Saturday, September 1, 2007

There and back again

I’ve been on the Faraway Island. While there, I hiked up to Coskata. The mosquitoes along part of the way were fierce, but not in the wind. I came across masses of small crabs, who slipped into their dime-sized holes when I approached. Bird-wise, some greater yellowlegs, black bellied plovers, spotted sandpipers, osprey, and a hunting female northern harrier. A whimbrel was the highlight; I haven’t seen one of these since Scotland.
Another morning, I went out with a group, and we spotted a saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, one for the life list. It was a foggy morning, and we saw a “fogbow” or white rainbow, a first for all of us. Like a rainbow this, but without color. Very beautiful. I looked it up in Minnaert, Light and Color in the Outdoors, a fascinating book I discovered in Ed Tufte’s footnotes. After the tidal flats, we went to the State Forest, which was pretty quiet. A deer bounded across the path in front of us, and we first heard, then saw a young Cooper’s hawk going after the crows that were mobbing her. (For two days previous, I’d seen a sharpie land in the black cherry tree in the backyard right around 6pm, so seeing the two confusing species in such proximity was most helpful.) Then we lost the old lady who was with us. She wandered off somewhere, and ending up getting a ride back to the parking lot. She was a lovely old dame who was born in NJ but has lived in Switzerland for 50 plus years, summering on the island in the house her father built. Old money… I should have taken up her offer for a drink at the old manse but I was leaving the next day.

That night, I cooked up a storm for five: salad nicoise and a hybrid dessert. Originally, I wanted to make a trifle, but there were no ladyfingers to be had. (A primitive island indeed.) So I just made a crème anglese to pour over berries, but looking at the five egg whites left over, I thought, what the hell should I do with those? Make an omelet? An egg white omelet is a crime against cooking. So I essayed a meringue, and it turned out well, and it became the base for the berries and sauce. Pretty damn good.

New money: a house is going up on the corner, the last empty place on that block. This is one of the now-typical SUV houses on the island, hugely oversized and unsustainable, totally inappropriate for the local scale. Two more houses are supposed to be wedged into the space, which is currently flat and bare and ugly. Meanwhile, somebody purchased 9.2 acres of island for $26.5 million. This is some of the last empty land on the island:

It's a Quaker cemeter: shunning worldly ostentation, they weren't into tombstones (cf Robert Lowell's "Up from this field of Quakers in their unstoned graves"), but there's no reason people shouldn't walk their dogs there and developers build some lux third homes.

This time of year, the old man's house is habitat for crickets. I captured a few and put them out of the house. The remaining fiddled away in far corners. The spiders I left alone: there were at least three species in the bathroom.

On the way back, I sat next to a woman who was an expert in early concrete. Naturally, I mentioned the coignet building on 3rd Avenue.

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