Saturday, July 4, 2015

39. On to Shores, Solon, Fernley, Bender and Samas

Alan's route will take him south, around Sandy Bay, to Capetown

Towards evening, the air had cooled off and everyone was back in their clothes. 

Alan wanted to meet these young islanders, so he worked up enough courage to walk over to where most of the crowd was camping. This kind of thing has never been easy for him, though he believes that his "social coach" back in Indiana has been helpful. Plus, he thinks he sticks out like a foreigner. At least he speaks their language! Okay, deep breath, off we go...

He also felt a need to share something so he brought along his package of McVitie and Price's Digestives (imported from England). When he showed up at their campfire, he held out the package and they laughed, and a girl said "Ace!" They in turn invited him to supper, and he was grateful! 

All of these campers (the  oldest might have been twenty) were on their Long Walk. Most were paired up but a few were walking solo, and they all had stories to share. They feverishly chatted about places all over the island that Alan had no clue about, and when he brought his map over, they showed him the location of the Berea Cliffs, Samantha's Wild North, the Beatty Ruins, Gay's Asylum, and that strange place none of them had yet ventured to: Roger's Dreamland.

He enjoyed chatting with them as they sat eating a kind of communal fish gumbo. They mostly talked about where they'd been and where they were heading, and Alan listened in, enchanted by their energy. His head was swimming with all his new information as he finally bid them good night and went to his tent. He slept surprisingly well.

The next morning, his muscles were quite stiff, probably from all the running and chasing yesterday. He manged to get dressed, make some breakfast, and then get a fairly early start on to his next picture assignment, in Capetown. On the way, he noticed he'll pass through several small settlements, including the Shores tribe that those girls mentioned. 

His route to Capetown went right by the Hooksands Light, a noble, red-painted stone tower, whose light slowly revolved. He noticed that it must be laundry day at the adjoining cottage, since there were sheets billowing on the clothesline as a woman (with two small kids running about under her feet) put up some towels. She waved and he waved back. This was like out of a picture book, he thought: the keeper's wife (or the keeper herself!) living out at the lighthouse. No automation here yet!

He figured it would be a three-day walk all the way to Capetown, and he was glad he didn't have to rush. He liked the relatively glacial pace here; he didn't feel he had to be anywhere, and, surprisingly, he didn't miss his phone or Facebook or e-mail! He'd like to hear from his friends, perhaps Michelle, but for now he felt okay just seeing what will come next!

Passing through these tribe settlements, Alan felt he was on another planet. The settlements were tiny, with narrow walkways among the houses and the few shops, or the one main building where supplies and groceries could be acquired (bought or bartered for). The buildings were small, but solidly-built, often of sand-bricks. These, he learned, were made of local sand mixed with a bit of cement, dampened, and then pressed into bricks. Ingenious, he thought. 

While passing through Fernley, he watched two women making the bricks - one constantly mixing the batch, and shoveling the mix into a device they call a brick-press; the other cranking on the long handle to make one brick at a time. After a few hours, they told him, they would have a few hundred bricks. No electricity, and for only the cost of the cement!

Alan noticed that some of these tribes were subsistence tribes - they only produced enough to support themselves, and made a little extra income by offering lodging, hot baths, supplies and massages (especially footrubs) to passing walkers. Others, such as the Shores, Solon and Samas tribes, harvested oysters, bay clams or tiny shrimp from Sandy Bay, and then smoked and canned them for sale in the markets. These had to be carried out on foot or behind a horse in a small wagon...part of the charm (and the high prices) of these delicacies.

As the afternoon turned to dusk, Alan stopped to camp on a grassy dune just west of Bender, facing miles of marshlands and the winding salt channels of Sandy Bay. There were settlements nearby, but he was up for a campout. He had enough food but would have to re-stock the next day.  

The sunset over the bay and the ocean was gorgeous!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

38. The Wide Open Hook!

Alan discovered something...when you try to capture a place on paper, 
you're forced to really look at it, and you sometimes connect with it on 
a deeper level. This was happening here when he painted in the details 
of the water and sand, and finally a passing pelican and a few of the 
people here... 

