The chair was made by a local man. We bought two, the price not cheap, but was more than fair, and he was surprised we opted not to oil them. We like to see things age as much as we do, and, in the local way of acceptance that is under-rated, he nodded and went on his way.
Because we chose not to oil our chairs, they have turned grey and are covered by lichen. They are now over a decade old, and will likely last another 5. With oil, they may have outlived us.
When we need new ones, we’ll seek the same man. We do not need chairs to outlive us. That’s what plastic is for.
Because we chose not to oil them a decade ago, I got to see a wasp explore the lichen, which might not seem like much, but I enjoyed seeing that a wasp could be as easily fooled as a human.
We are all easily fooled–life is foolish, in the best sense of the word.
I am not about to burn my clamming spots, though I did get one ridiculously cheap by tipping the bartender at the Villas Fishing Club $10 on two $1 beers. (Rumor was he loved to clam in his younger years.)
The first $5 tip got me this–if you want fresh clams, go to the Lobster House.
The next $5 got me a lovely mudflat I only share with close family.
What’s not nearly as secret though are the oysters hanging off the jetties in North Cape May.
Are they sandy? Yep.
Are they way too close to the discharge pipes? Yep again.
(I cannot vouch for their safety but I can vouch for their tastiness; I’ve eaten a couple raw right off the jetty.)
You’ll need a license ($10/year for state residents) and little else. Just beware that they’re going to be a bit sandy.
Bunker dominate the bay. They’re a big reason why dolphins, stripers, and humpback whales wander just off our beach. My grandchild calls them “skyfish” when she sees one wiggling in the talons of an osprey as it flies overhead.
Chances are you’ve seen pieces of larger bunker along the tide line–stiff, gray, dead.
This little guy was also stiff and dead, but its brilliant colors jumped at me as I ambled along the ferry jetty. A storm tide had left him on the wrong side of the rocks and the gulls had yet to find him.
I tried to toss it back into the canal, but with the stiff breeze, it fell between the jetty rocks, a treat for the crabs.
I know what folks will pay for this. I also know what it’s worth. Two very different things….
I have a chunk of ambergris, found it years ago, and while briefly tempted to sell it, am grateful now I kept it.
It was sitting right on the edge of the bay just north of Lincoln Avenue. It wasn’t much to look at, and I am not sure what possessed me to pick it up. Even then I almost tossed it back into the bay.
I mostly forget about it, but now and again I walk through a cloud of its molecules and get briefly taken to, well, not sure where, some vague place of immeasurable joy.
Not immense. Immeasurable.
In the literal sense.
You cannot measure the pleasure, the joy, the presence of the herenow that lump of aged whale shit brings me. It apparently has the same effect on others, why else would anyone offer thousands of dollars for a slab of shite?
The big data junkies among us might argue that all things are measurable, and I supposed you could take pre- and post-ambergris exposure levels of my serum oxytocin and plot them over time, but that becomes impractical, and it’s not important anyway..
Turns out measuring some pretty important things in education are impractical, too. Brilliant writing. Unorthodox but rational thinking. Sense of public duty. Joy. Ability to observe subtle details. Flexibility when confronted with new ideas. Empathy.
When our ability to measure outcomes trumps our choices of which outcomes matter, we’ve stripped “public” from education.
(My sister has a park named after her in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m sure many locals call it many different names and I’m fine with that. My clan calls the David Douglass Sr. Memorial Park “the ferry jetty” and many locals have a variety of names for this tiny patch of paradise. This post is to remind all of us about the man whose name adorns the small monument at the park entrance.)
North Cape May is not a large neighborhood, only about 1 1/2 square miles. The bay gives us an air of grandness bigger than our britches.
Patrolman David Douglass Sr. was shot and killed in our neighborhood almost 28 years ago while pursuing a suspected burglar. The suspect fired at Officer Douglass, mortally wounding him. His body now rests in the Cold Spring Presbyterian Church cemetery just a couple of miles away from the park.
David Douglass Sr. was both a local police officer and firefighter. He was a husband and father to a son and two daughters, the oldest only 15 at the time of his death. He has both a school and a park named after him, and his son has followed his steps into law enforcement.
Next time you amble down the narrow road to the park, take a moment to view the memorial honoring the man. I hope it brings some comfort to the family, as I get comfort from seeing my sister’s name on her park.
Some days I’m little more than the Samuel Pepys of North Cape May, noting the day to day changes along our tiny patch of the Delaware Bay. Pepys’ musing were punctuated by the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. We have COVID and the demise of democracy, but unlike Pepys, I’m sticking to the beach.
This afternoon was about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, just this side above freezing. The skies were gray, the water steel, and an east breeze kept the waves down. The clouds were threatening rain, and started to spit before the walk ended.
The crab claws were just a couple of feet apart, both awkwardly lovely, blues and purples and reds contrasting with the gray day. The blue crab claw held on to a piece of seaweed, the calico crab claw clutched a strand of grass.
The rest of the crabs are likely in a gull’s gullet, if not already vomited out in a crunchy bolus.
Yesterday’s icy chill painted the jetties with ice, only three months after my last swim in the bay back in October.
Someone else has remembered the warmth as well, leaving her artistry scrawled on the beach, the rising tide slowly erasing her work, a girl dressed for the beach. Next to this was another drawing of Batman–even superheroes need a vacation now and again.
A couple of jetties down has the hull of a sunfish sailboat up on the edge of the grass. It washed up after a storm a couple of years ago, and has been banging around since. It once belonged to someone in Ben Oaks, Maryland. I wrote to the village over a year ago, never heard back.
No whales, no seals, just a few sand pipers and gulls, the detritus of the dead, and me, still breathing–that’s more than enough.
The darkest six weeks of the year are behind us. While winter has been harsh for these parts, the sun continues to strengthen since the darkest day three weeks ago.
The plants know.
Tiny spears of crocus are stirring around the neighborhood–this one comes up faithfully on Leaming Avenue, year after year after year.
If you look, you will find them, tiny green fingers breaking through the earth reaching up for the sun, reminding us that faith comes in all forms.
You won’t find one flowering yet–at least I have not seen any this early–but their buds are already forming beneath the ice and snow, knitting water and carbon dioxide together to create the spring flowers that will explode open in just a few more weeks.
If you find one flowering before March, let me know.