Monday, June 20, 2011

Camp News

Time stretches and warps here. There's a sameness to the days so that it seems we've been here forever in some sort of stasis. I lose track of days and dates and time. None of us has a schedule anymore; "lunch time" is heralded by suddenly grumbly kids rather than a timepiece. Bedtime is marking by dark and the end of whatever card game we've been playing. I'm anchored only by the countdown to the arrival of our guests, most of whom are still guesstimating their schedules. I'm floating outside of time. I spent much of last week preparing to send the kids to camp today, until I received an email reminder that they don't start for another week.

We're moving more slowly than in years past. It took nearly a week to finish unwrapping and opening and cleaning. Projects, which in years past we urgent (leaking roofs), are more cosmetic this year, and therefore can be interspersed with reading and card games. The lake is still astonishingly high (we arrived barely after record-breaking flooding eased) and still quite cold, so we've only been down there a few times. Strangest -- best -- of all, Will is more relaxed. He's listening when I suggest we knock off for the day, or take a lunch break. Yesterday he actually spent some time reading and sleeping in the hammock.

We are still working, though. Tradition requires that we rake up all the dead leaves and grass everywhere we mow, which amounts to something like two acres. The rationale makes sense: it reduces mosquito population because they don't have wet places to lay eggs, and it encourages a vaguely lawn-like growth of grass. It's physically exhausting labor. This year I talked Will into renting a dethatching rake that can be pulled by the lawn tractor. It didn't work. I'm now campaigning to experimentally hire a lawn crew to come in and mow and rake and cut hedges during our off year in hopes that it will reduce the amount of thatch. Will is dubious about the effectiveness, and feeling "frugal", but I think it is ridiculous to spend the first nine days of our vacation fixing the mower and raking. Then again it does mean we get to burn things.

We've amassed huge piles of grass and straw and leaves. Traditionally these get piled in the field next to the guest house and ignited in an alarming bonfire that takes all night to burn down. This year we decided to start early -- and paid the price. Despite all efforts it was only a smolder pile, sending up huge clouds of smoke and steam all night, blanketing the southern part of the island in gray. We'd blessed the fact that the usual wind was gone; after a few hours we wished it back, less to breathe life into our fire and more to shift the evidence of our foolishness somewhere else.

One neighbor, shortly after we lit the fuel, drove over and demanded that we "Not do that." He told us his house was filling with smoke, and stood there as if expecting us to immediately dump water over our haystack and apologize profusely. Nevermind that we had a permit; that other neighbors had just the day before been (more successfully, I admit) burning their yard waste; that Will's family has been burning leaves on this island longer than he has been alive. I was surprised by how hostile I felt toward him, and silently supported Will's careful apology-without-a-promise-to-stop. Usually I step in and try to make nice, make happy. It took me a while to figure out, but I realized that I was affronted by the interloper's bad manners! Like many new age parents I have taught my children some basics of conflict management. Will and I have been learning new skills in counseling, too. And when this fellow showed up and just demanded that we stop, I had no motivation to help. If only he had introduced himself, said where he lived, and THEN explained that his house was filling up with smoke! I surely would have done my best to help him. Funny how little courtesies make such a difference.

Another great difference this year is the mosquitoes. Grandpa Dan called and told us to expect the worst -- the flooding and dampness was probably going to lead to the biggest outbreak of skeeters in modern memory. I dread the whiny insects. As of last year we have mosquito netting for the kids' room, but in years past we have gone on "mosquito patrol" before bed, killing dozens in our room and theirs. We've been forced to slather on repellent before bed and with breakfast each day. This year, though, I discovered Raid for Flying Insects. I generally don't approve of pesticides, but in my desperation I learned that this noxious stuff can be sprayed on window screens (even ones with big holes in them) and it kills flying insects on contact. Now, it could be our fabulous raking job, but we've not had many kills on patrol at night. It's wonderful to go to bed knowing I'll only have a few bites instead of the dozens I was getting last year. We'll see if the pattern holds through the warmer months.

It's getting late, and I must feed my children before dark. They're sleeping in a tent in the back yard again tonight, as Will finally repairs drywall damaged years ago by incessant, now repaired, roof leaks. Amazing how work begets more work. Fortunately this is a happy chore because it's a sign that Will's work over the past few visits really is making a difference.

Good night from Dingley Dell!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Biding time

Today I'm filling time. The truck is packed, I have a small amount of paperwork to finish, and tomorrow morning we leave for Vermont. I took a nap, and in fact Will is still asleep in a square of light that is slowly crossing the bed, causing a restless contortion to avoid the hot spots. Denver is suddenly warm enough that the A/C is kicking on, despite my nightly cooling rituals of fans and windows.

Will and I travel well together. We are curious in the same way, and prowl the parts of touristy destinations that usually get little attention. While others are at the top of castle towers, we seek out kitchens and midden heaps. We'd rather find a locally-recommended restaurant than the one the guidebook suggests. We're almost always up for one more museum. The kids have upset the balance a little, shortening my attention span, but in general we enjoy travelling.

However, preparing for trips used to be awful. I'd make arrangements and Will wouldn't want to have any input until the last minute, at which point I'd feel criticized and managed. Until we actually hit the road, we growled and sniped at each other. I was baffled when Will didn't want to know flight schedules, and he was annoyed when I double-checked that he had his ID for the airline. Finally one day I realized: I am in charge of Macro arrangements, and Will is in charge of Micro arrangements. So, I choose destinations and make flight arrangements. I determine what sights we should see, and make lists of what the kids and I need to take. I cancel the milk order and stop the newspaper. And then, shortly before we go, Will gets involved. Not long before we leave he begins planning daily schedules and driving routes, double-checking that I have important documents, going over my lists.

It still seems odd to me, but I've relaxed into the unspoken arrangement. It works for us. Which is why I've been preparing for weeks -- renewing passports, getting phone service in Vermont, finding a house sitter, cleaning house. And it's why I have time today. Now it's Will's turn.

He was frustrated and impatient this morning, asking me repeatedly to get all our stuff piled up, until he finally truly heard me say that I was done. We're taking a lot less stuff this year. The kids are older and more self-sufficient. Vi has taught me where the tools I need are squirrelled away, so I don't need to bring as much. We use less clothing there, maybe because it's summer, maybe because we don't (Violet doesn't) change clothes six times a day. For whatever reasons, packing is simpler this year.

And tomorrow, right after breakfast, the Clampetts, er, Bakers, are headed far away for 10 weeks. I'll be updating Facebook along the way, and hopefully blogging a little more regularly from there. Happy trails!