I try to remain upbeat. No news is good news. Worldwide. And then wordpress lost my draft of this post. I persisted.
We spent Christmas in Quebec City where the first of the season’s viruses coursed through me. I missed dinner at my favorite restaurant where Tim dined alone. Instead, I watched the movie Madagascar in French in our Airbnb. Cartoons are a great way to learn a language. There is so much physical comedy and pantomime. No photos from that trip. I did manage to order a sandwich completely in French though.
Our bridge work at home continues without causing any hardship. Where there was one, there were two, and now there is only one again. We are using the new temporary bridge. The old temporary bridge has been taken apart.
My daughter and I compared cranes at job sites. She won.
Cold weather moved in. I hunkered down. We are celebrating the holidays with the extended family next week so I have been making and creating. Weaving really provides solace these days. Chinese dumplings will be on the menu.
And I knit a clock! What fun.
The cabin provides a nice escape and the views are wonderful.
We have had enough snow to cross country ski from home. But it’s getting warmer this weekend, with heavy rain and flooding in the forecast. The first test for our temporary bridge.
It amazes me how a small town pulls together. If someone becomes sick, there are various fundraisers to help the family, a meal chain is created and a village rallies.
We have no real emergency except we won’t be able to drive our own cars anywhere due to the bridge’s washout. Yesterday a neighbor’s friend built a temporary walkway so we can at least somewhat safely cross the gap.
One of our neighbors’ cars is already on the other side of the bridge at the repair shop. It has been offered up as a vehicle for us all to use. Another friend offered the use of their car. Our UPS driver called the house and asked if I wanted my packages left at work!
A neighbor across the road from the bridge said we could keep a car there. Construction engineers were here scratching their heads figuring out the best way to tackle this new development in the midst of replacing the bridge anyway. Obviously we would like five minutes to scoot one of our cars to the other side.
I’ll be able to at least walk to work but will probably cancel other plans. Tim will catch a ride to his concert today.
And why haven’t the bluebirds left yet?
Maybe they want to get their fill of these beautiful berries.
We live in a region of the Adirondacks called the high peaks, named for the 46+ mountains over 4000 feet in the area. They have been ablaze with color. People pull over on the roadside to try to capture the colors with their phones and cameras. It’s not always so easy.
There was smoke over the pond on an early morning venture.
Looks pretty drab after all.
Yesterday we wanted to swim but found the pool was going to be full of kids and no lap lanes would be available. Instead we went for an afternoon stroll out back. Holy cow!
The colors were stunning. Even the ground cover was bright red.
Tim took me to a lookout with great views of our little home sweet home and the mountains. What a beautiful place.
Time to get out the woolies.
A trip to the University health center brought a surprise. A sculptured sewing machine and quilt, three stories high. Perfect fall colors.
Travel means more time to knit. My last trip enabled me to finish a mitten and knit two hats for friends’ birthdays. It was fun to design one hat on the fly. The mittens have a clever cuff, you turn the knitting inside out after half the cuff is knit. A little mind blowing. (It doesn’t take much these days). Although these projects will only pass through my hands, many things I have knit on the road become my souvenirs and remind me of a time and place.
This little froggie is lucky I didn’t have to take the car out the other morning. He was hanging out on the garage apron. He looks a little stern anyway.
Our travels took us back to Montreal last week to see a fabulous concert by the Montreal Symphony. It was a matinee and we spent the afternoon walking around Mount Royal. The population is almost four times the number in Quebec City you feel it. No bonjours, hellos or even head nods. Every one is on their own mission in their own thoughts. Been there, done that.
Small town living is the life for me.
Monarchs are getting ready for their big trip south. Their numbers have fallen by around 75% over the past 20 years, largely due to reduction in milkweed. Our food chain depends on the birds, bees, butterflies. This is serious. The larvae need the milkweed. The adults enjoy nectar, or so it seems to me. Fort Ticonderoga and Saranac Lake shops provided plenty of nectar for the butterflies.
We’ve had frost at night. Time to hit the road butterflies.
We had a last minute vacation when a caretaking stint fell through and we had already booked the time off. We headed north to Quebec and experienced urban living and wilderness within two hours of each other.
First stop, Old Quebec City. We walked for hours, ate dinner out every night and joined the other tourists admiring the St. Lawrence River. One night, there was a live piano player (so much better than a dead one) who accompanied silent films on a large outdoor screen. Charlie Chaplin was more funny than I imagined.
I admired the old buildings and use of stone. And surprisingly, the lights.
