Yo! Ho! Blow The Man Down…


I just couldn’t resist it.  That title is a line from a sea chanty I learned in Girl Scouts, approximately 1,000,000 years ago.  Never had any need for a sea chanty – my life has been pretty short on experiences of the Raising the Rigging kind, or the Hauling Up An Anchor sort.  On the other hand, I got shunted back to my former lesson horse for a ride earlier this week, and he only felt like going along with the aids for twenty minutes before he got tired of listening to me and blew through them to do whatever the heck he felt like doing.  At one point when I wished for him to walk and he preferred to trot, we went through an escalating sequence of requests and demands that started with a half-halt and ended up with me basically hauling on his head with the reins as if I was pulling an anchor up from the bottom of the ocean.  The sea chanty would have come in handy then, in retrospect, as I was also having to kick him to keep him going, and generally ride a heck of a lot harder than I want to.  Could have used that rhythm…post UP yo! drop DOWN ho! Kick. Up BLOW the man DOWN.  Wish I’d thought of that at the time, because then I’d have left the experience laughing my butt off instead of crying in the car.  Ah, such is life. One credible sector of society says you’re not a real rider until you’ve fallen off.  Another says you’re not a real rider until the horse has brought you to tears.  I didn’t cry when I came off and hit my head and knocked myself out with a big concussion in April, but spending 20 minutes trying to prevent this guy from ramming my leg into the rail over…and…over…and…over…and…over again while keeping him going forward at the desired pace managed to do the trick.  I would like to go back to the other lesson horse, now, the one that acts like an obliging kindergartner, rather than the one that acts like a preschooler who missed his nap.  Please.

I managed to ditch the Horrible Riding Lesson Blues on our way up to Maine.  The coast of Maine is my very favorite place in the world, and that’s from a sample that includes Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, San Francisco, the Colorado Rockies, the San Juan Mountains, Paris, Tuscany, Amsterdam, Jamaica, Niagara Falls, the Thousand Lakes, and all of New England.  Given that this territory covers ground that has a world-wide reputation for Total Fantastikness, that’s really saying something.  I was in such a vile temper after the Day of One Hundred Minor Disasters that I wondered if it would be proof even against the Wonder of Maine.

Fortunately for all of us, it was not.  It’s like there’s a Force Field suspended from the Welcome to Maine VACATIONLAND sign that is placed in the overhead suspension of the bridge out of Portsmouth.  Like in Star Trek, when you walk through the glowy sparkle wall and it decontaminates you.

The coast of Maine always has this effect on me.  It comes in with the smell, which is a magnificent hodgepodge of salt water, fresh paint, balsam trees, and decaying seaweed.  Oddly enough it is that last that really makes everything else work.  It is a nasty smell all on its own, but, like cilantro – an herb with a taste that I hate, but is nonetheless essential for a tomato salsa – it is critical.

Then it hits with the sound. The slapping of wavelets against the rocks.  The sussuration of the breeze in the balsams.  The laughter of a pack of kids racketing up the road on scooters and bikes.  The slow putt-putt-putt of the lobster boat in the distance.  The creaking of the float on the dock as it pulls against the chains that anchor it to the rocks.  The ticking of the infrequent auto, creeping up the road against a tide of kids, couples, and packs of women walking packs of big hairy friendly dogs. The clatter of oars against the locks on a dinghy being rowed out to meet a sailboat. The rattle of a quiver of fishing poles in the hands of an angler and the scrape of his sandals against the tarmac. The scream of the osprey that is hunting from the other side of the peninsula. The roar of a small launch carrying a week’s worth of groceries out to the island next door.  A cracking of the flag whipping in the breeze.

And what is possibly my favorite instrument in the orchestra, the fog horns.  When we arrived yesterday it was clear, but the nearby fog horn was sounding off right as rain, every 90 seconds.  You can tell which fog horn you are hearing by how often it sounds and how long the tone lasts for.  You can also tell which lighthouse you are looking at by the color of its light and the pattern of its flashes.  So yesterday, I was hearing the Ram Island Light – which is no difficult thing to know, since it would take perhaps 20 minutes to kayak over to it from where we stay, and that includes getting the kayak ready to go.  This morning, however, one of the famous Maine Coast Pea Soup Fogs had rolled in overnight – unexpectedly, I must add – and I was hearing the sound of the Burnt Island Light added to the Ram Island Light.  The fog has not entirely lifted, at this time – it was so dense earlier that I couldn’t see the dock from my room…now I can see the dock and the island, and the houses on the island are beginning to emerge, but I know better than to expect that this means that the fog is over.

According to the locals – and the meteorological community, as I found upon doing some research – these fogs are entirely unpredictable.  No one really knows why they come, why they stay, and why they go.  They’re a meteorological mystery. Great fodder for horror stories, as anyone will know who likes Lovecraft.  It is, as my friend said, all too easy to imagine primordial monsters emerging from this fog to swallow every living thing in the vicinity, and then to return, silently, to the pits from whence it came.

I, myself, am not too concerned about this.  For one, the big pack of kids that is diving and pushing each other, screaming, into the water off the float will attract the monster’s attention long before it gets around to noticing me up on the deck of my room.

We stay at an old-school summer colony resort-style inn.  And by “resort” I mean a pool, plenty of access to the water, room for bikes, some ducks that everyone feeds, and white clapboard, black-shuttered buildings scattered all over the lawn.  By “resort” I do not mean a place with a golf course, ten tennis courts, and a spa.  Considering what would happen if someone bought this property and wanted to “update” it is the Stuff of Nightmares for me.  I like it exactly as it is…old-fashioned bedspreads, window-units, shrieking kids, and its slightly battered appearance.  It’s not the kind of place that is going to draw celebrities, thank heavens, or rich Wall Street investment bankers and socially-climbing spouses. When this place draws people with money, which it does, in droves, it’s the sort of money that is wadded up in the sock drawer, paying for private education, or housing horses on the back of the property in very nice barns.  It is not the sort of money that gets spent on $32 martinis, Hum-Vees, big flashy diamond jewelry, and yachts.  Sailboats, yes.  Yachts, no.  It is quiet money, not loud money.  It is money that wears clothes purchased 15 years ago from LL Bean, not Lilly Pulitzer.  Well, maybe Lilly Pulitzer…but not Max Azaria, Gaultier, or Hermes.

I don’t know what we’re doing with this day, and I love that.  The fog has just started to roll back in, as I thought it might.  I can hear the horns of the ferries that serve Monhegan and the other outlying islands.  They need to go, fog or no…and while the fog horn helps them to avoid the island that the light house is on, it doesn’t do a lot to help them avoid colliding with each other.  So periodically, the captain will sound off the horn.  He is saying, in effect “I am here! I am here! I am here!” I just heard the granddaddy of boat horns a few minutes ago.  It’s certainly not the ferry – I’ve been on the ferry in this kind of fog, and worse, and know the sound of that boat.  This was much larger, much louder.  Possibly a huge yacht being sailed by lucky flunkies into the yacht moorings over at Browns in Boothbay Harbor.

I’d like to go kayaking, but with this fog, I’m having second thoughts. Although – and I have seen this happen – it is entirely possible that the next-harbor-over is completely free of fog…or that one side of that harbor is socked in, but one is clear as a bell.  Like I said, the fog is a mystery.


Morning fog on Linekin Bay


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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