Saturday, September 26, 2015

51. A Night Above Hoodoo Beach

On New Island, the night sky can be quite different!

After lunch it stayed warm on the beach. Chloe had been snoozing in her tent, with instructions for Alan to wake her up if she slept too long. Alan sat reading a while and then finally said, "Hey Chloe...wanna get up now? I'm ready for a walk and maybe a swim if you're up for another one!"

She stirred and said, "Go away." Then, "Oh...yeah, I'm supposed to get up now." She crawled out and sat up, blinking. "Off to the Hoodoos?"


Alan pulled out his towel and they set off to where Chloe had gone swimming earlier. When they arrived at the cove, Chloe said, "How 'bout you swim and I'll sit and watch?"
Alan, a bit relieved, said, "That's fine, but don't watch too close, okay?" Chloe grinned and said, "Don't worry!" (Alan was getting a little more accustomed to the swimming naked thing, and especially to that wonderful feeling of freedom!)

Later in the afternoon, Chloe showed Alan how to dig up Holyoke clams in the shallow surf. That evening, after a delicious supper of steamed clams with butter, they cleaned up, said goodnight, and Alan finally crawled into his tent, fully spent after a long day on Hoodoo Beach. 

He had been sleeping a while when he began dreaming that no-clothes-on dream again. He's dreamed this one before, and, as usual, he is walking through a very American suburban neighborhood, among people he kind of knows are his neighbors, and then he discovers he's naked - again! It's as if he simply forgot to put his clothes on that morning. He's very embarrassed, and frustrated, (it's happened again!) but what can he do except run and dodge his way behind bushes and fences until he can get back home. No one seems to ever pay any attention to him, and he's never challenged. Maybe they've seen it before so often they're used to it now...  

Then, Chloe woke him up, calling, "Alan, Alan...come out and see this."

Shaken from his dream, Alan was disoriented at first. Then he noticed an orange glow through his tent roof, and when he climbed out he was completely overwhelmed by the swirling patterns of thousands of stars and huge glowing clouds, all lit up by some very bright star clusters near the center.  "What is this?" he asked.  

"It's part of the Small Magellanic Cloud, Alan, a galaxy near our own. Sometimes we get a close-up view, like it's just beyond the sun, but actually this thing is 210 thousand light-years away. I've never seen it this clear down on the shore, it's a real treat!" 

Alan stood gawking. "So it just appears every now and then?"

"Well, yes. And it's usually this bright only up in the Highlands, and barely visible at sea level. No one has been able to determine or predict a cycle, like we can with the moon. It puts on this show whenever it seems to feel like it!"

Alan was in disbelief. "Sooo, this just appears here now and then? Then why have I never heard of it happening elsewhere?"

"No one on this island knows, Alan. The Astronomy departments at both Putney University and the School of Oceanography have studied this intensely, with help from the USA's Hubble Space Telescope. As yet, we have no answer to the riddle. Some think it's a mirage, others think this and other distant star groups are projected here somehow - put up in the sky for a few hours, then gone at daybreak. 

"Also, see how this is shining from the southeast? That is the general direction of the SMC, as we call it here. Up on your northern hemisphere, the SMC isn't visible at all; and on other nights we see only a tiny cloud-like shape among the regular stars in our sky. The Small Magellanic Cloud is a neighbor galaxy to our own Milky Way, you know."


They sat down and stared at this slowly-turning fiery wonder, leaning into each others shoulders. They both could almost feel the heat.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

50. Camping at Hoodoo Beach

That afternoon Alan had enough time to sketch the beach and the Hoodoos beyond it.
This beach was just south of Ghost Heads.

The Southwest Path looped closely around Ghost Heads, then cut behind some bluffs for a couple of miles before coming near the shore again. Alan was struck by how white and rounded the "heads" were. "Must be coated with bird poop." Chloe mused aloud. Beyond Ghost Heads Alan could see the tops of steeper, sharper rocks mostly hidden by the distant bluff. When they finally saw a branch path leading back to the shore, they came upon a pleasant beach adjoining a grassy hillside. A thin afternoon fog shrouded the place, and made the tall rocks even more enchanting.

"This must be Hoodoo Beach", Alan said, and Chloe concurred, adding, "Yep, I believe there are hoodoos out there..."

It was late morning as they pitched their tents, and Chloe went about gathering some firewood as Alan sat down to sketch the beach and the hoodoos, still diffused by the fog.

