And Hawaii

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 29, 2014 8:57 PM

This morning, the husband unit and I were lounging in bed, having a cup of coffee, discussing the seven continents because what else would a happily married couple be doing at 7 am on a Wednesday morning?

The conversation had started rather innocently when I mentioned that this weekend was the time change. Many parts of the country fall behind. Arizona doesn’t participate because why would they. So I mentioned that we needed to remember that when California clients said they’d like to have a 2 pm meeting, that actually means 3 pm our time for the next several months unless we’re in California and then we don’t have to think about it. Kevin took a sip of his coffee and said his head hurt already. Then he said that maybe we needed to get some of those clocks, and I smiled and I said so we’d know what time it was in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, maybe Singapore.

That led to a segue of me asking what the biggest city in China is, and we both decided that it must be Beijing. This prompted me to say that I was pretty sure I could name most of the major cities in most countries but that Africa always eluded me. I knew Johannesburg in South Africa. I knew much of Africa was horribly poor, and that there is always strife there; always has been.

He said South Hampton. I don’t know if there’s a South Hampton in Africa. I know there’s one on Long Island and England. I asked if there were any other big cities in Africa which naturally led to a discussion about Egypt and Cairo because what else do you discuss at 7:05 in the morning. He said he didn’t think Egypt was in Africa and I asked well, then, where would it be? Luckily, I had my handy dandy communication device right next to the bed because dog forbid I not have my cell phone within reach at all times. I pulled up the internets and Wikipedia, wondering how I ever got by without Wikipedia, and looked up Egypt. There it was, a nice big splotch on the northern tip of Africa. Hmmm, said the husband unit, sipping his coffee.

What are the seven continents, I asked and together we quickly rattled off north and south America, Africa, Asia. Kevin offered Antarctica. Then we sat, perplexed. Australia? Yes. And Hawaii. I started to laugh. I’ve always loved Hawaii. It’s truly a tropical paradise. It has an otherworldiness about it, especially on the smaller islands, that makes you feel as if you’ve left the chaos behind. Time slows down a bit. You go from living life at mach II with your hair on fire to existing in slow motion. It can take a few days to acclimate, but once you do, it’s difficult to go back to the mainland. I think it might very well be the living and actual embodiment of Shangri-La, a fictional place from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton that was described as a mystical and harmonious valley, according to Wikipedia. It has since become somewhat synonymous with any earthly paradise.

Eventually, the husband unit and I came up with the correct seven continents. We got out of bed and took Cooper for a walk. The morning here was cool, low 50s. The light was almost blue, even as we approached 8 am. Fall weather. Cooper trotted along, his ears bouncing as they always do. We were quiet, lost in thoughts of Shangri-La. And the lost continent of Hawaii.

Sea of glass

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 26, 2013 12:17 AM

My sister and her family are spending the week in Prouts Neck, Maine. This tiny inlet is just to the east of Scarborough. We vacationed there every summer when we were growing up. I don’t remember when my parents first discovered it or why they thought let’s go to Maine and take the kids for a week or two, but discover it they did and go we went. We rented a funky house on a cul de sac just across from a worn and gnarled path that led down to rocky sand and a mostly angry, cold Atlantic. The house on the corner of the path had a huge chocolate bear that we came to know was a Newfoundland. I think his name was Lincoln. He would lie in front of the garage door all day long, watching the slowness of the world.

Winslow Homer, the famous American landscape painter, hailed from Prouts Neck. His home is still there and was recently treated to a nearly $3 million renovation. The exterior looks much the same, at least according to the pictures I’ve seen online. Gray, weathered wood that has probably now been painted to look as if it has withstood more than a century of the cold New England coast. Homer used to step outside, onto the rocky cliffs that surround the house as well as the entire Neck and most of Maine’s coastline, set up an easel and paint his iconic scenes of a tortured sea. I believe the Portland Museum of Art paid for the renovation and currently houses an extensive collection of the art. The house itself has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966.

Evidently the house we used to rent has also undergone a renovation in the many years since we stayed there. It used to be somewhat of a beach cottage, with a large rambling room on the second floor complete with a galley kitchen, an eat-at bar, and a small bathroom. A wooden deck wrapped around the entire outside of the second floor as well, and the front of the home was glass so that we could look out toward the ocean. We would spend hours playing board games, reading or trying to get some sort of reception on the tiny black and white television that sat in the corner. The stairs to the first floor were actually outside. On the first floor were five bedrooms, most if not all, with bunk beds. There may have been a regular bed in the parent’s room. I don’t remember. There was a big bathroom/laundry room in the far corner. Cars were parked outside under the deck.

The house’s stairs are now inside; an addition has been put on. Khris looked into renting it when they decided to vacation there this summer but I believe she said that it only rents by the month and for about $10000. Perhaps it was more. I just remember it was much too expensive so they found something else.

She posted a picture on Facebook the other day of Shawn and Caden on the beach, in front of driftwood stacked for a bonfire. I don’t know if they ever lit it; if they’re even allowed. In the background, the ocean stirs. The sky that had been angry has now been placated somehow and only high clouds remain. It looks peaceful. It looks like Maine.

They have long vacationed in Maine, much like our family did when we were kids. In the house they rented, south of Bar Harbor, they began what has become an extensive collection of sea glass. Shawn started it when she was four or five and Caden has taken over the reigns. Each year they scour the sand looking for glass that has spent much time in the water, the salt and agitation from the churning tides rounding sharp edges and leaving a mostly cloudy finish where once the glass was clear. It’s quite beautiful, sea glass, in colors of blue and green, red and brown, black and yellow, sometimes clear. They keep it in a jar. A glass jar full of glass fragments expelled by the Atlantic.

I wonder sometimes if the ocean leaves things on the sand in order for us to discover the wonders that exist within its still mysterious depths. To stand on the beach, looking out into its endless expanse is to feel small and overcome with awe, and filled with the amazement of living on this earth. It is rarely calm, this ocean, which is why the sea glass it leaves for my niece and nephew to find is so soft. But on the rare occasion that it is dormant, it resembles a sheet of glass not yet broken. A sea of glass waiting to release its magic so that two children can capture and hold it forever. 

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