I love the blur of action in this photo. Life accelerates at some ungodly speed once you have a child. People tell you this but hell if it doesn’t actually happen. As if as soon as you’re responsible for another creature the sand in the hourglass begins to sift at an alarming, thrilling rate. All of a sudden you’ve got a kid holding your hand walking down the street. The kid who yesterday needed your hand to hold her honeydew melon of a head vertical. And now she’s pushing a damn shopping cart through the aisles. Getting pissed when dad doesn’t put the milk in the cart quick enough.
So the stork bombed us again – did I mention that? Rachel and I are awful at telling people. In October. Girl number two. Haley’s already given her a nickname, which is “Doll-doll,” named after her plastic doll. We’re in a frenzy stocking the house with food in particular the freezer. Hiked two days ago into the alpine with good buddy Xander, a slog up a drainage 3000 feet into the ether, grasses scoured clean by the winds. Peeked over the other side of the ridge and there like four Italian stud sunbathers on the Capri coast on the southern exposure in the lee of the wind a posse of hefty neon orange bucks. I swear one of them looked dead he was splayed out so majestically on the rocks. About 300 yards downhill with the wind blowing across us. They had no idea. We perched on a rock across a bowl. Xander flipped out his fancy tripod adjusted the scope. His deer looked up, their eyes amazing. I slipped off my shitty backpack, squished over in my shitty boots that had already mulched my heels, and nestled the barrel of the gun into the rocks. He shot. His deer somersaulted. The others stayed put. I shot once. Nothing. Adjusted the scope to seven. Breathed out. At the bottom squeezed the trigger. The deer jumped as if bit, ran downhill ten yards and fell. Heart shot.
We quartered the deers out. Sawed off the velvet antlers brains gumming the teeth. Started the hike down which took a good five hours. The following day HMJ and I got out what we now call the “Whoa! Machine” meaning the vacuum sealer because each time she presses the button and it seals she goes “WHOA!” Her babysitter looked at me like I was stock crazy when I said “Okay Haley press the button” but then she pressed the right button of about ten (we had practiced this many times) and the machine grumbled to life and the look of disbelief and pleasure on the sitter’s face was grand for a father to witness. She’s also very good labeling with a Sharpee as you can see in this pic. Now there’s deer in the freezer which is a very good thing considering the price of protein on this island. And getting salmon as well although they’ve slowed down. Also got a good bead on chicken of the woods and other mushrooms we’ll have to head back with the family to harvest some of these gems. So darn good. And the winter chanterelles are starting up in earnest. Always exciting, about to get the dehydrator going. Ah – and HMJ is picking blueberries! On her own. Food always the carrot on the stick for that kid. We’ve made salmonberry jam and have frozen the blueberries because she loves them and I know in the winter she’s going to want more blueberries and we’re not going to spend 15 dollars for a pint in the supermarket. Meanwhile she’s excelling at setting the dinner table at the beach with seaweed and shells and a few rocks for good measure. And she’s become an expert working the vise in the engine room of the Adak, the first female to be down there in some time I do believe. And when it’s time to rest before bathtime in the sink, well, she’s got her favorite perch.
Sarah and Steve visited from LA – awesome. Best baby caretakers in the world. And also great salmonberry pickers. They all went into the pot to be jammed. Raph Shapiro was on the boat for a bit and rocked out on deck with his amazing guitar. Then of course there are the usual suspects, those bums who come over for poker, always eager to take my money.
Rachel and I did get a date night a few weeks back and took the skiff out to an island house to have dinner with friends. First night kidless. Amazing how quickly she disappears from your brainpan. (Sorry Haley!) Good to have alone-time with the wifee, especially as we start this sled ride towards the new one.
In other news the troller F/V N– was on the move today which was disturbing. Kind of a funny story. Rach and I have been at war with this darn boat, still anchored out in the channel. It began a couple weeks ago when he – she maybe? doubt it – was blaring music into the wee hours. 1 am 2, 3, 4. The baby couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t sleep. Rachel started going all mama-bear, I’m beginning to recognize the look. No, more the tone of voice, how it gets reedy and her words slow. I considered going out in the skiff to tell the guy to pipe down. Rachel said not to go without the Glock 20 10 mm who knows what shape he’s in. The gun’s not really much of a threat to anyone except me and a huge brown bear as the hamburger-maker’s difficult to shoot with any accuracy. Instead we called the radio station 103.1 Rock the Tongass to try and get the DJ to tell him to shut the fuck up. Station was on auto-record. Tried to get the skipper on the radio – nothing. Surely he was passed out, probably on deck his body outlined by 18 dead Rainier soldiers. At that point Rachel called the police. They didn’t have their boat available. And so it went on until finally, at 415 am the music shut off. And that was that until two days later when we saw the boat drifting towards us. And it ran right into our bulwarks – no one aboard. We called the police again, collared a passing Coast Guard boat, who took it the problem off our hands.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. Rather it’s being with friends eating fresh-caught Dungeness and watching Haley rip off her shirt her chest glistening with lemon butter have a bite of claw and throw her head back in ecstasy. This summer of work on the boat cladding the wheelhouse and chasing leaks and writing articles and Rachel assuming responsibilities of city attorney in Sitka, remarkable considering that a year ago the city attorney was trying to seize our boat. Although in fairness she was just doing her job. It’s just, well, careful who you fuck with.
Now after the Wrangell trip and haul-out the boat’s bulletproof, we’ve taken care of all those annoying drips except for the one in the mudroom I can’t quite seem to chase down no matter how much bearshit I spread over the roof and Grace I stick on. Alas. I feel like I’m failing at keeping things protected – reminds me of this great card a buddy sent. But the article did publish in the Smithsonian on the boat, and the piece is available on fine magazine racks – here’s the cover page.
We’ve also gotten out on the water courtesy of Haley’s Comet. My god the girl loves to go on that skiff – we can’t walk the dog on the docks without her wanting to check out the starfish on the poles and make a stop to do chores on it. She’s like a border collie needing some job like adjusting a clip on a skate hook or wiping down the skiff windshield. So curious. The other day we passed a tug in the harbor that’s the model for the Adak called the Swell. One day she’ll look even better than this mark my words.
What else? Speaking of catching fish I made a very bad daddy move the other day shortly after catching a halibut on the skate. Uncle Steve was showing her the wonder of its gill rakers and she was fascinated with its breathing and twitching eyes. I came over and dropped a sledge on the head not noticing she was watching. Her jaw dropped. She didn’t cry. But I think that was her first introduction to death. No beginners’ lessons in life, as the poet says. We’ve also been getting chum eggs to make into Ikura, caviar. Yum.
But much setting the skate for halibut and ling cod (one here swallowed a rockfish that had swallowed the herring bait) and even hitting the beach with friends. It’s gotten to the point with Haley that when she sees a fish (which she calls “yeesh”) she makes the food sign with her fingers. She’s excelling at “B” words – “boat” “bowl” and “ball” are all specialties. When planes go by the boat she makes her own sign, imitating the spoon coming towards her mouth, saying VVVVVOOOOOMMMM. I mean, what a great blessing to see the brain of a human develop, take in information, make sense of this crazy world. If we could all be a little closer to childhood so curious and interested and empathetic – her favorite thing to do lately is to feed Rachel, me, her pet duck Monsieur Canard, and Doll-Doll. Listening to footage from Trump rallies and seeing my daughter – makes you think. Cynics are just hurt romantics. The other day she stood up from her potty and pooped on the fretboard of her ukelele. I screeched more in surprise and she gave me such a hurt look. But she got over it. We can’t all indulge in the luxury of being fallen souls.