Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Morning Off

My wife has three more months of work before she retires in early June. She may even get to teach a last month of summer school before she gets kicked, or leaps joyfully, to the curb of the working life. I am looking forward to having not only an unemployed person at home to cater to my every whim but also to not having the house filled with conjugated verbs and bizarre sentence structures as adults endeavor to come to grips with the nuances and bizarreness of spoken English.

Normally on a day off I retreat to the van in the driveway where I have all the comforts of home squeezed into a 6 foot by 12 foot space. I make tea, get milk from the fridge, eat some cereal, read the newspaper on my laptop and ponder the vagaries of human nature. Of course all these delights are only available to me after I get Rusty the entirely too easily fatigued dog, walked. So on some certain days off filled with no appointments or chores I take the mountain to Mohammed as it were. 

He is never easily convinced riding in the van alone with me is a good idea. I get the feeling someone watching me carrying my dog bodily into my van might get the idea I was going to do some unspeakable things to his furry little body and indeed he curls up like a shrimp facing an executioner. As I carry his trembling 60 pounds through the sliding side door. My wife thinks he views the van as a long distance vehicle suitable only for all three of us together so he has no idea we are going to Old Bahia Honda twenty minutes away. For all he knows he may be going to Michigan two weeks away.

All is forgiven and forgotten when we arrive at the waterfront and he starts whining to be let out. Last Friday morning wasn't i surprised to see a giant Class A motorhome in the dirt by the waterfront. Even more surprising were the occupants, a group of 19th century German gentleman farmers and their blushing brides in ankle length skirts and bonnets. 

It's not that Mennonites don't vacation in Key West because I have seen them around from time to time but that they were packed into a 40 foot RV made them much more interesting. I suppose in the age of Covid a motorhome makes sense for everyone. If you are hoping for photos I thought that my fascination didn't outweigh common courtesy so enjoy the nature pictures instead. I got there just at sunrise but they were wrapping up their early morning walks and soon left. The habits of a lifetime are I am sure hard to drop on a vacation for them as for us English. The thing is they seem so austere I just can't imagine them taking breakfast in bed to celebrate a day off.

"Please clean up after yourself please." Grammatically the message fell a bit short and though I admire the sentiments I am not sure writing the words on a plank attached to a tree by nylon ropes really lives up to the promise and the plea of "leave no trace."

Naturally there were plenty of traces left by industrious people including a pile of garbage collected for transport. The spot is a long way to hike with a load so I fully expect a pick up to swing by in an attempt to remove this festering temptation to drop more. People who are enjoying this more open beachfront after Hurricane Irma swept away the undergrowth better wake up and leave no trace if they don't want it closed to vehicles.

Over the years and all the trails I have walked I have slowly come to understand that making alterations is a bad idea. If trails grow over through lack of use I try to view it philosophically. In the Keys I have seen trails wrecked by storms but pretty soon the chain saws come out and restore these few escapes we have into the backcountry. But dumping trash baffles me as there are county garbage cans everywhere.

Rusty decides the turn around point and I trail along behind him never more than twenty feet apart. It is a silent companionable way to walk. If I get hung up on a  picture he sits and waits and watches me. If I take too long he starts a low pitched insistent whine and I move rapidly along. I am trained.

People do feel the need to leave their mark. The worst are the bottles and cans plopped on dead branches so the illusion of aloneness cannot be maintained. But you always know people were there by the rocks propped up and the ground disturbed.

It was still early and the sun was low in the sky. The air was cool thanks to a low key cold front that blew into the islands just in time for the weekend. 

A lobster carapace on a  stick:

Wood likely killed off by Hurricane Irma which blew 140 mile per hour winds here in September 2017.

A sponge catching the sunlight. There used to be a sponger I saw from time to time in Kemp Channel many years ago. He had a trident, a prong on a very long broom handle and he stood up in his boat on dead calm days drifting and poling and suddenly darting down and spearing. He'd lift up a dripping ball on the end of his trident and drop it in the bottom of the boat. He reminded me in silhouette of that Chinese water colors of boats fishing with cormorants. I never met him and was rather glad not to as I fear meeting the man might have wrecked my illusions., Nevertheless I wondered about the sponge market for the real things, especially in the Keys.



We wandered slowly back to the van i the bright sunlight. I think Rusty was figuring that the van was less torture than he thought it might have been.

The pile of trash was around the point in the distance. A pleasant walk when not encumbered.

Low tide:

I have removed the Moon Shade awning to stop myself forgetting about it in a dark locker for the summer. I don't want to leave it in the van to get moldy but that means I prefer to find shade on sunny days! I did all right on this occasion.

It was the perfect day to be at the beach. The breeze was cool and fresh, the sun was warm and after having breakfast and some water Rusty composed himself for a nap in a pile of shady grass. Me being human I got busy after breakfast with my book and my cup of tea and I couldn't hear even the merest whisper of a Zoom classroom anywhere. 

A man stopped by on a bicycle, unmasked and more or less distant and asked me about camping here. He was, I have to say, a brave man with his reluctant wife and proper RV, looking for off beat places to park. He told me he had been moved along from Searstown in Key West and I commiserated until he explained he had been there seven nights, arriving after ten and leaving before eight. Seven days? I asked in disbelief. You got away with seven nights free parking? I was astonished. Then he said he parked outside Boyd's campground in Stock Island as the spaces were too expensive. An employee came out that night and said he couldn't park on the street. He came back the second night and got moved along by a Deputy. I am such a goody two shoes I could never pull that off staying in place after it was obvious the employee was pissed off. I am a rank amateur compared to the man from Massachusetts and his reluctant wife who would prefer proper campgrounds. 

It was a pleasant change, a sense of irresponsibility, a moment away that felt as though I might have been anywhere, not twenty minutes from home.

Back at home Rusty discovered once again, there is routine after the van so he did more napping and watching the world go by. My wife and I spent the afternoon culling more belongings, cleaning the van and pondering what will go into the storage locker, what will go to the dump and what my wife might foist on Goodwill. I'd rather be off in the van that sorting through 20 years of stuff that has unaccountably stuck to my life in that time. I have to be motivated not to be lazy.