Friday, July 23, 2010

Strolling Castine

A friend once questioned why I would express melancholy or a bit of anguish or similar on a blog post. I wish I never had to do that. But I started out writing this more for me, and us, than I did for anyone not expressing such things when I am feeling them to any degree seems like a personal injustice. Perhaps not a lie, but not-the-whole-truth. And I like to look back at my thoughts every bit as much as my pictures. In the pictures- memories. But in the thoughts and feelings- the history of the growth through the journey. There are mountains. There are valleys. Even when you live on the mountain there are times when you must pass through the valley. And if you find yourself dwelling in the valley, there are times when you must cross the mountain as well. Living on the plains between the two may be possible, but has never seemed totally appealing to me, so I suppose I must conclude that all of life's ups and downs are necessary...and not to be ignored.

We continue to be seemingly unable to escape the sadness of recent personal losses, but we are trying to get back our healthy and happy perspective as best we can. A stroll around the coastal Maine town of Castine seemed just the thing. If there is anything flat about Castine, I wouldn't be able to tell you what it is or where. The little league baseball field had to be nestled into the interior of the Fort that overlooks the scenic harbor- as I suppose it was the only parcel of level land, however small, that they could find. Main Street is hilly in all directions. "Being in shape" greatly benefits anyone walking around town- which, for the shopper in you- is more about real estate offices and less about souvenirs and basic merchandise. But the scenery is calming and spectacular and inspirational even for those in the distraction of the doldrums. Doldrums. A nautical term referencing "calm" and "directionless" befitting the situation as the winds of fate have seemingly stopped pushing us on a predictable course for the time being. There is only one thing to be done in the doldrums- wait. And try to find a way to enjoy the calm that comes before the exhilaration of the next wind.

It was a slow and deliberate stroll. There was not so much to see... as there were images to reflect upon:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Farewell To Abby The Wonderdog

The thing about dogs (and Abby was the best of the best of the dogs) - they love you unequivocally. The more love you give them, the more they have to return....and so it was in this household where Abby, and her sister before her, Carly, shared our space and our lives and our trials and our tribulations. The hole in our universe now that her time, their time has passed is huge. The day we knew had to...and would come...did. Abby's heart was still strong. Her eyes were still vital and alert, but the rest of her had pretty much shut down. The legs that needed to carry her up and down the stairs to the coach were failing fast. The ramp was no longer enough to carry her in and out. She had trouble standing up...and trouble getting back down. Pain, despite the doctor's remedies, was her constant companion. And this day it just became too much for everyone.

So Abby The Wonderdog is no longer on the road with us. Our journey will be longer and lonelier. But memories will be our new companion. Abby was born in Honduras and flew to America. Believe us, she was a LEGAL ALIEN. She accompanied us to 49 of the 50 states- (we all missed Hawaii) and three countries. She visited Alaska twice. She was cool, calm and collected in the presence of buffalo, elk, caribou, all manner of bears, even wolves and coyotes. German Shepherds? Not so much!

She never met a snack or a treat she didn't fully appreciate. Next to the first walk of the new morning, dinner time was her favorite time of day. She never protested being dressed up in ridiculous fashion for a blog post- wearing a pirate's three cornered hat, comes to mind...and I swear to you she loved putting those gigantic sun glasses on for our annual Christmas Card shot each year.

Somewhere tonight I hope and pray she is fine without us. Resting comfortably. Sniffing good smells. Sharing munchies with a friend. Barking only when necessary. Getting lots of pats from adoring fans. Wearing her signature scarves. Loving...and being loved. That was her specialty!

We hope to be OK again soon too. But not right now. And for sure- never the same....

And wrapping it up with images from Roatan, Honduras, where we lived for 5 years and which is the birth place of Abby and her twin sister Carly. If there is consolation in this day, it is that they are inseparable again in the afterlife as they were in life- chasing each other round and round and round a coconut palm there on our beach, or chasing the iguanas that usually managed to say out in front....or the yard chickens that usually didn't manage to stay out in front...or maybe just resting under the avocado tree munching their choice of select fruits of the day. They came into this world filled with love and they left it the same way they found it. If only we could all do as well.............

Thursday, July 15, 2010

North To Maine

We wrapped up our stay in Pennsylvania with a get-together with a bunch of the guys that were in the award winning Wilson High School band together back in 1966 (Oooo, that sounds lousy). It was a great event. From there we headed north to Connecticut to spend a wee bit of time with my BFF Steve and his wife. Then a stop-over in Boothbay Harbor to visit Marilyn's BFF Nancy. We confess to eating every last bit of the "Five For $30" lobster special while camped out there at Shore Hills. Yesterday we landed in our main (Maine) destination at Patten Pond near both Ellsworth and Sedgewick, Maine. We'll be visiting with Dick and Sarah and seeing what trouble we can get into around the house that they built. Hopefully we get some "dirt" time in the greenhouse- that's opretty much what we miss most about being on the road full time- the gardens. True, we have two traveling herb pots that are pleasant enough, but that's just not the same.

I'm gonna put up a few shots from our day trip to Camden, Maine- a town just north of where we ran our business. It's cute. It's quaint. maybe even picturesque- but didn't seem to be so to the degree it always used to be. Of all the coastal towns that we drove through on the trip north I have to say that my old Rockland looked the best. Cudos to them. They seem to be "up" while much of the coast looks "down" to me. Places where a reservation was not only a must in the past but also darn hard to get- you can now just drive in and pick your spot. Staycations seem to be the norm pretty much where-ever we go right now. It's a shame, especially in places where the tourist season is short but oh so important....