As Alan looked at the wide-openness of this place, and felt the warmth, and breathed the air, he felt something in his soul was waking up. This place was limitless! 

He began to notice things like how the sky varies in color, and the way the long shallow waves wrap around the sand bars; their shimmery patterns bright in the sunlight. He also saw how the sand has been shaped by the waves and the tidal currents, and how the incoming tide was right now changing things. 

The place seemed to say, "Be who you are!" 

Out on the flats, the tiny figures he saw at first were about ten or so young people, fit and tan and with no clothes on at all! They were running, chasing and splashing each other or tossing frisbees. They were clearly delighted by the salt water, the breezy warmth, the sun, and the energy they were sharing. Their occasional yelps were the only sound above constant soft roar of the distant surf.

He took a few deep breaths, and then proceeded to make picture Number 2, The Hook. It took longer than he thought, and the second try seemed to satisfy him. The people were the hardest. And then he walked out onto the vast sand bars. 

As Alan walked along, some of the kids waved to him, and he sheepishly waved back. The afternoon was warming up, and Alan, sweating in his hiking outfit, suddenly felt that he wanted to run into the ocean too (just to cool off!). So then he muttered, Oh, crap, why not, stripped everything off and splashed into the waves.

Then he ran, kicking water up to his armpits, and suddenly realized why these kids were doing this - it felt incredibly good! Some of the guys and girls ran past him and around him, splashing water everywhere - and he picked up the game, dodging and splashing among them. Totally winded, he finally had to slow down, and he raised his hand at them to wave a Thank You! 

This inspired Alan to camp on the higher dune where he was sitting, and he pitched his tiny mountain tent.


It is a brisk half-day hike from Biloxi to The Hook.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

37. Breakfast at the Inn, then on to The Hook

The Sand Dune Inn served a complimentary breakfast, so Alan went down early, and found the place already quite busy. The two girls from the spa last night waved him over to join them, and this time he wasn't hesitant. 

"Hi," He said, and then took a chair. "I gather you are both traveling ...?"

"Oh, Yes", the one named Andrea replied. "We're on our Long Walk...You know, where we carry everything with us, walk places, camp out, stay at tribe settlements for a while..." 

"We've been out about six months now," the other girl, Hannah, added. "We're off to Hooksands Preserve to swim and do nothing for a few days, then to the Shores Tribe where we'll be staying for a while. They raise shellfish on Sandy Bay and we heard they're really cool."

After completing public school, many teenagers take The Long Walk...

"Wow," Alan said, "Six months is a long time! I'm on a walk myself, but only for a couple of weeks, I think."

"Oh, we're just starting out!  We hope to stay on the paths for two years - if we can get on together that long," and they gave each other a look that could have meant anything.

"So what'll you do at this Shores Tribe?" Alan asked.

"Uh, dunno yet. Work in their cannery, tend the gardens, babysit," Harriet shrugged.

"They make the most delicious smoked oysters...very pricey in the shops!" Andrea added.

Just then a very young waiter approached the table, and both girls said to Alan, "Get the sausage omelet!" So Alan said,"Okay", and to the waiter, "Please add a bowl of oatmeal and coffee with cream." 

"So, uh," Alan said after the waiter left, "you're going to wander around for two years...?"

"Yeah, but with a purpose. Didn't you do it?"

"Uh, no. I'm from the States and no one does that there - except a few loners or traveling hobos. The closest thing I guess, would be a long hike in a National Park, but not like you are describing. It would be a dangerous undertaking for young people there, especially just out walking. Everyone drives!"

"Huh! That is so sad, said Andrea. "I don't know how I would have gotten through public school if we didn't have The Walk to look forward to...it's all anyone talks about during our last year."