Chloe loved being the wanderer-gatherer. She left a pile of wood nearby, and then walked up on the bluff toward the hoodoos that Alan was sketching. She found coves with hidden beaches, and the misty hoodoos looming beyond. A couple of them were still emerging from the eroding bluff. The sun was quite warm as it burned through the fog, and Chloe, getting hot, had the sudden urge to throw off her clothes and jump into the surf. The water was bracing, but the waves were tamed by all the offshore rocks, so Chloe could wade in and simply float among the swells surrounded by these strange rock formations, whose tops were white and dotted with seabirds.

She figured she'd invite Alan for a swim like this soon, but she wasn't sure how he'd take the invitation. He was quiet about any opinions on decorum, but she sensed he came from a culture that had a lot of hangups about just being natural!

About two hours later, Chloe returned to find Alan right where she left him, still working on his sketch. "How is it going?" she asked. 

"Almost done."

"I just had a great walk, and a swim in the waves by the hoodoos!"

He looked up, "All by yourself? Isn't that risky?"

"Oh, I took a good look at the water first - it was quite calm in this cove I found. No sharks! Plus, I only stayed in for a few minutes." She felt she had to explain it all, and actually felt a bit guilty that she didn't invite him along. "Maybe later we can have a swim together, as buddies!"

Alan hesitated a moment, Hm, another chance to get used to this no-clothes thing if that's how she swims. "Okay, you're on!"

He finished up the sketch, and they had a mid-afternoon lunch.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

49. Lizard to Hoodoo Beach

Alan and Chloe haven't walked very far since they met several days before, near Lizard Point.
Alan's next picture assignment: Hoodoo Beach.  

The Lizard Inn was still there and easy to find, even in the dusky end of the day. The front of the building was entirely made up of old windows, arranged in a mosaic of different shapes and sizes, all under a long sign saying "The Lizard Inn and Bath". The proprietor, a tall white-haired woman with a regal bearing, got up from her supper when they rang the bell. Alan apologized for the interruption but she just smiled and then related the options: camp sites, a communal bunk room or a private room with four bunks, all including use of the shower room and a tiny Japanese-style furo (the Bath, Alan assumed). A full kitchen was also available. They decided on the private room this time, instead of the bunk-room. At the Lizard Sundries Shop they bought some milk, fruit, and some red wine, and then made up bowls of cereal with chopped dates for a late supper. There were apparently no other guests tonight. They carried their bowls and wine out to a lovely garden-patio in back of the Inn and had their supper. The wine was good - just right to follow a bowl of cereal!

While working on his second glass, Alan said, "You know, when I saw you guys yesterday morning, I immediately assumed he was a long-lost boyfriend and that was that...between you and I. It really shook me. I mean, I guess I've been getting used to being with you these last few days." Alan took a breath. "So, ah, what I'm asking is, do you have someone? I mean, since Dennis?"

Chloe paused and then looked at him. "Well, I have friends who are guys in Putney and a couple of other places, but I don't consider any of them 'boyfriends'. Don't worry, I have no plans to marry any of them!"

She went on, "And I like being with you too. I feel that you are a wee bit aloof, though, and maybe that's because you're not confident that we can be friends...? I'm sort of guessing here." 

"Um," he muttered, feeling a familiar twinge of frustration: I wonder if I'll ever be confident enough to mean something to someone... 

"You're probably right about the aloofness thing. I think I use it to cover the confidence thing. I hide a lot, and that's probably why I'm not happily with anyone. My ex-wife Barbara told me once that I was 'flat', meaning I had no personality, or something. I lost my confidence in teaching, and I think my willingness to teach went with it. And just before I was offered this assignment, I wasn't doing anything but drawing dreams. My friend Michelle basically told me to take this assignment just to get out of my head!"

Chloe regarded him while taking another sip of wine. "You probably did the right thing by coming here, by taking the assignment. I think there is more inside you than you give yourself credit for, and I'm really glad we're sitting here now - together. People tend to be warm and friendly here, but you have to be open to who they really are. I liked it when you 'befriended' me on the path back there, and I appreciate it that you're letting me be as I need to be."

Alan smiled, "Well, I like who you are. More wine?" 
And they finished off the bottle.

When Alan awoke the next morning he looked over at Chloe still asleep in the next bunk. She seems so at-peace with herself, and so much like an old soul. Alan had read a little about the theory of soul migration, and how souls become wiser as they get older, over the course of many lifetimes. He figures he is somewhere in the younger-soul category.

