Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wednesday 7/18 0630 hours

Watched the sun come up over Burnt Island. It is called Burnt Island because there was a fire there once. There are no cottages on Burnt Island, but the neighboring islanders banded together to buy it so it would never be developed. It offers a barrier between the main channel and these side islands and is covered by giant rocks and pine trees and scrub.

The crows are cawing loudly, a few birds singing. Otherwise, everything is calm and peaceful. The water between the closest island and here is still, a film of natural suds and crud atop the surface, as if it were a pond. The shoreline across the way is reflected in the water, and if you turn your head sideways it looks like some kind of natural totem pole.

In the distance a lone canoe glides by. I can hear two people singing. It must be the religious duo B mentioned who canoe right by his window on the far side of the island and have a sunrise service. All I can make out of their singing are snatches of “Praise the Lord!”

Yesterday we saw a black bear. The neighbors said they had spotted a black bear on Yoctangee the day before we got here. While black bears are not unusual around Georgian Bay, B had never seen one on Yoctangee and so had been somewhat skeptical.

We were swimming in the water on the far side of the island right near B’s sleeping cabin at around four in the afternoon. The water is warmer over there. I had already swum laps off the dock on the front side of the island where the water was positively frigid. So, I was content just to get in part way and float around. It was lucky I had my glasses on. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen the dark creature lumber across a bare rock on nearby Electric Island.

“I think I saw a bear,” I said.

“What?” S looked up, alarmed. “Are you joking?”

“No. Why would I joke about something like that?” I pointed towards where I had seen the moving black creature.

B was standing up on shore and started walking in the direction I was pointing. “Are you sure it was a bear?”

“Pretty sure. It was black,” I said. “Although I guess it could have been a dog. A really big black dog.”

And then B saw it, too. We both watched the bear lumber across the flat rock on the far island.

“Where? Where?” S was alarmed.

I pointed again, but the bear was gone. It had heard us and disappeared into the brush.

“Don’t worry too much,” I said. “It can’t get all the way over here that fast.” At least, I didn’t think it could.

Later, just as we were sitting down to dinner on the screened porch of the main cabin, I spotted the bear again. This time it was on Yoctangee, on the little spit of land just to the left of the boathouse. I called the others, and B and S took pictures of the bear with S’s digital camera.

It was not a very large bear. At first, we worried it was a cub and that its anxious, overprotective mother would be lurking nearby.

But B seemed to think it was a year or so old, perhaps on its own, clearly going from island to island foraging for food. Like for the blueberries growing right outside the screened in porch.

S clanked on a steel colander with a metal spoon, and the bear scampered off towards St. Helena, the next island over to the west. We hadn’t seen anyone coming or going from St. Helena’s since we had been there, so we were pretty sure no one was on that island at the moment.

After dinner, B and I kayaked around the nearby islands. As we came around the corner of St. Helena’s from the north, where we could see the dock and boathouse of Yoctangee again, B said he saw the bear. It was swimming from St. Helena’s over to Burnt Island. And it was swimming fast. We just sat there quietly in our kayaks and watched.

As soon as the bear got up onto shore, it shook itself off, much like a dog would, much like Sadie had all afternoon. Then it scampered up the rock face and disappeared into the brush. We were startled by how fast it was moving.

B reiterated, he thought this was a very hungry young bear. It was making its way from one island to the next in search of food. After we docked our kayaks, B took the small launch over to the Marleys, which was the next island past Burnt Island, to let them know about the bear.

In forty years of coming up here, B had never seen a bear on Yoctangee, and we saw one on our first day. It didn’t alarm me too much, as we used to see bears up in Alaska, but S said this was the first “real” bear she had ever seen.

Earlier in the day, we had taken the launch over to the Ojibway Club. It is on a much larger island with big docks and places to tie up small boats. The large, recently renovated Ojibway Hotel is a historic landmark, and the place was hopping with islanders and kids going to day camp. B bought some newspapers at the small gift shop, to include Tuesday’s New York Times. We sat in rockers on the big front porch with a view of the bay and read the newspapers.