Then Hannah asked, "So how do people learn about who they are or what they're meant to do in life? Okay, here's an example: When I finished public school, I knew stuff but I didn't know me yet, or what I want, or who I'm meant to be, and all that. We go on The Walk, as we call it, to find ourselves. The guv'ment even helps out by offering money to tribes like Shores, to pay us to work in their trades. Over time, we stay and work in several different tribes, or even for the guv'ment, fixing trails, planting trees, and learning stuff. And then afterwards, some of us go on to university, and others might stay on at one of the tribes."

"And we meet boys, too." Andrea added with a grin.

"Aah," said Alan.


****************************

Thoughtful about all that, and fully restored (The breakfast was perfect!), Alan packed a few trail meals and set off for The Hook. Once out of Biloxi, the path turned sandy and slowed his pace. For a few miles, he walked along a narrow verge where the nearly white sand dunes met the salt marshes thick with patches of mangrove-like thickets. He was inside the Hooksands Preserve now so there were no settlements. The dunes cut off any sound from the ocean but the marshes and thickets were full of birds carrying on with melodious calls, strange burps and outright screeching. It was a spare and beautiful landscape!

Finally the dunes flattened out revealing miles of sand bars and shallow channels, the end of the Hook! Now Alan could hear distant surf on the ocean side, and he also noticed, back to his left, a lighthouse, complete with a keeper's house - the only structures anywhere around. 

On the sand flats ahead, he could make out some distant figures - people running and dancing among the shallow pools. It must be low tide, Alan thought.

He finally stopped and sat on the last of the dunes, where he had a good view of the outer sand bars. The patterns of sand and water, and a few people out there, made it an appealing place to sketch. 

He sat down to have some lunch and unpack his art stuff.


   

Saturday, June 13, 2015

36. On to Biloxi

Alan gets back on the main path and heads to Biloxi...

After a long, chatty supper of what Amelia called hamburger soup, plus some grilled toast and tea, they moved into the living room with some wine.  Alan learned that Amelia wrote stories and a weekly column for the Putney Times, and that she is also a dedicated surfer. "My readers love a little gossip, especially what I overhear in the coffee shops and what my spies send me on NetMate. My job is to find out what is really going on, and then, discreetly, blab about it in the Times.

"So I gather that NetMate is your social network here?"


"Yes, and I love it! I don't have to travel nearly as much now to gather the goods! It's quite a new thing, since not many of us have computers, and those smartphones that everyone else in the world have are only a dream here." 


And when he inquired about the surfboards outside, she lit up. "Oh, surfing is my passion! I live for that ocean energy, that power under me when I ride a wave. We have a surf club called The Westend Surfing Assn., named after this point called Westend on Vanessa Island. We sail out of Paddy and around the Hook on an old gaff-rigged boat and put in on Vanessa's lee side. then we hike over the island and set up camp on the ocean side. There is usually a beautiful mile-long left there." And then Amelia's eyes really lit up when she added, "And sometimes it gets BIG! I can't wait until we go on another trip." 


And they talked about many other things into the night, as the rain stopped and some stars came out... 

The sun was shining the next morning. She made him coffee and a hearty breakfast, and by mid-morning he was finally on his way to The Hook. 
As he walked, he felt all warm inside - happy that he could make a friend and be a friend as easily as he has done here. First Carla on the boat, then Adrian, now Amelia, and yes, even Jeremy. Are the people different here, is it just him, or a little of both?


**************************

By evening he reached Biloxi, and found a place to stay called The Sand Dune Inn and Spa. Biloxi was a settlement of perhaps 50 small stucco-coated houses huddled among some grass-covered dunes. Bushy wind-blown trees and patches of flowering groundcovers added color among the houses. There were no stores, but the Inn boasted a "deli" that offered groceries and basic necessities, including the services of a tiny post office. 

At the check-in desk, an elderly woman, dark and sun-wrinkled, took Alan's money (cost: one roger) and without saying a word, showed him to a tiny room with a narrow bed, then the toilets, and then the "spa", a large, steaming, beautifully-tiled communal pool set in the ground. A roof covered half of it, the rest was under the open sky. The bath was unoccupied, so he tested the water and realized he could use a good soak. 

