From one Caesar’s namesake to the next, we sailed from the month of Julius straight into and through the month Augustus, a transition as smooth and seamless as a Roman imperial succession (but without all the pomp and regalia and political intrigue). But before we resume our tale proper, allow me to acknowledge an anniversary of some import to many a geek, thespian, and members of the Society of Creative Anachronism. It was forty years ago this month that the portcullis was first raised, and the drawbridge lowered, at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
(For the uninitiate, this is among the largest three Ren Fairs in the nation. Here, since the age of 16–and more recently with family in tow–I (and legions of others) have wiled away many a Fall day in mulch-trailed deciduous woods, enjoying lute and pipe, fine swordplay and fletching demonstrations, falconry and magic and juggling and acrobatics, stage work from Punch-and-Judy to Shakespeare. And the larder! Oh, my word. Scotch eggs, oysters on the shell, fry bread, steak on a stake, turkey legs, mead… Huzzah!)
Enough with the expatiation. Let’s get this schooner underway, me hearties. “Swing her head ’round ‘to the weather,” so to speak (and on to Mingulay!)
Scrapple (The Odd Bits) First
Madeline. As I put quill to parchment just now, the air rings loud with a klaxon call, a harbinger of weather most foul approaching. Something wicked this way comes. You see? Hurricane season is upon us and Lady Madeline rides to our gates with a fury. And, as depicted in the fine portrait to the right, there is another hell-bent terror right behind her (we live on that relatively small island to the left, by the by). Living on an island prone to hurricane, tsunami, and volcanic eruption, we have every electronic device in our possession locked into available alert systems. The smartphone is today’s warning horn and NOAA’s website is a seeing stone unmatched in power. We keep NWS and shortwave hand-crank radios on hand, along with a supply of hand-crank flashlights. At times like this, my place of work calls to check in on my family on my days off, to ensure we have good comms and that we are battening down our hatches. We have stocked water, hardtack, potted meats, and dry goods and are keeping our snorkels close by. Now, we wait…
Democracy 101. The primary election came and went with four of our party of six serving as precinct officials at two different polling stations. (Yours truly was at work and the wee one was just too wee to qualify for the role.) No better way to teach government and civic duty (and earn an easy $85 each) than a little participation in the system. (That said, only 34-percent of eligible voters bothered to turn out, according to the official statistics.) Now, the five older among us have been asked to serve together in the Command Center for the primary election on 8 November–another tale for a future blog entry.
(Side note: Though Hawaii historically has dismal voter turnout across the board, it is hard to say if this particularly poor local showing reflects more on the character of our island’s voting public or on the dreadful political condition of The Empire, writ large and including at this backwater-provincial level. In this exercise, we elected a new mayor (current one under indictment), new councilmen, and a county prosecutor. It is interesting to listen to the citizenry here complain about the state of affairs (ad infinitum), yet many publicly open boards and committees have vacant seats and people cannot be troubled to even cast an absentee voter ballot by mail (let alone actually drive to a polling station and vote). Oi vey!)
Mount Olympus. As we have long done for every Summer and Winter Olympics and each Super Bowl, we carved out some time to all gather ’round a glowing screen somewhere (we have forgone the luxury of cable TV. for many a year now) to marvel at feats of athletic prowess. A little fencing, a bit of archery, a smidgin of field hockey, some basketball, and beach volleyball. Between a hearty session at the local sports bar and another at our rental house, around a table piled high with nosh before a laptop streaming live feed, we took our fill, and then some.
Reunion. Out of the blue–or, rather, by way of Facebook–we learned that a high school classmate whom we had not seen since graduation on the East coast some 27 years ago was coming to the island for some R&R (partner and child in tow). We carved out some time for a quick tour of our property and evolving construction project and a leisurely vegetarian lunch, complete with an assortment of local exotic fruits, that allowed for a bit of catch up. (As with the many and unexpected visitors whom we have hosted in the past two years, our latest guest proved to be a positive shot of energy.) We sent them off with a bag of our hand-picked coffee and an open invitation to return
Return to Mordor. As the ongoing lava flow continued to march toward
the ocean, there were new opportunities for viewing. This month, we Shanghaied one of the kids’ friends from church, filled our satchels with lembas, and reembarked on the 4-mile trek to where the ongoing eruption is, quite literally, creating new land (some 10 new acres have issued forth in the past four weeks alone, according to news reports). We arrived to watch, live and fairly close-up, the congress between lava and sea. And we could see smoke on the mountain from the occasional ignition of vegetation and trees on the slope closer to the summit.
It was a personal encounter with nature that I can only compare in uniqueness to a series of dives I once did off of the coast of Palau, not far from the Marianas Trench, which I often describe as “like being inside a National Geographic special.” Walking across the still-hot, only week-old crust, we literally felt compelled at times to check the integrity of shoe soles. We saw
and felt the heat all around, from the still flowing magma underfoot, and smelled sulfur fumes rising up from the craggy ground. Half buried and melted steel road posts added an otherworldly feel. Dusty, tired, hungry, and having escaped the Eye of Sauron after the additional 4-miles back to our carriage, on the journey home, we lighted upon (arguably) the best Mexican restaurant on this side of the island for a round of vittles and cerveza that would have made Poncho Villa’s mamma proud.
