Wednesday, August 16, 2023

What We've Lost


For my birthday we got up well before sunrise and used our flashlights to hike into Elktonia, a Black beach from the history of segregation. The entrance is unmarked; you have to have been told or shown where it is. As a result, few people know about it and it's always peaceful and private. 

I was struck by the fact that these people were never given the best sites, so if this forgotten beach was that beautiful still ... what must the other, "better" beaches have been like? What beauty have we lost? Maybe, though, the joke's on them -- this little piece of shoreline was too crappy to develop, and so was left untouched when all the prettier places around it were developed into condos. 

When we were in Alaska and I felt small and a little scared by the vastness and power of the landscape, I wondered if the first Europeans to arrive at the relatively placid, but still wild, Chesapeake would have felt that same human insignificance? We need big landscapes in our lives to inspire us to awe.

It was a peaceful morning, the oftest lapping of tiny wavelets on the shore and a sentinel heron standing on a ruined piling, as the sky went from mysterious deep dusty blue, to pink, to orange, to gold, and then down to the brightness of an ordinary day. We breakfasted on giant cinnamon rolls from the bakery at our marina, and tried to process our thoughts from the early excursion. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

"Salty" Insight


A jar of salt! (I'm used to salt being sold in a cardboard box or cylinder.)

I've always been fascinated by ephemera – those humble, utilitarian objects designed to be temporary; fragments of ordinary life, that when moved from one culture to another, turn out to be not ordinary at all, and give some unexpected insights into the ways people in other parts of the world live.

That's perhaps one of the joys of cruising, of being able to deeply immerse yourself into a new place, staying for longer and being outside of the typical tourist hotel bubble. And though we're not actively cruising right now, we're still cruising-adjacent. 

Annapolis is a great place for meeting people who are starting – or ending – their cruising careers. We once had some dock neighbours who were ending, after exploring the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean, then coming up the coast here to sell their boat. In their final scurry to empty the boat of their personal possessions before turning it over to the new owners, we ended up being the casual recipients of a very eclectic group of leftovers completely out of context – a colourful t-shirt, two wine glasses, a screwdriver, a jar of olive oil, a jar of salt.

This salt jar now lives on my kitchen counter. It's thoughtfully designed with a flat spot on one side so it can be used standing up in a cabinet, or leaning over next to the stove as a kind of “salt pig” to grab a pinch of salt while cooking. I used Google Translate to read the label, which informed me that it was crystal sea salt for grinding at the table. Only, I had a small typo the first time I keyed it into my phone. That is how I learned that in Turkish, the words for “grinding [salt] at the table” and “arguing at the table” differ by only a single letter. And now I have a mental image of a big table laden with exotically-spiced food, boisterous family gathered around for a dinner filled with laughter and good-natured “grinding” -- in both senses of the word. 

Seemingly unusual to American eyes, the jar can stand on its base or its side.

Looked at up close, the grains are a wide range of sizes, and show the square crystal shapes that hint at slow evaporation, perhaps in the old-fashioned way, in a shallow pond in the sunlight

(Note: this casual jar of salt crystals is especially poignant to someone who grew up in a very different style, someone whose parents' table just miiiiight have included individual crystal salt cellars with tiny glass spoons at each place setting.)