He returned after dark with his towel and found another fellow in the pool, who said, "Welcome, welcome, plenty of room." In the dim light of the single oil lantern, Alan noticed the guy was naked. Hm, shall I keep my swimsuit on or not? He decided to leave it on and settled into the water. His fellow bather said nothing at all, and that was just fine.

And then two girls, teenagers likely, walked in, wrapped in large bath towels. They removed the towels, which were their entire wardrobes, and without a word stepped into the steaming pool. Alan tried very hard not to look, especially since they both offered their names and asked his. (The other guy seemed to be meditating...) Alan nodded to them, muttered his name and a glad-to-meet-you, and then then also pretended to meditate, realizing he'll probably have to get used to this sky clad thing that Adrian mentioned! 




Sunday, June 7, 2015

35. Alan Approaches the House

Toward the end of the day, Alan unwittingly took a side-path to the beach and spotted this house,
just as the weather began to look iffy...

Not wanting to knock on the door, Alan shouted, "Ahoy, there!" from about a hundred feet away. This is so weird, he thought. 

No response. 

He tried again, "Is anyone home?" Nothing for another long minute, then a female voice almost sang the words, "Who IS it, and what do you WA - ant?"

"Um, I come in peace!" (ouch!) "My name is Alan and I was on my way to Paddy and I must have taken a wrong path back near that long bridge. I just thought that, if you could let me, uh, rest here, I would be most grateful." 

By then it was not only getting dark, but a wet wind had kicked up, accompanied by a long roll of distant thunder. Silence from the house, then "Well, come up to the porch and we can talk. "

Alan marched quickly to the door, and he was met be a very tan, stocky, and muscular 40-ish woman about five feet tall wearing a baggy sweatshirt and what the surfers call board shorts. She smiled tentatively as she examined him through the screen door. Alan studied a couple of surfboards on the porch floor, and tried to think of something to say.

The woman spoke first, "Well, you look innocent enough. Uh, Alan, you said?"

"Oh, yes!" Alan smiled broadly.

"So tell me more... You sound different. Are you American?" Alan nodded. "I thought so. And what brings you out this way, aside from being lost?"

Alan couldn't blame here for being wary, so he tried to sound as normal as possible.  "I'm on my way out to the place you call The Hook to paint a picture of it. Then I'm continuing to other places like Capetown to make more pictures. I sketched the Hazelhurst Ruins the other day, the first place on my list, and then I started out from Hazel just this morning. I had lunch in Albion and then stopped at that long bridge at the Antrim River to rest, and I decided to sketch it." He pulled out a small notebook. "Here's the sketch...I know it's pretty rough, but it's not on my list. It just looked interesting, the bridge, I mean, and..."

"Okay, okay. Why don't you come in and we can have tea or something. You're lucky I'm in a good mood!"

Alan put away his notebook, left his pack on the porch, and walked into a warmly-lit living room paneled with old, smooth, honey-colored boards. A large brick hearth at the far end of the room contained a cast-iron wood-stove whose doors were open. "When you were yelling 'ahoy' out there I was just about to light a fire...get the damp off, yes? By the way, I'm Amelia," and she offered her hand, then gripped his firmly.

"Hi," said Alan.

She had already turned to walk into the kitchen to heat up some water. She soon returned to the wood-stove, lit the fire, closed up its doors, pointed to a chair and said, "Let's sit." Alan was looking at a large framed painting of  moonlit waves an a dark beach. "Nice waves up there," he said. Amelia glanced up, "Oh yes, my friend Adrian Graham painted that. Have you seen his work?

"Just recently. As a matter of fact, I live above his gallery."

"Oh, so you're the chap from the States that's doing the pictures for the tourists..."

Alan was surprised at this; news gets around quickly here. She went on, "Someone you met on the train the other day told one of my friends on NetMate*, and she posted it to me."

"Ah, the train ride. That would have been Jeremy - a very talkative chap I had the fortune to sit with. I didn't know my arrival would be so newsworthy!"

