O Shenandoah! Dirt Road Journal

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"T is for Tides"


Oil painting by Marjorie Harris Scranton of Casco Bay rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean and viewed from the coastline of Bustins Island ME
Graphic above: Oil painting of Casco Bay rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean and viewed from the coastline of Bustins Island Maine
by Marjorie Harris Scranton, c. 1950



Graphic below: ACR logo, click for "Rabbits & Rosebuds" short story


Although my grandmother grew up in strict and sometimes stringent luxury on a New Jersey "gentleman's farm" and in the extravagant abandon of upper East Side Manhattan, that and her Vassar degree in no way made her an "effete intellectual." Our summer home had a wood stove for heat during Maine nights and inclement weather days, potable water drawn from a somewhat distant community well, no household or landscape hired help, oil lamps and "primitive" medical assistance, it being one-half hour by ferry or boat ride at least to mainland professional practitioners and facilities. We enjoyed nature "in the raw" with self-reliance and simple entertainments from clam-digging to picking wild berries, playing old records on a crank gramophone and Chinese checkers on an antique board left there by previous owners along with the rest of home furnishings, heavy storm windows drawn and tied firmly down against the grand fury of Nor'easters while the sea before us raged and foamed against cove rocks and shell-pebbled shore. She was never a disciple of ignorance, restriction or fear but rather self-discipline, endeavor and intelligent compassion and generosity. A Christian who studied and respected other religions, she knew she wasn't always right, but she always tried. Daughter of a Mason, Republican, suffragrette, League of Women Voters activist and artist in music, oils, watercolor, poetry, and the telling/writing of stories for children. As she said, she wasn't a "scrubber," but she wasn't a quitter either. It's been 33 years since her wonderfully complex American presence and personality have been felt full-force in all their layered offer and awe on this somewhat impoverished and sorrow-full sphere. Virginia criminals -- unrestrained and untamed brutes and barbarians -- have taken, destroyed and/or dispersed by illicit, treasonous armed force nearly all of her "effects," but they'll never know the incalculable and indescribable, incandescent essence of her life and personna which can't be grasped or experienced by viewing purloined paintings or holding a stolen silver folk or spoon monogrammed with her name: Marjorie. Marjorie May Harris. A woman for all seasons in whose honor ACR/OSCR is in part dedicated and constructed -- including its logo, a remembrance of spontaneously imagined and told bedtime stories for an enchanted child. vivant pour toujours, vivre éternellement. -- Jeannette, 11/09

Graphic above: ACR logo, click for "Growing Up Rich" Anecdotes

".... The history of Johnson City Lodge 274, F & A.M., Fall Branch, Tennessee dates to 1858 when the organization was chartered ['until the present year 2009' -- J.L. Kiener, Jonesborough Town Historian]... by the Grand Lodge of the State of Tennessee.... The Rev. Noah Baldwin installed the officers on the 7th day of December 1858. In 1863, the Lodge lost everything during this period of Civil War to plunderers and burglars. The Lodge did not meet anymore until the spring of 1865.... On June 24, 1870 the lodge was dedicated and the lodge building was constructed in 1869.... The lodge members formed a procession and marched with music to the stand where the Lodge Hall was dedicated by the Grand Master assisted by his grand officers. The brethren provided vocal and instrumental music.... The Johnson Lodge No. 274 once served as a normal school.... The school was in session for forty weeks. Instruction was thorough and effective. Arrangements were made to teach students of both sexes.... Many of the Methodist families, Baptist families and Masonic families exhibited an unusual progressive spirit and built the community.... Long before there was any state support for public schools, the residents of the community provided local financial support for its own school. The first school was built in 1842. It was called Fall Branch Seminary. The Seminary was located in the Billy Simpson house.... Jemina Crouch ran a boarding house for students out of the old Hooper House. She boarded as many as 50 students at a time. Some of the local residents would also board students in their homes.... In 1907 Washington County inaugurated a system of county high schools. Fall Branch was one of these and has since operated as a country school...." -- Rev. Miles D. Baines in Digging For Your Roots, Herald & Tribune 10/27/09




anchor Hal wriggled into the cool Maine mud, fingering through glistening rocks and shells for a quohog clam. As water-worn rowboats waved and wrestled beneath the pier, a mainland ferry cut her engine, drifting alongside and in to dock. Hal peered intently while hands tied the boat to her mooring, pulling on thick lines, rounding the posts tightly, and a few dozen passengers debarked carrying parcels and suitcases. Grandma wasn't there. Hal sighed and held his breath as a horseshoe crab tiptoed into the surf, then pulled himself up and headed inland, swatting pebbles from his legs and shorts. Scuffing through dirt on the one-lane road, Hal passed the island's only store and noticed its single vehicle, a beaten green ice truck, parked in front. Mrs. James might give him a piece of candy from her wondrously colored jars.

"Grandma didn't get back yet." Hal looked up in wistful surprise, as Mrs. James said, and he knew she would, "She didn't? I guess you'll have to come back in a few hours. Looks like you need a piece of candy." Hal grinned as he reached down through the large opening and into the glass containing his favorite orange drops. "Thanks, Mrs. James," he called, pushing open the screen door.

