Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fifty pounds of flour and a Kindle

There's no store on the island I shop online; heck I browse online, especially on eBay.

What isn't on eBay? I found my favorite boots (no longer in production) and bought a slightly used pair for $20.00 plus shipping ($230.00 new).

I found the last two rucksacks (daypacks) that I've owned: covering nearly thirty years of daily use. I had to retire my old Eddie Bauer rucksack when it was no longer waterproof; the Gregory Apex is semi-retired because the zipper pops open. I'm tempted to buy the Eddie Bauer pack because it was my all-time favorite, but I know my  Osprey Talon 11 is a superior daypack. Besides, I don't carry a daypack around every day like I did in town.

I usually don't have anything I need to carry on the island. No wallet, checkbook, keys or phone. It's quite different when I have to go off-island. We all have a mantra: wallet-keys-phone. That's the bare minimum. If I forget the garbage and recycling I can get to it next time: three months of garbage and recycling for is two small bags. I also have to find the town underwear and hopefully clothes that aren't too terribly muddy.

Remember, we live on an island with no ferry service: bringing a car back and forth is $300 a pop on the barge. Some of the summer residents load up their trucks for the season and barge it over, then barge out with their garbage at the end of the season.

Full-time residents keep a car in town and one on the island; we get a lot of exercise lugging our supplies. For me it's supplies from the store to the truck, from the truck down the dock to the boat, from the boat (often rowed in via dinghy) up the beach to the trail, up the trail to the house... and finally I get to put everything away. Fifty pounds of dog food, fifty pounds of rice, you get the idea. On the up side, I only got to town four or five times a year.

Well, it's come to this -- yesterday I didn't buy several books because they weren't available as eBooks. Maybe I saved myself a few dollars, and maybe I really didn't need the books (ha!) but I'm definitely falling prey to the "have it now" syndrome. Or maybe not, since we can wait weeks for "next day" UPS. (If the runway is a mudhole, the planes won't land. Our packages pile up in a warehouse eight-ten  miles by air or eighteen-twenty miles by water from us. Even our mail occasionally goes awry because we have no streets or street addresses.

Life on an island...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Could'a Been a Librarian

I didn't like Dr. Suess.

Oh, except for The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and One Fish Two Fish. Truthfully, by the time his books were really, really popular in school libraries I was older than the target audience. I remember my high school biology students blinking at me in disbelief when I told them I hadn't read The Lorax because it was published when I was in high school.

So what was I reading as a child back in the Pleistocene? The World Book Encyclopedia  -- I am not kidding! I only had two "American" books: a children's book about a spaniel and hollyhocks (not The Poky Little Puppy, which I didn't read until I was a teacher); and an alphabet book -- I recall imitating my immigrant father's accent on the V and Y.

No fairly tales -- I didn't know a thing about Mother Goose until I started school. My parents, realizing there was a cultural gap, signed up for the Best in Children's Books series and I received five or six books -- after which I think the subscription ended.

The tales my dad told me were about women warriors who wrote poetry and vanquished ghosts... and Fu Mu Lan ( and NOT the Disney Mulan, please!) a teenager, an expert in martial arts, sword-fighting and archery; who passes muster as a man in the army. To do this she UNBINDS HER FEET! And after the battles, she goes back to being a woman. And she gets married, apparently still a virgin after twelve years in the army.

The unbinds-her-feet part of the story is where mom would interject that her mother was sent off to America as a picture bride because she refused to have her feet bound.

This was cue to make my not-that-story-again face and go bury my face in a book--from age 8 to 10 on it was horse books: Black Beauty, King of the Wind; the Black Stallion series.

I  read Steinbeck's The Red Pony in the fourth grade -- which started my lifelong admiration of librarians.

The librarian knew the story was a little rugged for a nine-year-old and gently suggested that I wait to read it. I wouldn't be put off-- it was a book about HORSES, for heaven's sake. She asked we could read it together after school. I lived just behind the school and my parents agreed that it was OK for me to read quietly in the library for an hour after school.