I'm finding it hard to get back into the routine of posting and photographing, photographing and posting. Dealing with the loss of someone who has been such a big part of life takes some of the wind from your sails to be sure. So please be patient if the pace of the blog comes back however gradually. Much of what we can do right now is more internal that what we have been doing in the past.......

Below: Camden, Maine- where the mountains meet the sea and the harbor is punctuated with a waterfall that cascades out from under the main street businesses like The Smiling Cow

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Terror In Trailerville

When last I posted I posed the question: "What next?" In the weeks, even months, since then most of what happened was making sure that the family business was all in order after dad's death. It was a somber task and a consuming challenge- especially in light of trying to get things done quickly rather than over the years that such things often require. While trying to accomplish all this, we pretty much stayed at the house. The coach was in the shop for a while undergoing the body work that needed doing from the previous trip to Pennsylvania when a tow truck cracked the frond end of the rig while hauling it in to repair a broken antifreeze line. But most of the time, it sat unattended in a campground just waiting for our very occasional visits to check that everything was going OK. Problem was it wasn't always going OK. A back flow preventer in the water line got a tad fussy and allowed salt water from the softener system to circulate through the coach. I suppose a saltwater shower is an all right kinda thing but as drinking water it's the pits. This happened not once, but twice during our prolonged stay at the house. On yet another visit to the coach, we arrived to find that the super fancy side by side refrigerator freezer that can run on electricity or propane decided that it was no longer prepared to work so hard if no one was going to be around to appreciate it- so it stopped- taking with it several hundred dollars worth of meat and produce that was stored in the unit. Turns out those reports of 3500 dollar repair jobs on RV fridge cooling units are very true indeed.We could have lived with that. It was the mold and the melty, slimy, nasty juice and warmed up funk that we could have lived without. Having to deal with that at a time like this, or anytime for that just plain WRONG. But you play with the hand you are dealt, unless of course you are willing to fold and walk away. I wasn't made like that, which I suppose is the best reason I don't play poker. Bluff was never my strong suit.

But all these things are tolerable, if barely so. Trouble takes your breath for a time but hardly ever stops you from breathing. But on our last visit to check the coach we got more than would let you keep breathing for a time and made the heart race way faster than it was ever intended to beat.

There had been severe thundershowers in the area. The Pennsylvania days had been heated to the 90's and the humidity was typically high and heavy. But as we turned into the fields of corn that are the approach to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Hershey (it's actually Lebanon, but called Hershey camp), we got our first glimpse of the trouble that lay ahead. The corn stalks were stripped like tassels on a graduation cap. First there were fields that were not like this...and then all of a sudden the fields were all like this. Across the corn field by the tree line there were branches on the ground first. Than small trees. Then larger trees and branches. Road signs warned of danger and closed areas. What was going on here? We had a bad bad feeling as we turned into camp. Trees were down everywhere- some broken but many out of the ground root ball and all. Signs were where they didn't belong. Roofs were missing from structures that had them just days prior. Debris was scattered in every direction and with no rhyme nor reason. Bad storm? For sure. TORNADO!

Once the authorities arrived at camp to assess the situation, it was declared that the storm had been an EF-0 tornado. As tornadoes go that is a small one - 80 mile an hour winds in rotation. Lesson learned: Never want to be in a big one! Or at least never want to be AWAKE when a big one hits. There was plenty of damage to camp. Power out and lines down. Water off line. Sewer plant damaged beyond immediate use. The effort was on cutting downed trees so the rigs that could still move could be evacuated. It was reported that at least 40 of the rigs in camp could not be moved. They had not been picked up and slammed back down as they surely would have been in a bigger tornado. But a giant oak or maple laying across or alongside your rig makes it realty hard to drive down the road. Trust me; I've been there, done that.

If there was good news in the mix, it was certainly the fact that absolutely no one in camp was harmed, including the young family staying in the cabin directly in front of us, which was unfortunately the final resting place of the tree in front of us as well. As the winds were swirling it could just as easily have landed on us. Grateful we are! But there was bad news as well. An adjacent horse farm that raises thoroughbreds had twenty six of their horses cut badly when the barn collapsed and another three that were mauled so badly they had to be put down immediately. The owner of the farm was himself trapped in the barn but was evacuated with only modest wounds.

Family's and neighbors who experienced the late afternoon storm first hand reported it was the scariest thing they had ever experienced. They spoke about the noise. They spoke about the fear that they would have their rig rolled over or be crushed under all the trees coming down. They spoke of the rain that didn't fall at all because it was going sideways. They spoke and then they feel strangely silent as the thoughts of the storm were maybe too much to cope with at the moment. Ten minutes of terror had created a lifetime of concern. We have experienced as much with the nine, yes 9, hurricanes that we have gone through- everything from a Cat 1 to a Cat 5.

Somewhere hence around a late night campfire there will be tales to tell of the tornado that attacked the campground near Hershey. Of the fear that huddled campers in the corners of their all too flimsy rigs. Of feelings that were felt for the first time ever. Of the will to survive and carry on.....

There was one, and only one, as best we could tell, among the campers at the meeting the next day, who was unhappy with the response. I have no idea where he was coming from. That group of campers and rangers whipped out their chain saws, their shovels, their ladders and tackled that debris with the same ferocity that the storm had come in to camp. And a person who saw the camp on day two or even day three after the storm would have had no idea exactly what damage had been done. Campers are a determined lot; gypsies with an attitude. For tomorrow - we will move way or another. And that is as it must be in life.