Friday, August 12, 2011

Are We There Yet?

A few snapshots:

“How far is the island with the swimming quarry?”

I’ve heard this many times already, probably from just about everyone in the group- ten teen-agers and their two college-age counselors. It’s hot, yes, but these kids have an inordinate desire to go swimming. It even seems to outweigh their patience with learning the finer points of a good forward stroke... the very thing that will propel them to the island with the swimming quarry. It’s starting to sound like the “are we there yet?” chorus we plagued my parents with from the back of the station wagon. And like my Dad after hundreds of miles of hot interstate, I’m getting a little snippy.

“What swimming quarry? You believed me? I made that up.”

We’re on the second of three days together. Days- not nights; I leave the group (organized by Apogee Adventures) on an island to camp, returning in the morning to take them paddling. This is my second trip with Apogee and, despite their preoccupation with swimming holes, I’ve had fun paddling with them. Their real focus though, is on community service, which translates to cleaning-up islands. By the end of both trips, we will have picked-up over four nautical miles of shoreline on six islands. That’s a lot of Chlorox bottles. Later, MITA volunteers in skiffs would pick-up our many stashed garbage bags.

For me, the island clean-ups are a good excuse to walk some shoreline- something I don’t do nearly enough. For the kids, it’s an opportunity to discover rocks to jump from into the ocean, which they do again and again. But it’s not the fabled island with the swimming quarry. When we finally get to Green Island, the dip in fresh water feels like a reward; the kids have all earned it.

Meanwhile, Rebecca has an island to paint. She’s been commissioned to do a painting from someone’s family island- a place they’ve spent summers for years. So we’ve been paddling out to this island to see it at different tides and different times of the day. It would have been a nice assignment on any island, but it doesn’t take Rebecca long to see why the place feels so special to the family: the erratic boulders, spruce-topped cliffs and intimate coves. We feel fortunate to be invited to spend time there since we’d paddled past many times, but never landed. One day we stop there for lunch, admiring a new perspective of the archipelago. Rebecca stays to work on drawings while I paddle-on to Old Quarry to guide a trip.

A couple of hours later, I take the group past the island and pause to wait for lobster boats to pass in the channel ahead. A woman waves to us from the island. “My wife,” I tell the group, but they think I'm joking. When I further explain why she's there- that, at that moment anyway, her job is to hang out on an island and draw, while mine is to paddle around with them, it sounds even more implausible.

These are some of the things I get from guiding: a walk on a shore I’m usually too busy to walk on, and a look at our surroundings through the eyes of a visitor. And that island with the swimming quarry? It’s only about a mile from where we’ve lived for eight years, but I never took a swim there until a group of teenagers dragged me along.


Anonymous said...

As always a nice entry, with great photos. Did you get that new camera you mentioned earlier?
I just picked up a Lumix TS3 - waterproof, sort of shockproof. I like it, thought it was pricey.
I'm thinking I know the island Rebecca is painting. When I was a kid in the early 60s, we used to stay at a friend's place near the Dow Ledges. This was before the island was built on, and we used to travel out there regularly.

Ginger Travis said...

I really appreciate your blog, Michael. Great photos, and you always have something worth saying. I'm thinking of Stonington and Old Quarry now for next summer and some island hopping -- it'll be a first for me, a MITA member in North Carolina. Til then, I'll keep visiting vicariously.
G in NC

Speedbumps said...

Thanks for reading- always nice to get comments. Geoff, I took your advice and I have a Lumix TS3 on the way.