Dark gray mud from the cove at low tide still stains my finger and toenails despite a long shower and much scrubbing. It’s evening now, and Brian and I are sitting in the front room of the little cottage in Maine, while large, weighty bugs whiz like miniature helicopters and throw themselves into the window screens. Frogs and crickets trill and chirp off in the distance. Various birdcalls occasionally interrupt the rest of the nighttime noise, and from time to time, a car or truck hurtles down the Friendship Road reminding us that we're only slightly off a beaten path.
This was a good weekend in Maine. Now, it's not like much has really changed; the house still smells overwhelmingly musty. The only furnishings in the house include two canvas, folding camp chairs, a step stool, an air bed, and a portable speaker set that lets us play music from our computers or from an iPod or phone. The new septic design should be in the mail, but I don’t yet have anyone lined up for the excavation. The floor joists have still not been replaced, and the basement stairs are still rotten and treacherous. And these are just the items that make the top of the “to do” list.
But this weekend, the sun was strong for the first time this spring. We played on the beach with good friends and kayaked with our new neighbor—and I could start to feel what it will be like when the house is no longer in a state of decay, crying for maintenance with every damp, musty, dirty, ugly square inch.
Since Brian and I previously found several ticks while doing yard work projects, I decided I had to cut the grass near the house—even if much of it will be dug up soon. So, with my new electric mower from Lowe’s, which I hated to have to purchase, I mowed a swath of grass arcing from the driveway and garage up toward Susan’s house—our neighbor to the East. She has a small hedge of lilacs, which form something of a border between the yards, so as the long green grass fell to the mower blade, the side yard became neat and verdant. And later when the kayaks lay on this small incline and we rinsed them off with the hose, I could see that the fun parts of being here could someday become nearly routine—and not just a rare gem of a day when we escape from all that needs to be done.
Other worries of mine also melted away over the weekend, as I learned how we would contend with the other little quirks of the property. The third of a mile walk down to the water was managed well by four adults, a nearly seven-year-old, a five-year-old, and a seven-week-old puppy. When we arrived with our cooler, camp chairs, towels, and toys at the little beach, the tide was heading out, but there was still enough water in the cove for us to flail about with the new little inflatable boat I bought for the occasion. The kids and I piled in, and we all discovered that the low-tide mud was like quicksand—sucking the sandals right off our feet. Some deft maneuvering and manhandling of the boat along with some quick footwork got us afloat into the shallow and choppy water. I pulled the tiny oars around in quick little circles, creating slight forward momentum—as the tide still slipped away beneath us.
Returning from our short voyage, the kids asked me how deep the water was. I said I assumed it was a few feet deep, but when we called to shore and got permission for them to swim in from the boat, they jumped out into only about a foot and a half of water, which caused shrieks and giggles as we all discovered how wrong I was.
As the afternoon passed, the kids looked for “life” under rocks and seaweed. Anytime something squirmed when they pulled back its shelter, they’d yell, “There’s life under here”! They found a couple of tiny crabs, clams, worms, and lots of sand fleas, which they thought were jumping shrimp. The adults chatted and shared a few beers. The puppy snoozed, and the sun arced west.
After impressive thunderstorms rolled through during the middle of the night, the holiday morning quickly turned warm with a mid-summer feel. We made arrangements to kayak with our neighbor, Susan, who loaned us her kayak wheels, which made the trek down to the water a bit easier. We assumed—based on the tide—we’d have a few hours for paddling before the tide would be too low for us to get back into the cove without getting stuck in the mud. So, we quickly pulled together our kayaking gear for the first time of the season, and we paddled out into Sampson Cove to watch the cormorants, gulls, and terns. We quickly rounded a small island, where lots of these sea birds lounge, and we rolled past some of the large estates to the west. We then headed east toward the ocean and were surprised to hear a loon just ahead of us. A massive number of moon jellyfish floated in another small and shallow cove east of where we started, and eventually, we rounded another small island and started a long slog back against both tide and wind to a rocky point at the western edge of Sampson Cove.
No one appeared home at the estate where we pulled in for a quick lunch, and we assumed they wouldn’t mind us pulling our kayaks up on their beach temporarily. The sandwiches, which I thought would be too crumbly, were actually tasty and reminded me of Switzerland because they were made with Gruyere and ham from Morse’s Sauerkraut—an amazing European import market right in Waldoboro. And, though we didn’t want to leave the lovely ledge to head back, the tide was rushing, and we had to hurry back into the cove, where we beached the boats not a moment too soon. We were able to drag the kayaks through several feet of mud, but had we been fifteen minutes later, we would have had to trudge through 25-30 feet of the thick, soft mud—which would have made getting the kayaks ashore nearly impossible.
At the end of the day, we discovered that our hasty departure had made us slightly careless with our sunscreen application, so we returned with redder skin than we expected. We were exhausted from the sun and the breeze and the trips back and forth to the shore with the kayaks, but every moment of it was worth it. Weekends like this are the reason I bought the neglected little house in Waldoboro. Weekends like this were made for sharing with friends and neighbors, and weekends like this make me feel so very lucky. There is much work to be done—more than I can really comprehend most days. And, I worry about how much it will all cost, how much we can do ourselves, and how it will all turn out. But, this weekend, I could glimpse the future, and in that future, the house was breezy and bright—not musty and dank. And this weekend—even in the present—fun was had, feet were rinsed under the hose, and the feel of summer in Maine was all around.
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