring and summer renovating the cabin – and my mother planned carefully the art supplies she would need to keep her occupied. The most time consuming task, though, was gathering all the drugs to keep two American 75 year olds going for almost half a year. For days my mother stood vigil by the telephone, waiting for calls from nurses, and making frequent off Island dashes to pharmacies.

Two weeks earlier I was on a different, larger island. I handed over the keys of my home in a rural Oxfordshire village to an out of work musician and the keys of my narrowboat to One R Piere. I worked my last day at Oxford University, and the next morning my ex husband drove me and Fluffy (who was flying too) to the airport. All the way we talked about partings and change. He parked in the cargo area where pets had to be dropped off, but said he wouldn’t come in because it would make him too sad. Holding Fluffy he said tearfully, “I might see you again sometime.”

I was tearful too. I said, “Of course you’ll see me. I have a ticket to come back in September”

“I was talking to the dog,” he said.

On the small Island the pick up was packed and all was finally ready. I waved good bye, then walked as fast as I could after the truck towards the ferry dock, but it had already pulled away when I arrived. Five minutes later the ferry was docking on the other side and, from across the water, I watched the fifteen or so cars unload. Then Fluffy and I turned and went back to the house.

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