"Oh, it's newsworthy. We don't get many foreign travelers here, especially someone with a guv'ment job. Is it true they hired you and paid your way all the way from the States to paint some pictures?"

"Yes, I've agreed to 'depict,' as you say, 105 places-of-interest all around the island. And to be up-front with you, part of me is petrified that I'll never complete them all. My first day out and I'm already lost!"

Just then, they both heard the soft roar of rain on the roof...

"Well, I wouldn't say that, Alan. You're only a couple of miles off course. And if you're heading to The Hook, you should be there by late tomorrow, weather permitting. I heard there might be a storm in a few days, and that the surf should be up as well."

"So this isn't the storm,"Alan asked.

"Oh, no, just a thundershower. We do get some good size gales, especially south of here, and they send us the best surf beforehand!" Anyway, come in the kitchen with me and have tea. We can talk more while I heat up some soup. You eat meat? Oh, and bring in your pack before it gets wet!"
____________________

*NetMate is New Island's primitive version of Facebook.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

34. Alan Soon Gets Lost

Oops!

Alan hadn't walked three hours, and he was feeling it in his legs and feet already. He was definitely ready for a break when he stopped for lunch at the Albion Cafe. Albion was about the size of Hazel. It seemed to be more of a farm town, dominated by a sprawling sort of feed store that also sold lumber, farm supplies, garden tools, hardware and groceries. The cafe, a post office, a hairdresser/barber/massage spa, two taverns, a school, several small houses, and a tiny Buddhist temple made up the rest of Albion. 

Alan enjoyed his tuna sandwich (with bacon!) and a tall, juicy smoothie for lunch, which revived him enough to carry on to his goal of the day, Paddy. There he would find an inn, according to Adrian.

Things went well until just after he crossed the Antrim River foot bridge. He was impressed by this long bridge built for a hiking trail, so he sat down to sketch it as well as get off his feet. Soon after he resumed his walk, he was distracted by the miles of marshes and estuaries around him, and he took a branch-path by mistake. It looked more or less like the main path, but almost an hour later he found that it ended on a lonely stretch of beach.

This can't be right, he grumbled. I must have gotten on the wrong path. No wonder I haven't seen any markers or other people for a while...and I don't like the look of those big clouds out there. What happened to the sunny forecast?

Then Alan noticed the house a short distance down the beach, and he sat down on a driftwood log and thought a minute. 

I suppose I could take my chances and see if whoever lives here might help me...it's way too late to try to get to Paddy now, but I hate knocking on strangers' doors, especially when I'm the stranger...drat!

Alan's sketch just before his detour...


Saturday, May 30, 2015

33. Alan Starts Out

Adrian drew this route to the locations of Alan's first nine depictions. 

The next morning, Alan woke up in his upstairs apartment, vaguely remembering his late-night walk back from Adrian's house. Alan's head felt only a little bit thick; not quite a hangover but close. 

As he got dressed, he thought of his picture list again, so he picked up his road map and went to find Adrian.

"Ahoy down there," Alan called down.  Adrian returned an "ahoy" and Alan found him pouring coffee in the back room.

"Have a cup?"

"Sure. Thanks."

Adrian noticed Alan's map and said, "Let's look over that list of yours."

So they sat down with their coffee at the makeshift dining table in the back of the gallery. Adrian looked at the list and started marking Alan's map while Alan loaded his coffee with just the right levels of sugar and milk. Osborne, once again, had settled an Alan's lap.

"Okay, most of these first sites are just west of us - and the best way to reach them is on foot."

"Oh...well, I'm glad I bought hiking gear. How much of a walk are we talking about?"

"Well, it'll be a long one - several days, maybe two weeks. Here, I marked most of the spots they want depicted, and I penciled in your route. The paths are well-posted with signs and mile-markers. You'll find inns along the way if you don't want to camp out every night."

"Inns? Sounds like long-ago England..."

