It is the new year and it has been many months since I sent out the last newsletter. So I am picking it back up for the new year. Here is a small note about my two months at the cabin.
This year we stayed at the cabin for a little over two months. It was relatively easy to set up given all the previous years’ practice and incremental bettering of the space with time. Even with the slight damper at the start because of a flu bug we had contracted en-route and some ever-continuing trouble from a distant neighbour. Just regular colds have become quite taboo — people stare at you and you feel like an outcast and a dangerous person all at once.
But the cabin was, as it always has been, forgiving and plentiful. And we had plenty of time and space to heal especially since this time around we did not do any large infrastructure projects (other than shoring up the already existing solar set-up for a little more battery juice).
This meant that I had a lot of time by myself — to wander. I even spent a week alone at the cabin — with the coyotes howling at night and, for human company, the flickering light on the other side of the cove, watching the garish pink sunsets on my own.
In this alone-ness it got easier to just sit and watch and wait until my presence became inconspicuous enough for nature to stop sidestepping me. The cedar waxwings would start hopping from branch to branch eyeing me with their expertly applied kajal or the belted kingfishers with the wind in their crest giving them tall Mohawks would go back to noisily diving for fish and the adolescent spruce grouse would congregate on the forest floor behind the kitchen unaware of the danger I could pose.
Once I was resting on a pebble beach on an island close to the cabin having spent the morning cycling. Near me was a great blue heron on a rock immobile and surveying the water for its evening meal. When suddenly a doe and her fawn stepped into my vision and gingerly walked into the icy Atlantic and started swimming until they reached another island near by and in a practised manner, got out, shook themselves dry and may their way back into the thicket. I felt like I had been accidentally privy to something vulnerable, intimate and wondrous — watching deer swim the ocean and island hop in front of me.
Jane Goodall says that you need to be alone to feel a part of nature. Even if you are with one other person, even someone you love, it’s two human beings in nature — and you can’t be lost in it.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
When I worked and lived in the city people and places served as markers. Strangers I would recognize because we took the same train to work or folks in my neighbourhood that I had inadvertently synced with for morning runs or for evening Golgappas. Over here in the cabin, I reached a similar strange rapport. Every morning around the time I woke up, the hermit thrush would begin its singing which echoed through the pines and water. It’s sound has a certain dissonance to it— all at once tinny and tinkery like a chip tune and ethereal like Gregorian chanting, it does not sound like something an organic being should be able to make. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds describes it so:
It opens with a clear flute like note, followed by ethereal bell-like tones, ascending and descending in no fixed order, rising until reaching dizzying vocal heights and notes fade away in a silvery tinkle.
It is a modest looking bird that hangs out on the ground foraging through fallen leaves in spring and summer while in winter (much like me) it travels into cities to keep warm.
Most mornings as I began making tea, the osprey which had probably migrated there a couple months before me from South America for its fledglings would begin flying in circles high above the cabin as it surveys land and water for its meal.
The rest of my mornings were spent on the small rocky cliff drinking chai. To the left of the little cliff — the pewter waters of the inlet opened out into the endless frigid North Atlantic Ocean which you can see all the way to the horizon spotted only with tiny coniferous islands. And to the right not too far into the cove, the u-shaped end of the cove is visible. The water itself is still, unmoving, and reflecting the sky back. The shoreline is covered in rocks — big and small — coloured green and red by the rock weed, algae, and iron deposits.
Chai time, I usually spent with a stern looking bald eagle flying from one side of the cove to the other, sometimes diving to catch easy prey. And every morning in August one lone seal would make his way to the opposite side of the cove and be seen with his face popping out of the water for a few seconds or his smooth curved back as he made his way back under. On days when he was feeling more adventurous and especially if there were schools of fish, he would venture closer and closer to my side, a game he played until he got bored or distracted.
One morning towards the end of the month with the water level changing, beyond the cove and directly in my eye-line was a sandbar which became more apparent during low tide. A bob of seals started congregating there daily as the waters got cooler. They were lithe and streamlined in the water and the exact opposite of that on land. They moved around like big reflective chonky cylinders on rocks and sunned themselves in salabhasana which — to my anthropomorphizing brain — looked very uncomfortable. Occasionally one of them would roll off the sand bar and plop into the water to catch themselves a meal. The young ones were especially inquisitive, drawing closer attracted to the sound of us every time we were in our canoes or kayaks.
Almost invariably during the short walk up the stone path from the cabin to the loo, I was met with the annoyed rustling of a young Maritime Garter Snake (Mte’skm) as it was forced to move out from its usual sunning area on the stones which heated up through the day. The garter snake in other years has had very little patience with us and found itself another less trampled location by the end of the first week of the humans returning. But this year it stayed almost a month and a half. I had gotten so used to hearing the rustling that, the one day in September when I suddenly stopped hearing it, I felt like I had lost a comrade.
I usually began my evenings walking up to the meadow near the cabin and the shoreline to watch the sun go down. The summer air is usually heavy with moisture. The moisture seemingly oozing into existence out of nowhere and coating every surface. On such days you cant see the sun, let alone watch it set, and the horizon looks like you are seeing it through tracing paper. Though on other days the sun splattered the cloudless sky with bright hues of pink and orange. Against the backdrop of this sky, only the silhouette of the other side of the cove was visible— with the few houses there lit up and their chimneys puffing wood smoke. In the other direction were jet back shapes of the tiny islands between the cove and North Atlantic.
The moisture filled days led to foggy mornings when you really take notice of who actually owns all of this land. Every surface was covered with cobwebs and they were especially visible, heavy with thick morning dew. Most of them spun overnight and waiting fresh fodder.
The meadow ends abruptly, a sudden dip about half a foot deep to meet the rocky shore. This line also recedes in-land a little bit every year as more soil is lost to sea. Where the meadows dips, you can see the cross-section of the soil that houses the grassy carpet and its interconnected root system. Young pine and old spruce trees fill the entire cove and surround this space. The soil around the roots of these trees on the shore has washed off leaving only the roots on the ground looking like they are desperately trying to hold on to land. The meadow itself is a remnant (along with a couple of wells, bricks, cow-paths, and broken ceramic) from when humans had settled here a long time ago before abandoning it for greener pastures. The rest of the cove grew back into a young Acadian forest. The meadow, not so much. Purple asters, thistles, and golden rods interrupted the long itchy blades of grass in the meadow signalling the end of summer.
Annihilation of caste — B.R. Ambedkar
Searching for Sappho: The lost songs and words of the first woman poet — Philip Freeman
Upstream: Selected Essays — Mary Oliver
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me — Mindy Kaling
Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st century — Jessica Bruder
Sheet Harbour: A Local History — James Rutledge
To be taught, if fortunate — Becky Chambers
Caste Matters — Suraj Yengde
Caste: The origins of our discontents — Isabel Wilkerson
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House — Cherie Jones
The City We Became — N.K Jemisin
Gideon the Ninth — Tamsyn Muir
H is for Hawk — Helen McDonald