Friday, September 26, 2014

In the still of the night / on the harbor / we travel

Now at night I hear not the whisper of the river nor the plight of the coyotes but the sound of the ocean moving. It is, for now, a somewhat foreign sound, a background sloshing that comes fore in the night except when I step out on the porch and the sound of water splashing in a fountain draws my attention. I step out on the porch, listen to the fountain, watch it. It is set in a circle of grass, a cul-de-sac, lit by a ring of small spotlights.

Sometimes during the day I hear a boat as it heads out from the harbor: a long, hollow toot, like a foghorn. Or maybe it is a foghorn. Occasionally I hear a distant train whistle; soft traffic noises ebb and flow. Once in a while a passing conversation wafts in, wafts out. There may be sudden laughter, the noise of play. Some days, a leaf blower. Yesterday, a dull banging on the roof. I got up on a chair to look. A murder of crows was up to something.

Mostly, though, it is quiet, with a little birdsong.

birds on a wire
Along about sunrise.

In the morning dew drips from the roof and small pools of water sit on the porch railing and steps and there may be a fog for a while, but not the kind of fog that lays low wisping through long grass and tree branches. Rather, it is the kind of fog that sits high in the sky like a cloud, aspiring, perhaps, to make it over the mountains, to become something more than it is, something more than a fog that disappears quietly well before noon.

We traveled for five days, Josie and Elliott and I, Saturday to Wednesday a week past, listening mostly to NPR, and it became kind of a game to see how far we would have to turn the dial (so to speak) as one station’s broadcast of Morning Edition would begin breaking up and how many words would we miss until we picked another station’s broadcast? Usually not many. The radio highlight, though, was hearing Bill Monroe’s “Doghouse Blues” on an unknown station somewhere in Utah, mid-morning Tuesday.

We traveled for five days through ten states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California.

are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

It was that day, Tuesday, coming out of the west end of the Rockies, winding down into Utah with its canyons and rock and stratified cliffs, this blanket of land as if snapped hard coming to rest in crazy folds and bunches, spread out all around, so expansive as if there were all the earth and sky in the world it could just go on forever, that was, I think, the best day. We landed early in St. George, as planned, and it was as hot as 97 degrees, dry, nothing but sun. The motel room was cool. Late in the afternoon I thought to move the van into some shade, the van being, of course, laden with beeswax. About 200 pounds of raw wax and many candles. You would think I might have been worried about all that wax melting, but I wasn’t, and it didn’t. Still, it didn’t hurt to get the van out of the late afternoon sun on a near-100-degree day.

driving through utah
I kind of like this stretch of Utah.

When we left St. George the next morning, it would be the last time for several days that I would have Internet access. Like many I have an Internet habit (not to mention business!), and when it could not be satisfied in its usual manner it felt a little strange. There are places to go to tap in, of course, but not being able to tap in at home? There were times in the U.P. when I felt a little cut off from the rest of the world, just because it is the U.P., but I almost always had people or something through the Internet and my landline phone was reliable. This past week here in California there was one afternoon when my cell phone died because I was so long on it trying to set up Internet service, and when it died I felt cut off from the outside world. So I went outside. Took Josie to the beach. And I wondered, as I often do, what exactly is so great about having the world at one’s fingertips.

dog on the beach


  1. So, you really did it! I'm on the road, too, heading to see my parents in Wisconsin. A 12 hour trip is turning into forever.... I just can't take the expressways around the big cities anymore. By the time I got to Rockford, I was exhausted and almost had a panic attack going up a little ramp. Not even a big one, just a small one... My whole body shut down, I slowed to 20 mph and thought I was going to puke. I have a really tough time going over bridges now, too. Ugh.

    How would I manage a cross country trip like you? I can't cross the Mississippi... Pay someone to drive me across every bridge?

    I did the same thing as you, too, flicking around to hear NPR on different stations, hoping I wouldn't miss much.

    The world at one's fingertips? Well, I have to say that I am always happy to see Pea Pickle Farm show up in my inbox... Glad it's going well, Leslie!

    1. Oh, the freeway here would kill you. It widens, it narrows, arrows all over pointing every which a'way. And then there's the distraction of the ocean, the mountains, the blazing blue sky ... zippety-zip then ... screech! Brake! Sit! Anyway. Wisconsin is usually pretty nice this time of year. Hope your parents are well.

  2. We in California welcome you!!!!!