"Oh, wait 'till you visit one or two of them. They are one-of-a-kind establishments meant for walkers or wanderers who want a bath and a comfortable bunk for the night. Most serve supper and a toddy, and then a good breakfast in the morning. You'll also meet other walkers; they are quite a community!"

Alan stared at the red lines Adrian had drawn, and then said, "Uumm, this looks like a LONG walk."

You should be fine out there," Adrian said. "It's an easy walk, and then you can catch the train at Pendleton for the last couple of stops. The weather forecast is clouds then sun, then maybe a storm in a few days. Just watch the sky and find shelter if it looks nasty! I heard the surf might get rough out there, but it shouldn't be too bad where you are going.

"Also, this time of year is great for late afternoon skies," Adrian added, "especially near sunset. For the picturing, that is. I've gone out there a couple of times, so I know."

Alan looked at the map. "I sure appreciate your help here," he said. "I think I can follow this all right - it looks like a two-day walk just to reach the Hook." Then, "I see there is a road here, this 'E-2'. Couldn't I take a bus to Paddy or Fernley?"

"Yes, but the bus only runs once a week out there, and I think it just ran yesterday. Those are subsistence towns on that whole western shore - very little need for much travel by road. People out there just walk. Oh, and out on the Hook you might encounter people going 'sky clad' - wearing no clothes at all!"

"Oh, um...okay."





Saturday, May 23, 2015

32. Portals, Possibilities and Planes of Exisence

New Island is likely on a plane of existence observed by some but not by all, as explained in the world of quantum physics...

According to Heisenburg, when a quantum particle is not observed it exists as an ensemble of ''possibilities'' (in physics called a virtual state) in which it has a likelihood of existing simultaneously at all points of space; however, when an observation is performed the quantum particle makes a discontinuous jump (called a quantum transition) to a state with some definite position and is said to be in a condition of ''actuality'' (in physics called a physical state). 
                                                                                                                                --Wikipedia

As the evening progressed, Adrian noticed that Alan seemed more relaxed. "And by the way, how are you feeling? You look a little better than you did the other night."

Alan sipped some more wine. "Oh, I'm feeling fine right now."

"Ahh, yes. Me too. More wine?"

"Okay."

"You know, Alan, I've never been out of this country, so I've never gone through that experience you went through."

"Oh, you mean that doorway in Fremantle?"

"Yes, I'm curious about that. Is it still on your mind?"

Alan sat back and pondered this whole new subject. "Well, it has been on my mind a little. I didn't think there was anything unusual about finding the Rudyard Lines office, but now I remember the blank looks I got from the hotel people and the cabbie when I asked about it. The cab driver never acknowledged the place even after I saw the sign and told him to stop. After I paid for the cab, I just walked up to the door, pulled the handle, and it opened. After all, I had my ticket!

"So you assumed the door would open, and it did, and you just went in..."

"Yes! And then I was hit with this amazing buzzing sensation once I was inside - and it felt so refreshing, like I was being released from something. It's hard to describe it. Anyway, I felt lighter once I walked inside that building. The ticket lady gave me a long look at one point just before taking me to the boat. But then at the dock, she gave me the best hug I'd had in a long time, and said something like she was glad I made it this far."

"Wow," Adrian replied. "Even before you arrived, this 'getting in' thing has been on my mind, and I've done a little reading. It seems that in quantum physics (bear with me now) there is a possibility that some things are uncertain or unknown until they are experienced by an observer. There has been much to-do about Schrodinger's cat*, and this seems similar, no?  Until one pulls on the door of that Rudyard Lines office in Fremantle, one does not know whether the Rudyard Shipping Line, or that ticket lady you mentioned, will actually be in there or not. And that one doorway, as far as I know, is the only way to get to our island-nation!

"And that," Adrian added, "brings up why many New Islanders are reluctant to travel abroad. There are rumors that some have left, intending to return, and have never been heard from again. We are well aware of that doorway, or portal, if you will, and that it might not be there for everyone."