Circling Pirate's Folly and transecting it twice, the dirt road wound alongside stoney beaches and coves. It had no name. It was simply the road. Hal turned and crossed the island, past the one house with indoor plumbing, past the only year-round house where the lobster man lived, on by their community well, and through the dark coolness of Grandma's house onto the screened-in porch with its huge glass windows that pulled down by ropes when a storm threatened. Through a forest of pines and brush, Hal studied the ocean's temper. It was calm and low. Grandma wouldn't mind if he followed the path downhill and onto "the rock", a precipice almost completely out of water at low tide.

- - - - -

On a field by the river raging angrily against its banks, through the giant trunks of sycamores, Hal gazed out onto red and roiling waters. Branches of trees, styrofoam coolers, metal drums bobbed downstream. Gone were the etched gray river ledges, the reed-green haunts of ducks and geese, the wavering glass surface and glimmery shells askew in the river's bed. Gone, too, were the silver flat-bottomed boats, the bright-sided canoes and wooden rafts. Even the photograph of Atlantic Ocean, click for 'Appalachian Ecology' fishermen had stayed away. High tide, Hal thought, as he turned, wheels sliding in Virginia mud, toward the dirt road and his house on the hill.




"... If it is possible to simplify and generalize on this involved subject, motivation factors might be put into 10 categories, some of which (or possibly all of which) are shared to some extent by those who go to sea alone. They are as follows: (1) practical purposes, (2) self-significance, (3) curiosity and fullfillment, (4) recognition, (5) independence, (6) escapism, (7) adventurousness, (8) competitiveness, (9) solitude, (10) the Mother Sea.... For some there may be a spiritual value in being alone, a feeling of closer contact with God or at least with nature. One example of a loner who feels at one with God, nature, and the sea is Bernard Moitessier. After the Golden Globe Race when he sailed 1-1/2 times around the world non-stop, he said, 'Much of my voyage I sailed under a condition called Baraka -- a state of grace I could feel, as if I was loved and being looked after by the Olympian Gods above.' He spoke of 'peace and joy of being in harmony with the universe.' After making the difficult decision to withdraw from the Golden Globe Race, he sent a message to his publisher by shooting it aboard a ship with a slingshot (a la William Andrews). It said: 'I am continuing non-stop towards the Pacific Islands because I am happy at sea, and perhaps also to save my soul.'... Our last category has a rather strange title, 'the Mother Sea.' It has to do with the sailor's natural emotions in regard to the sea and his or her vessel. Some of these feelings are deeply buried in the subconscious.... Of course, life itself originated in the sea, and perhaps the deep love of the sea possessed by some sailors, the 'sea fever' described so well by John Masefield, is in some part the awakening of an instinctive affinity with the mother element. As Robert Manry explained it, 'There is an inherited something in the protoplasm of my body cells that feels an agreeable kinship with the sea.'"... John Guzzwell has written, 'A boat seems to have a soul and character of her own. Perhaps it is because of this that boats are usually thought of as being feminine.' Singlehander Frank Mulville expands on this thinking when he says, 'A boat is a living thing -- full of eccentricities, perversities, and endearing quirks. It vibrates with life and gives off sympathy and understanding.'... In fair weather the boat may be like a companion or a girlfriend, but in a hard chance she may seem more like a defending mother.... With the great proliferation of women sailors in recent years it is interesting to speculate on similarities and differences between the sexes with regard to singlehanded or shorthanded sailing. A woman is more likely to show her emotions, whereas a man more often keeps his emotions bottled up. Some men are afflicted with a high degree of the macho, with an unwillingess to admit to any weaknesses, fears, or mental problems; perhaps this characteristic can be a weakness that will more easily lead to a breakdown. In contrast, the woman may be equipped with a natural safety valve to relieve the build-up to tension and stress.... Perhaps nature has endowed her with more patience, endurance, and self-discipline, as well as a higher threshold of pain.... 'It has often been found, [sailor/psychologist Niolette Milnes-Walker] wrote, 'that women survive hardship better than men. I think that this is because women are less self-centred than men, for a woman's life is usually centred on her husband and/or children and so she has a motive for fighting on when all is lost... if there is any truth in the argument of evolved innate sex differences, which I think there is, I could expect to have this survival capacity.'... A woman can do anything as well or better than a man, as long as it doesn't require a tremendous amount of physical strength.... As expressed in the Slocum Society's salty journal, The Spray, 'Since women have such highly refined motor skills, exceptional patience, and a high resistance to both cold and fatigue they are ideal candidates to stand up to the rigors of offshore sailing....' Dr [Felix -- author/journalist/college president] Morley, who was in his eighties at that time, made what I consider a beautiful and provocative comment: 'Extrapolating that thought, an octogenarian (like myself) may easily feel associated with those whom you are so carefully preparing for singlehanded sailing. The time is not distant when the last moorings to earth will be withdrawn and the outgoing tide will sweep them to what are at best dubiously charted seas. Of course in this prospect there is cause for apprehension. But surely also an exulting promise of high adventure.'..." -- The Experiences and Techniques of the Lone Voyagers: Singlehanded Sailing by Richard Henderson



Midi music file, "Let Her Cry" by Hootie and the Blowfish, arrangement by middlesea@aol.com

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Original material © O Shenandoah! Country Rag April, 1996. All rights reserved.