Prepping Summer


  • Boats stored ashore have been launched, leaving open lots at this marina.  Seeking to capitalize on a new worldwide craze, a “stand up paddle” enterprise has opened here the last few summers, renting out the necessary equipment for this sedate activity.  But those stuck on land waiting for customers don’t want to be too bored, so they have set themselves a little barbecue and picnic area behind the marina headquarters, where they will sit and talk and listen to music in the breezy afternoons.  Right now, the water is still a bit too frigid, but that will change in a few weeks.
  • All along the roadside, and up and down our neighborhood, cars line streets as college graduation and high school reunion parties get into full swing.  We have to drive carefully to avoid strangers walking around, some of them confused from the beer in hand.  Happy times for the young, optimistically looking forward to a life as long and beautiful as the next months are sure to be.  Happy times for the elderly, who have survived another harsh winter and whose joints have begun to ache a bit less.  Sun shines, perfect warmth, life is good.   


  • The Harbor Boat Club house perches high on a hill over vast docks and waterfront area.  It’s all spiffed up for the coming season, as are the nautical appendages.  Soon the hill will be full of parties and people, as the peak time of graduation, weddings, and other celebrations arrive.  But now it sits often empty, ready but in suspense.
  • Back in the fifties, before this area was so metropolitan, my wife’s cousin’s family rented this house and grew up there.  There were dolphins swimming the waters, and baymen making a living with shellfish and lobster, and an occasional fuel barge delivering oil to the head of harbor.  And lots of open lands around the water, where her brothers could camp out on fine summery evenings.  I never saw that, but I viewed my own scenes that are no more.  I cannot imagine what will be here come another sixty years, but if people survive there will probably still be beach houses and parties.


  • For some folks, getting ready for summer involves posting signs telling other people to stay away.  This desolate point of sand has been used for decades by occasional fishermen, and nothing else.  But it is jealously guarded by the same family that claims, based on original deeds wrenched from native Americans, that they own the entire shoreline and roadbed, even though it has been a public thoroughfare for centuries.
  • Perhaps it is descendants terrified that they might have to work for a living instead of being supported by the deeds of their ancestors.  Maybe it is the work of lawyers who warn of lawsuits should someone slip into the water and catch a cold (much too shallow to drown.)  Probably it is simply selfish misanthropes enraged at the possibility that someone might be enjoying for free what they could make a buck on.  In the far future, similarly handicapped descendants of the first moon colonists will no doubt be trying to collect royalties  from anyone looking up at the sky, and a percentage of any energy generated by the tides.


  • Freshly mowed lawn invitingly spread at Coindre.  Long Island sound beckons off in the mist, trees are majestically verdant, visitors have been thinned by the noisy operations of the riding mowers.  Public parks are a wonderful antidote against libertarian capitalistic dogma.  In this case, it took the bankruptcy of the original magnate followed by the eventual bankruptcy of the catholic school that bought it at distress prices to have it eventually fall into the hands of the county.  But who would seriously claim that the community has lost freedom by this, or that the incentive of the selfish has been thwarted by having such a jewel available to all?
  • Often unnoticed until budgets become onerous, parks do demand upkeep.  Without mowing, these fields would be far less inviting, the view far less beautiful.  I accept my part of that expense, here and elsewhere, grateful that so many people can use it.  Yet I also realize that in another small way, we pollute the planet with exhaust fumes; in another small way we waste money that might be better spent.  Nothing in real life is as uncomplicated as presented in books, or pamphlets, or the screechings of demagogues anxious to take their place at the public trough.


  • Enough boats and nautical power in this one marina to defeat Xerxes, and probably to give Admiral Nelson a pretty hard time.  Yet this navy, having no commercial nor military purpose, remains mostly docked.  The amount of money this culture can spend on frivolous leisure activities is staggering.  But certainly, boats to have a good time are somehow better than the same number ready to kill enemies, or even than this fleet being required for livelihood with fisherman working hard and unforgiving seas every day. 
  • I am stunned by the wealth and power displayed.  I overlay, in my mind, the last four hundred years, and see the changes rushing onward and over everything.  More particularly, I am aware of the last fifty, even the last quarter century, when what was a sleepy bedroom hamlet of New York transformed into a crowded manicured suburb.  Like many of my aging peers, I regret what has been lost.  Like them also, I try to accept the changes in good grace and weave them into the fabric of my worldview.   The owners of these vessels do not care and surely have their own worries.


  • Locust blossoms whip about in a strong breeze, partially obscuring the working dock in the Mill Dam race.  Around two hundred years ago this was a busy spot with the tidal mill grinding grain from area farms, and shipping loading and unloading from the sail-powered boats in the harbor.   A working dock is just a floating raft with a couple of outboard motors bolted on _ this one has a hoist to take care of buoys.  Not really pretty,  nor for that matter, the canal itself.
  • I enjoy these forgotten industrial back areas, which occur everywhere.  Neglected, repurposed, fallen into ruin, they have a more gritty charm than when cleaned up and sanitized.  They always remind me of the hidden corners of my own mind _ anger, frustration, fear, envy, boredom, all the sins.  I’m a bit ashamed of them, aware of their ugliness, but I also know that without them I would be insipid and less complex and hardy than I am.  Areas where the industrial tasks of experiencing life can be performed, often out of sight, always necessary.


  • Memorial Day jam to get boats in the water and begin summer.  The next month is filled with frantic, often anticipatory, activity.  The weather is still iffy, children remain in school another month, work goes on at full pace for most.  College students are home and often taking up temporary jobs.  But people grasp weekends, workers map vacations, children (and teachers) dream of extended days off, employers plan on being shorthanded.  Everyone and everything is geared to the fine months to come.
  • Retirement has provided me the leisure to avoid most such preparation, because the important day is now.  Do I deserve such good fortune?  Of course not _ people hardly ever deserve credit nor blame for what happens to them.  I will take credit for having the opportunity to explore my world and taking advantage of it.  On such terms, this period of my life is an ongoing incredible gift.

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