I galloped through the first chapter. The pony dies at the end of the first chapter! Wait, this wasn't right, the pony couldn't die! The librarian was there to discuss this disturbing thing with me. I don't remember what we discuss, I do remember she asked if I wanted to read more, explaining that the book was made up of four short stories.

Were they all sad stories? Yes -- and no, she told me. I chose to keep reading, every day after school for two weeks, followed by a discussion with the librarian.

After that I wanted to read more Steinbeck -- and she guided me first to the Log of the Sea of Cortez and then recently-published  Travels with Charley, followed by The Pearl. By the time I finished sixth grade, I read all of Steinbeck that the librarian could find for me.

I've always wanted to be a librarian and somehow didn't end up as one, diverting into teaching and then moving out here. I took a stab at earning a MLIS, but what would I do with $50,000 of student loan debt on an island with no library?

Tiny Library, that's what!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Did an early run to the mail shack this morning to mail bills. No lights except my headlights, no signs of life at all, even though there are a couple of full-time residents down where I live. Nothing except the arrow-straight rain-shiny dirt road which used to be the airstrip.

There are houses all over the island; but most of them are not occupied this time of year. The folks here fall into a variety of categories: full-time residents (there are maybe 30 of us); snowbirds who live in warmer climates November-April; homeowners who come out for a few days every month year-round; folks who come only in the summer and stay most of the summer; and summer folks who come and go; and oh yes, folks who used to come up a lot but only appear for a few days in summer.

The island is filled with houses that are unoccupied most of the year. When there are lights on, we can not only tell who's here, but often how many people (if a family is here with the kids or grandkids, the lights upstairs and down are on...etc). I can even tell who's here from across the bay, tiny points of light -- "Oh, the so-and-so's are here!"

A place filled with mostly vacation homes is an interesting place in the off-season. The houses aren't abandoned, but they aren't occupied. They are watched after and kept up (by myself and others); but empty. Some houses are dust-sheeted for the season, others look like someone might come home at any minute.

Although folks don't have complete freedom as to what they can build here, most built the house they wanted, which means there are houses of wildly diverging styles are scattered hither and yon. Architect-designed houses with granite counter tops, open plans, wood beams Eames chairs or French Provincial dining tables...compounds with interconnected buildings, "ski-chalets" with huge stone fireplaces left over from the 1960's, airplane hangars with living space, trailers, yurts, stacks of containers on their way to being a dwelling, "freeway houses"  bought for a dollar and barged to the island when I-5 was being built; and a hundred variations on the "cabin" theme.

But unless you know where to look, there doesn't look like there's much on the island at all.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Persistence of Memory

I like to do photo-a-day or do art-every-day prompts: this month it's photo-a-day and the prompts for yesterday and today were "key" and "lucky". Tempted as I was to riff off my name for "key", I decided to combine the two prompts and snap a pic of this combination lock -- with the very amusing brand name "Sesamee".

I've had the lock among my things for years: it was on the door of various spaces used for the Computer Giveaway and it belonged to my friend Ellen. Of course, I knew the combination by heart: Ellen explained shy she'd chosen the numbers.

So when I went to open it I was surprised that the combination that I was absolutely positively sure was the right combination -- wasn't. I tried it several times, in different combinations. I knew there were two ones, I was positive the combo was 3-1-1-7 or 3-1-7-1, or 1-7-1-3 had to be.

It wasn't. I made a list and tried every version of the three numbers. Then I realized -- nope -- 3-1-1-7 was my door code for another place I worked. After that I realized that the combo was something else altogether, it was two numbers that meant something to Ellen, but Ellen is gone, she passed away in 2006.

I thought, "I opened this lock every day for years, I know it's an easy-to-remember number, I know there are doubled numbers and if I let my my brain go, I'll remember."

And I did, after a couple of days of trying various combinations, during which I recalled five sets of four-digit access codes from Ivey Seright and my locker combination from high school.

I was very proud of myself, having groped through a lot of number combinations. But I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd remembered that Ellen's birthday was April 26!