The Ojibway Hotel used to be a popular resort in the early part of the 20th century where people from Canada and the United States, especially New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, would come to spend their summer holidays on Georgian Bay. Fishing was the primary pastime then. But there was canoeing and boating and swimming and picnicking as well. By the 1950s, the hotel ceased operating as a hotel and turned into a club, a popular hub where islanders could meet for social activities and dining. By then, many of the hotel regulars who had been coming to Georgian Bay for years had bought their own islands and built their own summer cottages. While there wasn’t a need for a hotel resort anymore, the island was still a popular gathering point for the summer regulars.

After lunch, back on Yoctangee, S and I laid out on the dock. The temperature was pleasant and the sun warm. Finally, I got hot enough to jump in for a swim. The water was freezing, though. I swam back and forth between the end of the dock and a rocky point on the far side of the island. I had goggles, but I couldn’t see very far without my glasses. And the water was green and opaque, so I had to keep lifting up my head to see where I was. I was afraid of swimming into one of the docked boats or too far out into the channel.

The original cabin on Yoctangee was built in 1906. It is supposedly the second oldest cabin still standing in this area of Georgian Bay. The oldest cabin is on St. Helena’s and was built by the sister of the man who started the Ojibway Hotel.

An American couple from Ohio bought Yoctangee in the early 1900s and built the main cabin. Yoctangee means “painted waters,” and when you watch the amazing orange and pink sunsets you can see why. The couple sold the island to Harry Symons, author of Ojibway Melody in 1935, and Symons sold it to B’s paternal grandparents in 1950. Yoctangee has been in B’s family ever since.

The main cabin has a kitchen, pantry, big living room, tack room, and then this wonderful screened-in, wrap-around porch. The view of the channel and islands is incredible.

Some of the pine planks in the living room wall are very wide, telling you just how large the trees used to build the cabin were. The floors are original and even some of the furniture, too.

* * *

Although the sunrise this morning was great and the sky clear, it is now cooler and cloudy. I hope it is not going to rain. I think the forecast was for 24 degrees C and partly cloudy.

We were spoiled yesterday. The weather was perfect: sunny, not a cloud in the sky, 80 degrees with no humidity, and a light breeze. We put sunscreen on, but it was not at all uncomfortable sitting out in the sun.

It is still very calm, no big winds. So maybe it will end up being a fine day for kayaking and reading. I don’t know as how I will want to swim if there is no sun, as the water is still so cold from all of the rainy weather they had before we came. It’s probably only around 70 degrees. If not colder.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tuesday 7/17: Yoctangee 0700 hours

I am sitting in a rocker on the screened-in porch of a small sleeping cabin on Yoctangee Island about twenty minutes by boat from Pointe au Baril, Ontario, in the northern part of Georgian Bay. The sun is rising over nearby Burnt Island; the water is calm. A squirrel cusses at me from a tree across the way on yet another island.

I watch a beaver swim from island to island. A single shell rows by out in the channel.

The morning is glorious. I can hear birds, the occasional loon, the Hydropower box, and the squirrel.

Water laps gently at the rocks below me.

There are no cars, trucks, buses, or planes. I have heard only one distant motorboat thus far this morning.

Last night, in the dark of midnight, with all the stars, there was absolute silence.

Harry Symons, a businessman and writer from Toronto, owned Yoctangee in the early to mid part of the 20th century. This is where he wrote his book Ojibway Melody. He sold the island to B’s grandparents in 1950. There is one large main cabin and three sleeping cabins. One of the sleeping cabins was joined to the main cabin this past spring, so now there is an even bigger main cabin and only two sleeping cabins. I am in the sleeping cabin which overlooks the water on the east side of the island, in the screened-in porch, sitting on a red and wicker rocking chair. Sipping coffee. And watching the sun come up.

The remaining sleeping cabin is on the far side of the island, a five minute walk through the woods on a well-worn path. B is sleeping over there, with Sadie, his golden retriever.

There is electricity (thanks to Hydropower!) and running water (from the lake). We had to bring our own drinking water, though, as drinking the lake water might result in giardiasis. There is a bathroom in the main cabin with indoor plumbing, and an outdoor shower.

No phone, no TV, no computers, no Internet. No radio even.