Part-time Bliss. My long sought after half-day schedule began, in earnest, this lunar cycle. Done at 10:00 a.m. each day, two days off in the middle of the week. This offers perfect flexibility to work the nursery, work our land, and work the kids and wife to an early grave (now that I have the time and energy to reinstate schedules and opulent rituals of the civilized, like consistent supplies of clean clothes and dishes and punctual bedtimes).
Green Collar Aspirations.
Planting and sales of seedlings and hawking of seeds continued apace. Encouraged by recent progress on our domicile, in an effort to begin reclaiming our land from the jungle, we spent some time hand-clearing what was once an impressively bare roadway from the front to back of our elongated 10-acre parcel. We harvested our first bananas, planted some 18 months ago. These are apple bananas, one of 18 varieties that we are growing, and they are scrumptious. We also netted two more pineapples. (Never in our lives had we dreamed that one day we would be harvesting tropical fruit from trees we planted on land that we own out in the Pacific.)
Culinary Antics. This month, we were gifted an abundance of ulu (that’s breadfruit, for you non-Hawaiian speakers), one of the original “canoe plants” brought by early Polynesians to this island. Familiar with, but not skilled in cooking, this wonderful staple of the Pacific, we learned to make tasty garlic stir fry and coconut-milk curries using this gift from God. (We have an ulu tree on our property, but it will be several years before we see the abundant victuals of this highly productive and versatile food source.) Also this month, courtesy of our local CSA, we acquired and learned to cook with kalamungay, a Filipino staple green. Yum!
A Nod to The Crew
Cabin Boy. The Paddling State Finals came and went with the boy’s team securing victory, only to later be disqualified for an administrative paper technicality. (We’ve heard word
that the coaches are appealing.) The free excursion to Oahu was enjoyed, nonetheless. Meanwhile, the still growing whelp continued his landscaping work, upkeep of the church website, and computer modeling tinkering. He also began to venture into the world of spearfishing. (Why do the words “shallow water blackout,” “accidental impalement,” and “shark bite lacerations” keep finding their way to the tip of me tongue?) Oh! Lest I forget… Also this month, the lad was asked by the youth pastor of a local church affiliated with our congregation to prepare and deliver a sermon to a group of peers at an upcoming retreat. Jack of all trades, this one.
The Mascot (aka Pea Pod, aka Tiny, aka Stink Weasel). Every proper tall ship, whether figurative or real, needs a prehensile-tailed monkey, no? This one was all about the soup kitchen and aikido and drawing this period. Homeschooling began in earnest, too. Out of nowhere, this one asked to take a greater role in grocery shopping and meal planning…we’ll see where this goes.
Boatswain (aka Slim). Joe College, back on campus for
her 3rd Semester and celebrating her 20th birthday this month. Halfway to that Associate’s degree and transfer to University for further work. This go around, she is immersed in a biology lab and coursework in Japanese culture, history (post 1500), cinematography, writing, and mathematics. The lass also completed a week-long, paid, overnight eldercare job, and she went for an interview for a part-time child care gig.
Privy Keeper. The Jester joined Joe College, matriculating at the local institution of higher learning and setting off on her new adventure–pursuit of a double major in Computer Science and math (and, hopefully, a career in Cupertino or Fort Meade). Her schedule, chock full of higher arithmetic and coding, includes classes taught by three professors who attend our church. (How’s that for small town dynamics?) She now relies on big sis for rides to and from campus each day. She also brought home the newest addition to our Steve-Jobs-loving family. Perhaps we’ll call this one Newton (after that brick of a gadget, that “ahead of its time” Apple product now relegated to museums).
First Mate. The Lady of the Ship was called to
court. No, no…it was not the same ole “baseless” allegations of Triad involvement and cash smuggling. This time, she was interpreting for a civil case and the court actually GAVE her money. She made some progress on setting up a new dimension to our various income streams–a consulting business that may allow us to tap our various swathes of expertise to make a little extra scratch. (Did I mention that I am a certified career development counselor and that the lady has a background in child tutoring, especially focused on science and math?) Always on the prowl, nose to the wind in hopes of a whiff of opportunity…
Yes, our dog is wearing a diaper. Why? It’s that time of the year… Tired of cleaning the floor and sanitary napkins just don’t work on the canine frame.
A Parting Quip (For the Current Era)
“In the majority of cases, conscience is an elastic and very flexible article, which will bear a deal of stretching and adapt itself to a great variety of circumstances. Some people by prudent management and leaving it off piece by piece like a flannel waistcoat in warm weather, even contrive, in time, to dispense with it altogether; but there be others who can assume the garment and throw it off at pleasure; and this, being the greatest and most convenient improvement, is the one most in vogue.”
— Charles Dickens (in The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841)
[Close Curtain] [Applause] [Flower Bouquets, Cognac, and Cigars all around]