Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chainsaw and Keyboard Season, Hallelujah

My hands don't make an oar shape lately. I've forgotten what bait smells like. I owe a seafood favor to someone and will have to acquire the goods elsewhere and then hope they stay frozen and TSA personnel don't confiscate them for looking like a menace to air travel. I guess St. Croix USVI is a hard location to ship fresh lobsters or shrimp to.

I finished an interior job and started a chainsaw project yesterday. Formidable as is the Stihl 211, I felt like one termite in a very large forest of tangled and blown down spruce trees. Taking a break, I looked across Matinicus Roads, past Ten Pound Island and the Hogshead. All the outlying ledges and islets were sharp white against a blue black ocean. Everything else in every direction was gray, so the black blue and white had a glow of their own, appearing hemispheres removed from the way the area looks in summer. We are Spitsbergen and a summer island paradise depending on the calendar.

I've also been working the sit muscles pretty hard and going back to law school in a manner of speaking. I've started legal research work. I was never the legal analyst, so this is a good chance to fill some gaps in my education. Lots and lots of screen time and ass time only broken by feeding the stove and school children.

That's the beauty and the peril of this life. I'm able to do a bunch of really different things as long as I don't mind being cold, inhaling urethane fumes, dodging falling trees and hardest of all, using my brain while sitting still. As long as I don't mind always being half a step ahead of delinquency notices and calls from customer service professionals who may monitor my call for training and quality assurance.

So today, the snow was whipping and my sinuses pretty well malfunctioning and I decided not to flog myself. What a luxury. I've had many years of dragging myself through court, correctional facilities, sterns of commercial fishing vessels and school while very much under the weather.

On one occasion, I was scheduled to be in front of a superior court justice who is now a federal prosecutor. I was scheduled to be in 2 courts at the same time, which is a fact of life for criminal defense counsel. I was sick as a dog, but apparently indispensible to the justice system and sorely missed by Delahanty. Neither court would accommodate the other, so I went to one and then the other. The judge called me to his office and assembled an audience to watch the verbal horsewhipping. I knew full well that on docket days there is infinite flex in the schedule and that no business made my presence a critical requirement. I guess he had a bad day, for which I feel long term gratitude because I decided that day to stop taking those kinds of cases where I wound up broke with holes in my shoes and a sour disposition. Thanks for helping me along the way, your honor.

We have time for our kids, mindless media entertainment and mid week jammy days. We make up for it the other 11 months. Like Lisa says, this is what January is for.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chapter 2, Cellar Stairs

Chapter 1 appears earlier in the blog.

The next morning, Patrick opened the cellar door and better understood the lack of evidence of the tenants’ departure. The bottom of the stairs was under an avalanche of black plastic bags. The adventurers discovered one of the island realities left out of waiting room magazine pieces: there’s no place to get rid of anything. Properly, at least.

There are, however, plenty of woods and ocean bottom. Combustion gets rid of a lot. Refrigerators shoved down one of the steep bluffs often beached themselves in storms the following winter.

Patrick’s own early visits in the summer mingled the sea fog and beach roses with smoldering plastic and damp paper fires. Some times it was just a few things burned in a fifty gallon metal drum with air holes punched in it. Sometimes it was a massive upside down dumping into the sky of a black oily column of former rope, styrofoam, vinyl siding scraps, insulation and anything else inconvenient and combustible.

When he was sterning for Ray Moody, one trap came up full of jelly jars, catfood or tuna cans and a plastic Bart Simpson head. When he first had his own boat, one of the playful and properly pedigreed fishermen left him ice teas and beers, nicely chilled from the ocean bottom and giving refreshment along with the little chill that goes with being reminded who’s in charge out there.

Trash was a different matter here. You learned how much stuff you create just by living in the 21st century and adjacent to the United States of America. You learned that washing out meat trays with hot soapy water because the recycle program will take them was a lot easier than not doing it and having the smell and mess and attractiveness to pests. You get good at punching down cardboard boxes, nesting cans and doing every other trick to work the volume numbers more in your favor and have a little more living space for yourself. It is a part time job that on the mainland Patrick and family, along with most of the republic usually delegated to holes in the earth and waste trucking companies.

There were only actually 8 bags trailing up from the bottom of the cellar stairs. Pat would huck them up into the kitchen, sort through, wash what needed to be washed, haul it to recycle and compost, toss the animal products- if there were any- on the rocks for the gulls, burn a little, bag a little to haul back to a proper garbage receptical on the mainland.

He’d done it before. His own. Summer renters’. Dumpers’. Sorting through, trying to clean up and organize, trying to help things find their way along. When Patrick was practicing street law- criminal defense, child protective and divorces for poor people with no stocks to fight over- a crusty old DA, constantly in the news for blunt and intemperate remarks had told him “I’m really just a gahbij collecta. A human garbage collector. That’s what I do.”

Patrick on the other side of the courtroom aisle, and with 20 years’ hindsight hoped that when he did that work, he was more of a recycler, helping along those mixed up souls at the bottom of the cellar stairs of society.


Conversation deep underground. Rock. Aquifers. Magma. Motion. Rolling old green mountains with thick coats of dirt and trees. Inland to ocean waterways. Large lakes. Drier. Unclothed rocks. Brown corduroy rolling hills. Prairies with barbwire fences poked into the frozen ground. All talking around their table, passing the ancient message. It vibrates up through the soles of human feet separated by thousands of miles. In a courtroom in Montana.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Cover

I'm sitting on a dry dead spruce limb. It's frozen into the pond. My 2 younger kids are crazy for ice skating, so here we are, lacing up on the frozen pond. We explore the inlets and coves and islets within the little island within Penobscot Bay in the Gulf of Maine. There is the sunset. Over there is the hut, collapsed and almost consumed by the woods at the far edge of the pond. Here we are. Lucky. Privileged to be in this natural wild windy fresh place, twirling, gliding.

I've never been to a rink. Only ponds. Dark murky mosquito-y places in the summer. Silver gray places in skating season. We're here 'til dark. All week.

I'm thoroughly out of touch with the water. The ocean and ocean's work is all consuming, until it's done for the year, when it ceases to exist. Now there is the computer keyboard to tap and the woodstove to endlessly feed. Future work to plan. Inside fix-ups. A long trailing list of tasks at least a quarter of which will be on next winter's list unless their malfunction presents some emergency. One thing on the list was a pair of bedrooms.

The two younger kids roomed together in a cozy, basically big closet sized room. The 34 clowns coming out of the vw beetle have nothing on those two. Conventional figuring of cubic feet provides no explanation how all that stuff could fit into such a tiny space. The contents of that room took up the entire rest of the upstairs while I tried to prioritize, give away, strategically save and distribute all the thousands of items- toys, puzzle pieces, disembodied lego heads, fourteen thousand crayons/pencils/markers, long lost jammy bottoms, remnants of smuggled candy and fruit, homework and, of course, a couple of dozen socks that probably were originally sold as singles.

When spring comes, the some of the other single socks will emerge from the dead grass around the yard.

I'm nowhere near ready for that. I need Snow Cover. I need time to catch up and I need the limits imposed mercifully by the season.