Chicago people at the cabin
Sunday, August 21 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
It seems Alana was the first one up this morning after me, and she went out on the deck to read while I drank coffee and read the news. I tinkered some more with the bluestone walkway project while the others gradually booted up for the day. Jeff was the only other coffee drinker among us, so we ended up making two french presses of the caffeinated kind.
After eating some light breakfast food, the four of us walked down to the lake. But instead of going directly to the dock, we took the fork in the path and went over to the beaver dam where the lake ends and turns into a brook that carries water down to Lake Edward. These days, the dam is a foot-high wall of mud and sticks; evidently the leaks in it and the PVC pipes perforating it (installed by the Boy Scouts, evidently to keep the lake from rising too high) are enough to keep it from rising above its current level given the current season's weather pattern. The USDA drought map doesn't show the southern Adirondacks in drought, so perhaps the current lake level is a normal one, even if it is lower than I've ever seen it. We crossed the brook on the makeshift stone causeway and walked over to the nearby Boy Scout campground, one of the few major Boy Scout artifacts on our 43 acre parcel. It's not much, just a large picnic table, a hearty steel fire pit, the kind found at official campgrounds, and a large stone fire pit surrounded by makeshift benches made of semi-processed now-half-rotten tree trunks. There are also a number of cheap rakes there for some reason. Gretchen has always been very excited about the possibilities offered by this campground, but, as I said today, every time I see it all I can think about is being eaten alive by insects.
From there, we walked to the dock using the lakeside trail. Alana had injured her knee recently, so Gretchen and I tended to walk too fast for them to keep up.
At the dock, Gretchen quickly dove in and went for a big swim. Alana then set out in a kayak, and then Jeff launched himself in the canoe. At some point Neville came out of the woods, apparently having followed us first to the campsite and then to the lake. Ramona never materialized.
Throckmorton the Loon was visible far out on the lake, and at some point he started whooping, which is always entertaining. This time, though, another loon off in the distance answered him. I didn't see the other loon, but as she was swimming, Gretchen did. It was way up in the sky flying around, and apparently the communication between the loons (which included both the yodel and the "Awooo!") was to the effect that the other loon should not join Throckmorton on the lake. Meanwhile, I was puttering around making small adjustments to the stairway into the lake. I also used the crowbar to extract (with considerable difficulty) a mostly-buried egg-shaped boulder sticking out of the soil just above the dock; I wanted that area to be grassy and completely stone-free.
Two more visitors would be arriving today, so after returning from her swim, Gretchen hiked back to the cabin to wait for them. When Jeff and Alana returned on their watercraft, the three of us sat together on the dock with our feet in the water watching as someone swam clockwise around the lake, starting from the vicinity of Pyotr's dock. When the swimmer got near enough to see, I didn't recognize him because he was wet and wearing goggles. But when he spoke, I immediately recognized the Polish accent. This was Pyotr, and, he said, he was just exploring the lake shore to see what sort of things he could see wearing goggles. He excitedly told us about some large boulders that are mostly invisible beneath the surface. So I asked if he knew more about the styrofoam buoy about 80 feet north of our dock. He explained that it was situated a quarter mile from his dock, and that it was used by the Boy Scouts for awarding a special badge for boys who could swim back and forth between it twice, that is, swimming an entire mile. He swam over to it and examined it more closely, reporting that it was in about eight feet of water and anchored by a five gallon bucket full of concrete. Pyotr than continued his swim around the lake, covering a total distance of more than three quarters of a mile.
I was the first to hear Gretchen's voice when she and our other visitors were walking back down to the lake. Neither Alana nor Jeff could hear them, but Alana had water in her ears and Jeff had destroyed his hearing by attending too many shows (now he has tinnitus, but so do I). Neville perked up and made a woof a few seconds later, either because his hearing isn't as good as mine, or because his response was a bit slow.
Our new visitors were Paula, a new friend of Gretchen's, Paula's husband Howard, and their dog Valerie, a young, energetic poodle. Paula is the nurse whose connection to the vaccination effort managed to get us covid shots earlier than most other people back in March of 2021. Gretchen had originally met Paula through teaching poetry courses and working at the bookstore. In recent months, Paula has taken such a shine to Gretchen that she's invited her to use her pool any time, and, according to Gretchen, the pool is amazing. It's big, it's clean, and it has an breathtaking setting high atop one of the mountains north of Woodstock.