There are two boats – a motor launch and a smaller motor boat, as well as a pedal boat, a canoe, and a slew of kayaks.

This is where I will be spending the next five days with B and another mutual friend S. And B’s dog Sadie.

I think I have gone to Heaven.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Delphi: Rad

It was one place we thought we could hide the thing that makes the horn work and not worry about it being found.

We didn’t want to hide it in either of our houses. For obvious reasons. Aside from the fact that my mom is a neat freak and Boo’s cleaning lady has an incredible knack for sniffing out anything you don’t want found, we just didn’t want to, you know, implicate our families in the Delphi crime of the century.

We had heard all about the caves for years.

From our parents, family friends, old people in town.

We didn’t really believe the caves went all the way under the river or anything. I mean, we weren’t that dumb. Although that would have been awesome! But we knew there were multiple caves up above the reservoir and that some of them were small and lesser used than the larger, more well-known and graffitti’d ones.

So, one day Boo and I hiked up there. It took us a long time of searching around before we found this one cave that was hidden by a bunch of bushes and a dead log. It didn’t look like anyone had been in it for years, except maybe for some snakes or animals or bugs.

So, now we had our hiding place.

The only thing left was to conduct our midnight operation: climb the borough building, rip out the horn innards, escape, and hide the booty.

It sounded simple enough, but we knew it was going to be tricky.

For one thing, it would involve us being -- shall we say -- less than honest with our parents. We would either have to sneak out of the house or say we were spending the night at each other’s house. The last was problematic, because it depended on our parents not checking with each other. But sneaking out could be trouble, too.

In the end, we decided sneaking out would be less risky than betting on our parents not talking with one another about the fake sleepovers. Since our house is a lot closer to the borough building, I would just ask my mom if Boo could sleep over. And she would say sure. So, that part was simple.

Then we would have to wait for her to fall asleep.

We would then climb out my bedroom window, which overlooks the garage, and hop down off the garage roof by swinging on a tree branch and land on the trampoline in the backyard. It made me feel like we were in Spy Kids or something.

The only drawback was that we really didn’t know how the horn worked. And what we would have to take out. We tried Googling about alarm horns but didn’t find much at first. Not even Wikipedia had anything on alarm horns. We didn’t want to go around asking questions, because that would have been too obvious. And people might have remembered afterwards that two kids had been asking strange questions about the horn, right before it disappeared.

We wanted this to be a professional job. Kind of like Fast and Furious.

One day I was home sick from school and spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to find out something about the kinds of horns that were on the tops of borough buildings or fire houses. Eventually I stumbled on “siren” as a term, along with horn, and then I started coming up with sites that seemed more promising. I mean, would you think there would be entire websites devoted to nothing but sirens, horns, and whistles? Well, there are. And a lot of them have not only photos from around the country – heck, around the world! – but audio files as well. Too weird! That’s how I finally found the Gamewell Diaphone.

We’re pretty sure now that the horn on top of the borough building is a Gamewell Diaphone. Or at least it sounds like one and looks like one. We have a whole file of stuff on Gamewell Diaphone horns and how they were used to alert volunteer fire departments about fires. We even have photos of the different components of the Diaphone from some dude who restores them as a hobby! I kid you not. The only problem is we still haven’t really figured out exactly how they work. And what we can do to disable one. Can we cut a wire? Or do we need to remove a key part? They don’t make these horns anymore, so they probably wouldn’t be able to get a replacement part. Unless they found this whacko dude who restores them. Maybe he welds new parts or something from scratch. I know he likes to shine up the old parts and post photos of them on the web.

Anyway, these horns were originally used for fog signals, but then the Gamewell Company, which was in Newton, Massachusetts (I read that on the Internet), started making them for fire alarms . They were really popular in New England. You could hear their sound from miles away, which was a good thing I guess, and different numbers of blasts could mean different things. Like five blasts might mean fire over at the Boswell farm. While three blasts might mean house fire down on Walnut Street. Or something like that. This was for the olden days, you know, before they had cell phones and pagers and stuff. And I guess people liked to know when there was a fire and where it was. Not really sure why. Did they maybe go over and watch the fires since they didn’t have TV to watch or something? Who knows.