"And I see that Roger's Dreamland is on your list. That, too is a fascinating subject here. To get into the Dreamland, one must enter another 'portal' at a place called Three Rocks, which is on Twentymile Beach, far to the north, across the Sheffield Desert. A stone shelter containing a visitors' register and a doorway overlooking the surf has been built amid the three rocks.  Some of those who walk up to the doorway 'see' the Dreamland unfold before them, and then they simply sign the book and walk in. For others, nothing changes - the beach remains the same."

"So what do they do if they don't get in...can they try again?"

"Not sure, I've never tried it."

Adrian continued, "And that registry book at Three Rocks has many names of  'dreamers' who went in and never returned. Some have been gone for years.

"Then my question, Alan, is this: Is Roger's Dreamland, or this whole island for that matter, like Schrodinger's cat -  both there and not there until observed?"

Alan took another sip of wine, stared out at what seemed like a very real moonlit shoreline, and finally said, "I have no idea what to tell you, Roger, er, I mean Adrian..."

It was getting late.



*Schrodinger's Cat was a thought experiment. Wikipedia explains:

Schrödinger's cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

31. Supper at Adrian's House

Adrian's house originally had only two rooms. 
He built the one-story addition soon after he moved in.
Early that morning, before his trip to Skegness, Adrian had invited Alan over for supper.

When Alan returned from Skegness, he met Adrian at the gallery, dumped off his new purchases, and they walked up to Adrian's house...

It was easier to walk along the road, which didn't have any traffic, especially this late in the day. An evening train smoothly glided north, down the slope toward the bay, then another labored up the hill, heading south. Alan figured that's how everyone commutes around here, instead of driving.

Adrian lived in a modest wood-and-stone house on a sandy hill overlooking Putney Bay and the Hazelhurst ruins. From the terrace outside, Alan could see all the places he was poking around in the day before. Adrian offered Alan a glass of local Riesling, "from the Severn Valley," claimed Adrian. Then they relaxed while a chicken with carrots and baby potatoes and Adrian's own herbs was slow-roasting in a wood-fired oven. Ahhh, the aroma was mouth-watering!

Over supper, neither of them talked very much. The sun was setting over the ocean, the birds were quiet now, and the slightest breeze set off some wind chimes - enough going on to fill the moment. Adrian figured that Alan must have a lot on his mind, and decided to wait to see how their conversation might evolve.

Alan felt good after all the chicken and trimmings. Adrian offered ice cream and another glass of Riesling. Alan accepted, and then sat back, feeling quite relaxed.

Then he asked "Say Adrian, I can't help but wonder...have you ever been married, or had any kids?"

A thoughtful moment, then, "Ahhh, yes...well, I married young. I fell madly in love with Tatyana, who was born here but was Russian through and through. I met her during a long trip on the mail boat. She agreed to marry me, and we had a daughter, Christal. But then, back in '92, when our country became independent, Tatyana wanted to return to Odessa with her family. I just couldn't go, since my own family, the Dougal clan, is rooted here, and I couldn't see myself living in Ukraine! I still think of Tatya, even though she has long since remarried and has three other kids now. Christal writes to me sometimes, sends me news, and maybe some day she'll come for a visit. She's almost 30 now! I have a few other friends that I visit, though, and they sustain me. You?"

"Well, I was married once also. I met Barbara in California, when I was finishing up for my education degree. She and I were in the same program. We moved to Indiana because she has family there, and there were good teaching jobs then around Michigan City. We didn't have any children, but for about five years we seemed to get along fine, or at least okay. Eventually we broke up because she thought I was 'too quiet'. Actually, when we argued, I would sometimes clam up, which was the only way I knew how to fight back, and that would make her furious! Then later I met Michelle, and we were, I guess you'd say, dating, but we were not on great terms when I left. I'm pretty much on my own at this point..."

Adrian was quiet, then he said, "Well, I suppose this is good for your upcoming journey, yes? Though I think having a woman to come home to is, well, more desirable. For a while, I was hopeful that Mandrill, the woman who lived in your place,  might be that kind of, um. mate." Adrian looked away, then took a long sip of his wine, and then declared, "I have found that the women on this island are very independently minded, so don't expect docility!"