With that thought, and before more physically-driven thoughts could enter his head, he walked out into the early morning.  He heard a rooster nearby, and followed the sound with fresh eggs on his mind. By luck, the owner of the rooster was out by a chicken coop, and sold Alan four eggs she had just gathered. "Mind you," she said, "these are fertile eggs, so there might be a surprise inside!" 

Alan made some Irish-cut oatmeal with milk and then woke up Chloe to ask what kind of eggs she wanted. She twitched, stretched languorously and finally squinted at him, "What?" 
I bought four fresh eggs across the street. How would you like yours? 
"Poached, on toast." she grinned.
"Ooh, I'll see what I can do. If I can't make toast, how about poached with porridge?"
"Okay, but I want my eggs runny in the middle!"

By the time she walked into the kitchen, Alan had everything served up including some coffee. They sat at a long table. "You're gonna spoil me if you keep this up," she said.

They cleaned up, then packed up, and got an early start for the next leg of their walk. The town of Lizard was only about four blocks wide, and was coming awake as they walked on to Alan's next assignment, Hoodoo Beach. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

48. Alan and Josh

Alan finished his Womby sketch around mid-afternoon and then walked back to Sueville.

He didn't expect to find Chloe, assuming she was out somewhere having fun with Josh. He found a note on his bunk, though, and it said, "Josh and I are at Strong's, having fish or something. Come join us?  -C."

Well, she's still around...

Alan was relieved though still troubled, but most of all he was hungry, so he walked over to the tavern. Chloe saw him right away and waved him over to their table. At least it's not the one we sat at last night... Alan pulled up a chair and sat.

"How was the sketching?" asked Chloe. "You must have found my note."

"It went well enough." Alan said briskly to both of them, "And Now I'm ready to eat something." Apparently they hadn't eaten for a while, so he went ahead and ordered fish and chips for the three of them. Alan couldn't help but wonder what they had been up to all day, but he definitely wasn't going to ask.

They chatted on as if everything was fine; mostly it was Josh going on about how sare-an-dipitus it was to meet up with Chloe out here of all places. Josh's expansive grin, slightly slurred words, the three empty glasses at his elbow, plus Chloe looking a bit annoyed, gave Alan an idea of the situation here. 

By the time the food arrived, Josh was becoming more incoherent. He then stopped talking altogether and simply fixed his gaze on Alan, which was quite unsettling. Alan sat there looking back at Josh, and then a little switch went off. "So Josh, what are your plans? Where are you headed?"

"Uhhh, dunno mate. I was just gonna ask Chloe here the same question. (Chloe was busily eating.)

"Well," said Alan, "Chloe and I are heading south, to Hoodoo Beach, then on to Tower Head, in case you want to join us."

Josh to Chloe, "So, yer goin' on with this American?"

Chloe, "Yes I am, Josh, and like Alan says, you can come along if you'd like."

"Aw crap. I was hopin' you'd come-a with me up to the Hook. We could, uh, have a great time hangin' out there..."

"Well, Josh, I was just up there and now I'm headed south, and (with a quick look to Alan) we need to get going soon if we're going to get anywhere before dark!"

Josh looked balefully at Chloe as she went to pay the cashier, and Alan gathered his pack. "The fish is on us, Josh," said Alan, and left him sitting there. As they went out the door Josh raised his glass in what Alan thought was a salute, but it was only to flag the server for another drink.

They silently walked back to the bunkhouse and packed their gear. Once they were on their way, Chloe finally let out a long breath and said, "It all came back to me as we chatted on for the while you were gone. We did play together as kids, but only during the visits of our mums, and he and I were never really close. I hadn't seen him since my university days in Putney, and he was a pill then; good at football and always full of himself. Now he's a drunken lush. He spent most of our conversation talking about the fun he had in his years at school, and then all his plans to go to Australia and make some real money, though by what means he didn't explain. I'm glad you spoke up back there." 

She was walking fast, her face flushed.

Alan then led them up to the same dune-top (it was actually a short-cut) from which he painted his sketch, and stopped when they came upon the view of Womby. "This is where I was all day." 

Chloe nodded, and said, "Nice. You probably had a more pleasant day than I did." 

Alan looked at her and said, "Well, not really. I worried all day that you wouldn't be there when I came back..."

She gave him a quick smile, and said, "Come on, let's get moving, because it really will be dark soon. We can probably make it to Lizard, and I remember a friend of mine telling me about a place there called the Lizard Inn.

Lizard, near the point called Ghost Heads, was about two miles away.