We do know that the Diaphone is powered by pressured air. But we’re not really sure what that means. Or what we can do to alter the horn so it no longer works. Boo thinks there is a key component inside the horn and that that is what we need to steal – err, remove. I am not so sure, though. And I am not clear on just how we are going to unscrew or take apart the horn once we get up onto the roof.

And how we are going to get up onto the roof with nobody noticing is another thing. And then what if the damned horn goes off while we are up there? We would be deaf for life for sure!

This whole thing is starting to seem a lot more complicated than we first thought. Boo and I are going to do a recon tonight. Or at least plan how we would do a recon. You know, kind of brainstorm. We learned how to do that in Language Arts class.

When we first started M.A.T.H., it seemed like this was going to be a whole lot more simple.

Now I’m not so sure.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boots Malone

What It’s Like to Be in Love
With Boots Malone

Going where your lover
guides you
Where she’s not sure she
wants you to go
But you go there anyway,
because you trust her
and you know she
wants you to go there
whether she realizes it or not

And you find it:
the energy source
behind the fire
the place where
stars are born

You see Boots Malone
riding her horse
her hair blowing wildly
in the wind,
She waves to the camera
and gallops off
You are dying
for her to pat the
back of her saddle,
invite you on for
a ride.
But she doesn’t.
Not today.
She is too busy
and riding off into the sunset.

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I suppose, as trite as it sounds, that that is true. But sometimes I find it very hard to believe. Sometimes I hurt so much inside that truism seems downright laughable.

I suppose life is all about love and loss. Or lack of love and still loss. I don’t think we can ever escape the loss part, hard as we might try. But sadly I think it is true that some people, perhaps many people -- but hopefully not too many! -- never experience love in their lives. And that is so tragic it takes my breath away.

Sometimes we fall in love with the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. And still, at that moment in time, it seems like the most right thing in the world. We cannot reconcile within ourselves how something that feels so right can be so wrong. We are in the end utterly human, and we succumb to our humanness. Inevitably, such things end in utter, horrific disaster. Lives are ruined, or changed irrevocably. Sure, we can always pick up the pieces and move on. What choice do we have really? But nothing is ever the same.

I think about what it is like to love someone truly, madly, deeply. The phrase “lovesick” is so accurate. Imagine, suddenly finding yourself deep in the throes of passion and complete and utter devotion, when you have finally resigned yourself to never being capable of such deep feeling. All those years where you thought there was something wrong with you, not right. In reality, it was just another case of your trying, relentlessly, to fit that round peg into yet another square hole. And when one day – seemingly out of the blue -- you find the round hole that seems to be the perfect fit, you are completely blown away. Your nervous system is almost instantaneously overloaded and cannot handle – does not compute! – this most amazing, incredible, mind blowing, earth shattering… thing. There are no words to describe it really. And you end up resorting to time worn clichés.

Life as you know it has changed irrevocably. You can never go back.

To lose that amazingness – which, afterall, was something you never thought possible – can be more devastating than never knowing it at all.

Something that starts out with an innocent, fleeting, yet heartfelt thought: “I don’t want to go through life never having kissed X” can end in the kind of pain that rips your heart out of your chest and leaves a gaping, hollow, bloody cavity for all the world to see – only the world can’t see it. The world, cruelly, keeps on turning, just as it always has. And no one cares really that you, who has finally – without really asking for it or looking for it -- found love, has just as easily lost it again. Perhaps forever.

Yes, it is true, the passing of time does make the pain less intense. Less raw. Less bloody. But it never goes away completely. It is always there, lurking, popping up unexpectedly when you least expect it.

It does not make one so very eager to hop back up on one’s horse and try again, I have to say that earnestly. Does that make you a chicken? Perhaps. A very vulnerable, terrified of getting hurt again so deeply human for sure.

There are reasons why we do not invite pain into our lives. Life has enough pain without going out and looking for it.

Is there hope at the end of the tunnel? (Since we are using clichés so freely here, I might as well go for it!) Maybe. Maybe not.

All I know is that the only way you can tell you are still alive is when you get that feeling you are stepping off of a cliff and into the abyss.