The Road Ends in Water

Brickyard Point Landing, photo by T

 

(to start of project)

The week following New Year’s was cold – record breaking cold – so it wasn’t the best time to visit the seashore; but that made it a good time to visit family. My folks now live on an island  outside Beaufort, South Carolina, which is about halfway between Savannah and Charleston. When I was growing up we took vacations here every summer, back when the place was still a little wild, so we have a lot of memories scattered around the island. When the last of my siblings left home, my parents sold everything in the suburbs and bought a house there before real estate got crazy. Now my own kids have grown up spending summers there, too, and on lucky occasions like this one our visits overlap with my sister or brother and the girls get to see their cousins. Continue reading “The Road Ends in Water”

Warm Inside

 

 

Big snow storm tonight. Took two hours to get home, and Terri is still stuck in town, staying with friends.

It’s already deeper than the dogs. Emily is outside with them, and they bound through it like antelope, or burrow like groundhogs. I can hear her laughing in the dark.

It will fall through the night and into tomorrow.

A good night to be warm inside by the fire.

We’ll have a White Christmas.

 

 

 

A Little History

Howard Chapelle melonseed skiff melon seed plans smithsonian
Chapelle Plans from the Smithsonian

Funny how things circle back.

It was the mid-1930’s, at the business end of the last Great Depression, that a young, not quite gainfully employed naval architect named Howard Chapelle signed up for a job with the WPA. Everyone needed work, and the government was creating jobs and funding them as fast as anybody could think of them. Someone in FDR’s administration came up with an idea to put the nations destitute naval architects to work. It was to be called the “Historic American Merchant Marine Survey/” Along with a lot of other projects that came out of the WPA, it would turn out to be an incredibly valuable storehouse of historic documents; though, with humble beginnings and a short life, it’s eventual cultural value would not be evident for quite some time. Of the two largest work programs created by FDR – the CCC and the WPA – it was this one, the WPA, that received harsh criticism as wasteful and unnecessary, particularly from the conservative opposition.

Continue reading “A Little History”

Embarking

8th Lake Adirondacks

8th Lake, Adirondacks

The word has some appropriate origins:

 

|emˈbärk| begin (a course of action, esp. one that is important or demanding)
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French embarquer, from em- ‘in’ + barque ‘bark, ship.’

 

I’ve been planning this project for quite some time. Years, in fact. Life intervenes between many a fine notion and it’s fruition. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Big projects begin innocently enough, with an idea or impulse, and before you know it it’s taken root. If you don’t pull some weeds up quickly they drop seed and it’s all over but the mowing, or in this case, rowing.

Continue reading “Embarking”

Dreams 99¢

New York Dog Cart

 

Added a piece written on the road while traveling recently, in the Mostly True section.

I’ve had a lot of nice comments on it, and it’s one I particularly like:

 

Dreams 99¢

 

Into the Dismal

Spillway between Lake Drummond and the Feeder Ditch

 

 

It’s Spring Break for the girls. Emily is already in Spain for the start of a 10 day trip with her AP History class. Terri has a new job, and is staying close to home. Amanda and I decided to use the time off and take a little trip I’ve been wanting to take for some time, swinging down through the marshy parts of Virginia and Carolina, then on to Ocracoke Island. First stop: the Great Dismal Swamp.

This place has always fascinated me. Though criss-crossed with canals and drained to a fraction of its former size, the Swamp once covered all of southeast Virginia, and a full third of eastern North Carolina all the way from the fall line to the coast. My grandmother’s family settled here in the 1700’s, in places with names like Gum Neck and Frying Pan, and I grew up on stories of ancestors hunting black bear and wildcats deep in the swamp, and of ghost stories, and people disappearing in a black water wilderness. This was a chance to pass on some of those stories, and to see where they actually took place.

We brought the boat and the stealthy electric motor, so the three mile cruise along the canals and “ditches” from the boat ramp into the middle of the swamp was a quiet glide.

The boat launch is on the eastern side of Dismal Swamp Canal, which connects the Chesapeake Bay with Albemarle Sound down in North Carolina, separating the easternmost counties of both states from the mainland, making them all essentially a big island. This presents a problem for people who live on the west side of the Canal, because the road is on the east side. We saw one farmer’s solution in action: He had built a small ferry of oil drums and plywood and, with a cable running slack along the bottom from one side to the other, we saw him pull himself across, hand over hand, to where he kept his car on the other side.

 

 Dismal Ferryman

From the Canal, the Feeder Ditch strikes a rhumb line due West for two miles into the heart of the swamp to Lake Drummond. It’s a strangly euclidian path through a completely chaotic canyon of wilderness, confusing your perception of time and distance. The experience is more than a little surreal.