After Gretchen, Paula, Howard, and Valerie joined us on the dock, Ramona came ambling out of the woods, and she was definitely not having any of Valerie (who was checking all of Ramona's boxes for the kinds of dogs she hates). But Ramona is old and kind of decrepit these days, so she mostly just kept to herself in one corner of the dock, growling occasionally, while Valerie did her goofy stuff over near Paula.
We weren't on the dock long before a few drops of rain spat out of the sky, and it was enough to send us all fleeing back to the cabin. I led the way with Paula, Howard, and Valerie to keep Valerie well ahead of Ramona (who is a reliable slow poke). As we walked up the trail, Paula was telling me about how much she loves Gretchen, how awesome her pool is, and about her semi-famous podcasting daughter, who is in a long-term relationship with (but not married to) one of the editors at Slate.com.
Up at the cabin, Paula had a big pot of soup to heat up and some risotto in a Japanese hot pot that looked like a futuristic boombox. Gretchen cooked up some other things, including yesterday's pesto pasta and quiche. Evidently Paula doesn't use salt when she cooks, and the soup she'd brought was surprisingly devoid of flavor.
Over lunch, Paula and Howard bonded with Jeff and Alana over their respective years spent in Chicago and Detroit. Paula, who said she'd just turned 70, had apparently been part of Detroit's underground rock scene and was conversant in such subjects as MC5 (the band). And all of us present had at least some connection to Chicago; both Gretchen's parents and my parents had (separately) met each other there, and the timing of my birth in Maryland suggests that I might've been conceived there as well.
Usually I play a minimal role in conversations with so many extroverted talkers (in this case mostly just Gretchen and Paula), but somehow the subject of the present state of my mother and brother came up. Paula was full of ideas about how I might help my brother in the future, particularly after my mother dies. But all had to agree that he'd been denied a life and was now stuck in a sort of purgatory that will not end until my mother dies. And even after that, much of the damage of his neglect will be permanent. I, on the otherhand, somehow "got out." I mostly did this via college, girlfriends, and a series of jobs that I took to please various women in my life (not all of whom were girlfriends). This inevitably led to Gretchen telling Paula our love story, beginning back in 1988, ending in 1989, and resuming in 2001. This part of the conversation was (as it always is) a bit embarrassing (and I'd started secretly drinking wine from a coffee cup) so I left the table and wandered around nearby instead of remaining at the table.
After lupper, we all walked over to Ibrahim's A-frame to see what progress had been made on it. As we were walking, Howard was telling me all about a spring he'd discovered and developed on a slope 200 feet higher than his and Paula's mountain-top house. He said the spring runs even now, during this drought. I wondered if maybe he could take advantage of all that head and use it for micro-hydropower. Howard is a professional architect, and he seemed conversant in many of the subjects that I can't have with anyone else I know except Joe the Lead Developer. Our ability to understand each other and enjoy talking this way made Paula realize that I, like Howard, am a "nerd."
After giving Howard and Jeff a tour of the basement and then giving Paula and Howard a tour of the upstairs, Paula and Howard said goodbye and started their drive back to their mountaintop home. Then, after what seemed like a half-hour-long goodbye, Jeff and Alana began their drive back to the Town (not City) of Kingston. There are few things more annoying to me than long leisurely goodbyes, the kind that happen when people stand around in a parking area and keep coming up with new topics that then need to be discussed in full (one of the ones this evening was the subject of Powerful). So I took the opportunity to continue my work building out the bluestone walkway so I could be politely nearby while not wasting my precious time.
But then Gretchen and I were alone with our dogs again at the cabin. Gretchen immediately went off to do a round of DuoLingo while I continued my bluestone work.
Gretchen and me in a conjoined pair of Adirondack chairs in the place where Gretchen put them a couple hundred feet north of the dock along the lake shore. That mug contains kratom tea. Photo by Alana.
Jeff paddles the canoe while Neville looks on from the dock. Click to enlarge.
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