When we had our fill of city life, we headed further northeast to the Saguenay Fjord. We hiked and went on a whale watching tour in Tadoussac at the mouth of the Fjord.
It delivered! Although we did not see any of the renowned Beluga Whales, we saw lots of Minke and Humpbacks, diving, doing the whale tale thing. I didn’t even try to get any photos. I did get photos of other boats watching the whales.
When the tour company told us, due to the south wind, we were bound to get wet and the temperature was in the low 60’s, we opted for the Big Boat. I took this photo while I was down below enjoying a cuppa.
The fjord and the St. Lawrence seaway are magnificent. The fjord is 300 meters deep in many places and is a perfect meeting and eating place for several species of whales and seals (as our guide yelled phoque). Cliffs rise on either side and sunrises and sunsets were stunning.
Tim spotted this jewel of a spot on our way to Tadoussac and we returned for a short hike the next day. This statue was out a viewing platform overlooking Rose du Nord, the pearl of Saguenay. Perhaps she is Rose. It’s a beautiful fishing and farming village tucked into its own cove on the fjord.
After a few days on the north side of the fjord, we headed south to the national Parc Saguenay at Riviere Eternite. We had the cutest little Echo Chalet. We were glamping! All we brought were our sleeping bags and towels.
We stretched our legs and took a few hikes.
I almost opted out of getting the view from the top. We met a woman on our way up. As we approached the summit, she had abruptly turned around and was headed back down because she had seen a bear.
So what did we do? We banded together and kept walking. To Tim’s annoyance (because he wanted nothing more than to see a bear) I made as much noise as I could. Subsequent research confirmed black bear attacks are very rare – only about 20 in the past 20 years – but the most recent occurred September 5 in …Canada. Oh my!
We made it home to find geese flying west? And a stunning view right from my porch.
It’s always good to come home to the Adirondacks, which no longer feels like wilderness. French lessons begin today.
We have sailed Lake Champlain for several years. A lot of our time was spent around Northwest Harbor in Westport. To be sure, there are beautiful anchorages and mountain views but it’s wonderful to have a change of scenery, which is what our new little red speedboat provides. And we don’t have to spend three nights on the sailboat to get there. (Spoken like one who has crossed over to the dark side, with a two stroke engine no less).
We’ve been to Lake Placid, where we had a trial run, the northern part of Lake George, Basin Harbor, Button Bay, Valcour Island and island camping in Lower Saranac Lake.
Boating season in the Adirondacks is quickly coming to an end. We went kayak camping the past few days and the thermometer dipped into the 30’s at night. Luckily we were comfy mummified in our sleeping bags. The weather was still nice enough to be on the water during the day and we even took a brief swim.
Although the lean to was great, I do not sleep in lean tos. I have visions of mice running through my hair while I snooze. Zip me in a tent anytime.
We shared the lake with three loons who called to each other throughout the day and night. A perfect Adirondack accompaniment. At home we hear coyotes and they are not all that different.
We managed to kayak through an unlikely passage. The map clearly showed water around an island. It forgot to mention cattails and lilypads. We had at least ten inches of water at anytime, which is all we draw in kayaks. Some areas were so close, paddling was impossible and we had to resort to poling.
The scenery was spectacular, company was outstanding, camp food was passable and a good time was had by both.
As always, summer in the Adirondacks flies by. The days are getting shorter and the nights colder. Work and visiting with friends and family has kept us busy. The new boat and truck are working out. We took a fabulous camping trip with the next two generations and Oma’s red boat was a big hit. And as hoped, I am having fun doing the repairs as I am able.
I have sewn and repaired the boat canvas, installed a couple of cleats, gathered a tool kit, greased (or in this case floated oil) for the trailer’s wheel bearing and, oh yes, dropped some money. Spare tires, jack kit, radio, new horn and a couple of minor repairs. It begins.
This guy was in the road when I drove to work last week.
So handsome. I kept my distance and he lumbered off in to the field.
Yesterday, I spotted this salamander during my walk.
On a mission.
We seem to be spending a lot of time in Saranac Lake recently. This week for dinner and a play. This show was on display after a rainstorm.
We are caught up at home and settled back into civilization. Back to work, banking, shopping and consuming. Hmmm. Memories of Deal Island arrive every day.
There are simple pleasures at home. We have sandy soil and partial sun due to a mountain to our east. Nothing grows very well. This peony limps along but it has at least 3 blooms this year. Pretty pathetic in comparison to some but beautiful nonetheless.