Then he said, "That list of yours is going to keep you on the road for a long time, Alan, but there is always the chance you'll meet some interesting people along the way. And if you keep your eyes open, there might be someone special out there!"

This sentiment brought Carla to mind, but when Alan tried to fantasize what his next meeting with her might entail, his mind jumped to his friend Michelle, and such thoughts as, "What do I really want...?"

Alan and Adrian walked from the gallery, over the hill at right, to Adrian's house, at left.






Sunday, May 10, 2015

30. Getting Ready to Travel

An Australian blogger, http://australia.urbansketchers.org, provided this handy chart that is posted in the Dromedary Bookshop and Art Supplies in Skegness...
Alan got on the train the next morning to get a sketching outfit for his long trip. He had brought only a few pencils and his nearly-used-up paint set with him from the States, so he needed new watercolors, brushes, pencils, pens and paper, all compact enough to carry in his backpack.

Oh, and he also needed camping gear, since he figured he'd be walking for many days...

The train ride to Skegness took about 45 minutes. The late-season sun had just risen above the slopes of Mount Hayes, casting a warm glow on the landscape. Outside of Hazel, Alan noticed small truck farms and a few dairy farms between the tracks and Ross Bay. Some of the barns and houses were of natural or whitewashed stone. Others were built with wood and painted in bright colors. All were quite small, especially compared to any he saw in Indiana. In Bayside, he noticed an increase in traffic on the highway next to him. He figured this must be Highway 1, the main road between Putney and Victoria Harbor.

After Rosslea, the landscape opened up to low rolling hills with a distinct upslope to his right. The broad crater-rim of Mount Hayes peeked above a layer of clouds hugging the upper slope. It was the same mountain he saw from the boat coming into Victoria Harbor, but now it was much closer, and so large! On his left, Putney Bay spread out calm and blue, empty but for one large sailboat on the horizon. He wondered if it was one of mail boats that Adrian had mentioned. He realized that at some point he would probably be using their service to get to some of the places on his list.

In Skegness, he walked out of the station and pulled out the directions to the Dromedary Bookshop that Adrian had given him. The town was densely built on some rather steep hills (old sand dunes?) and the streets marched straight up and over them, which reminded him of San Francisco, on a very small scale! The downtown hugged the Barysh River, and most of the shops were huddled together on one side of Fleet Street, the main thoroughfare. On the other side was the river, harboring scores of fishing and pleasure boats, all rigged for sail, hugging the short piers. He couldn't see a single power boat, save two brightly-colored skiffs marked "Constable", and a single ancient-looking tugboat.

The Dromedary Bookshop and Etc. was on Fleet Street and easy to find. As he stepped inside, Alan was amazed at the colorful array of stationers papers of all kinds, samples of which were displayed along one wall. There were blank books and old-fashioned writing pens, plus aisles of published books (the bookstore part). He noticed that he was the only customer, and felt self-conscious as he asked the saleslady about art supplies. She pointed him to a display of brushes, inks, watercolors, oil paints, pencils, pads of drawing paper, a few stretched canvases, and a variety of "How to Draw" and "How to Paint" books.

The chart on the wall was helpful. Alan found a travel set of watercolors, a few good brushes, some extra pencils and several Micron pens (They sell those here - Yess!)  He also bought a thick packet of 8" by 10" watercolor sheets, cold press, and another of hot press.

After lunch, Alan continued walking along Fleet Street thinking about camping gear and sure enough, he found a shop called The Cyclers' and Walkers' Outfitters Emporium. A very helpful young saleslady recommended the best in stoves, sleeping gear, cookware, foul weather gear, tents, backpacks and some great all-weather sandals. She was very helpful, and told Alan that her name was Sydney. As he boarded the afternoon train back to Hazel, the weight of his new pack (and the lightness of his wallet) felt okay, and he felt much better about this whole venture.  At least he had adequate gear!

Alan's route by train from Hazel to Skegness and back again.