Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Salty Hell and Feisty Sweetness

First, I didn’t think we were going. It was blowing hard. Undersides of leaves showing on bowed over shrubs. That kind of wind. Blue gray sky. Really? We're not going, are we? Maybe the phone battery quit.

I walked to the wharf with a slight headache which had all day to grow into a vicious octopus of pain, all tentacles and beak inside my skull. Large seas and sharp chop below Matinicus Rock enhanced the experience.

I’ve been out in rough weather occasionally over 5 seasons. The waves grow, and pile up unexpectedly when you’re carrying a trap or walking around a corner. The lobster tank or bait box digs into the lower back or rib cage as the deck tilts suddenly. Traps fall off the washboard. Knees drop out by reflex to keep the center of gravity inside the boat.

I’ve been out when I personally was many points below a hundred percent. Kids up all night, viruses, one hellacious case of poison ivy. People don’t call in sick in this business.

After 160 or so, I kept thinking I needed to pull the cord and ask to be taken in, something I have not done in 5 years in the stern. I kept thinking and hoping the weather would settle down, or the headache would ease, or that I was just seasick, and it would pass. My head was a bundle of very highly functional pain receptors. I kept thinking I was going to toss into the bait box. My knees got rubbery. After an hour or so of that, stubbonrness gave way to the need to be horizontal. And dry and quiet. At the end of the 18th string, I made the call. “I’m afraid I have to ask you to take me in.” Capt. ‘Brook never hesitated or scowled. “It happens” he said.

I’ve never been through anything like that. Kind of stupid I waited so long.

Apple Festival 2010

A growing season we have had. Apples are no exception. Matinicus Isle from the air looks about 90 percent wooded. This was not so back a few generations. The island was almost all pastured, gardened, or otherwise wide open. Places that seem very removed from each other now were easily visible. And there are apple trees everywhere. Side of the road, front yards, tucked in the woods. For a couple of weeks now, on slower afternoons, the kids and I have wandered around with a shopping bag and a gaff, then made lots of applesauce, apple crisp and 16 jars of genuine island apple jelly.

Wild apples are a lot less uniform and photogenic, and a lot more flavorful. Humble a dish as it is, the applesauce has a zing and depth to it nonexistent in jars from the mainland, from trucks, factories and fluorescent lit retail environs. The flavor journals all the sun, fog, wind, rain and feisty sweetness of the place.

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