Tim found this little hummingbird trapped in our garage. It spent the night there. He nudged it outside and I made a batch of nectar. I dripped some into its beak with my finger. I couldn’t even see her swallow. After a while at least she started to look around. I went indoors and watched with my binoculars. It was like watching a newborn take its first steps. I saw her flutter her wings and perch up on the dish of nectar. Some time later she was gone and off with her pals to do hummingbird things. I will never know if it is her at the feeders but will imagine it is.
Strawberries are finally in season and delicious. Both Tim and I brought a quart home. Too many strawberries. So I made a batch of strawberry jam in my instant pot. Good on toast, in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and on vanilla ice cream.
After 45 hours of solid travel, we made it home. Our flight off the island was rough. It was windy and the pilot warned me my head might hit the ceiling. It didn’t and Tim managed to get a beautiful parting shot. One of my favorites. It shows the magnitude of the cliffs, the sea and the beautiful lighthouse, now partly painted.
We spent a day on lovely Flinders Island. It really is as beautiful as Deal Island, only with a few more people.
Next stop Launceston, Tasmania, where we visited old haunts: the Cataract Gorge, The Aquatic Center, Museum and the best hamburger joint around (twice). I also had my first flat white not made by me! So pretty.
Then our journey began. We flew to Sydney where we had a nine hour layover. We made good use of our time. We visited my favorite dumpling place and then we toured the Harbor. Never fails to delight.
Then 20 hours of flying…Followed by a six hour drive home. And we made it. After a week, I am beginning to adjust. And home is pretty sweet too.
Ihave hundreds of photos from Deal I was never able to upload. I will gradually get them online, until our next adventure.
We have now volunteered on five islands for a total of more than two years. Each has been an adventure, sometimes hard work, and endless fun. A new island is on the horizon.
What makes island caretaking so fulfilling? Partly, it’s living in the moment. We sometimes slip out of the present and into the future but it’s a limited time frame since none of our stays has been longer than four months. Mostly, we live day-to-day, focusing on the task at hand, listening to the wind and birds, or marveling at the 360-degree beauty. There are very few outside distractions.
We enjoy greeting visitors and making new friends. Indeed, welcoming those who arrive by boat is one of our most important tasks. But, we enjoy nothing more than the solitude, peace, and meditation of having the islands to ourselves.
Four of “our” islands have lighthouses which guarantee world-class views. The fifth, the one without a lighthouse, was no exception, situated offshore between the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
We are always keyed into weather and listen to the forecast on our VHF radio or download it with our limited internet. Fog (sometimes triggering the fog horn), strong winds (blowing down trees and branches), downpours (creating sand slides), and sunny forecasts become an obsession. As I sit writing this, we await a gale gusting to 60 mph with rain, hail, and thunderstorms over four days. We once weathered a storm lasting more than a week with constant 70 mph winds, gusting to 90. Bad things on land are always worse at sea, however, and, as sailors ourselves, many are the nights we’ve been gratefully tucked into our comfortable caretaker houses.
Caretaking isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t want to do it by myself and Lynne is the perfect companion. We find joy in each other’s company, day after day. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the key and we try to reach a consensus on most decisions.
Lynne possesses endless reserves of joie de vivre. Her incredibly eclectic choices in reading reflect her approach to life. She enjoys everything from Marcus Aurelius to Isabel Allende, often focusing on books about the area where we are staying. Similarly, she undertakes endless and varied projects and her skills range from imaginative cooking to weaving to wielding a chain saw. In short, Lynne is the best caretaking companion I can imagine. She never gets bored.
We learned the following dictum from some fellow caretakers. Every day we try to accomplish three things: do something for the island, engage in creativity, and exercise. There is always something to do for the island: mowing, clearing trails, small engine maintenance, building simple furniture, hosing off seagull poo, painting, and on and on. I have no problem with the second because I practice two or more hours a day on my electronic keyboard. Number one often takes care of number three but on those days when I can’t kill two birds with one stone, there is always hiking, swimming, or jogging.
We share our islands with more permanent residents. In Alaska, we marvel at whales swimming sixty feet offshore. In Tasmania, wallabies hop all around us, penguins cry and whistle half the night, and dolphins dance in the coves. In Washington, we spy on napping seals and watch forty bald eagles watching us. And, in Maine, we listen to lobster boats grumbling through the thick fog.
We’ve been doing this off and on for ten years and I’d like nothing better than to do it for ten more. That said, we’re looking forward to coming home.