Hark now hear the sailors cry. smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic. Van-Morisson
I am a landlocked mermaid. It has been seventeen years since I have had a chance to get to New England and I was in very real danger of turning into a dried up marsh wiggle. For those who do not know what marsh wiggle is, you need more C.S. Lewis in your life. Simply put I needed to get to the ocean and I needed the ocean now. My husband and my daughter Emily are wonderful and warm folk. The two of them are very much peas in a pod and city people. Road trips are not their thing. Beach combing is not their thing. After a very brief discussion, it was happily agreed by all parties that Sarah and I would make the trip to New England together. A seven hour drive is the quickest and cheapest way for me to get to the ocean, and that point of reference is the State of Maine.
Snakes of drifting snow slithered and danced in the zephyrs that whispered across the roads before us, then abruptly vanished to the barren frozen tundra of Eastern Township farmer fields. These vagabond whispers that chilled and floated above desolate fields, gave the illusion of low hanging pockets of cloud, just centimeters above the ground that would rapidly twirl and writhe like twisters in our slipstream. It occurred to me that this might not be the best day for travelling. The gypsy in my soul argued that if the Green Mountain Boys could navigate without I89, a heated vehicle, or smart phones then certainly with caution and care we could make our destination.
Vermont truly is the Green Mountain State. Samuel de Champlain gave Vermont it’s nickname when he labelled its mountains in 1647 Verd Mont. I personally think it should be renamed The Christmas Tree State, at least in the winter months. Balsam fir, pitch pine and white spruce filled our vistas with verdant hues amongst the white capped precipices of Mt Mansfield and Bear Head. The trees stood proud and tall, with boughs, full and thick, that hugged their trunks as if to shield themselves from the elements. Their skirts dressed up in their very finest dusting of snow so the mountainous view evoked instant nostalgia and could have been a Christmas postcard.
We made a quick stop in Lebanon NH as Sarah forgot her adaptor to connect her phone to my aux cord. Music is usually a focal point in the life of any teen so while I may deeply appreciate the crooning style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Charles Trenet, Sarah wanted to share with me some of her music. I firmly believe the old saying, “let me listen to your music and I will tell you who you are”. The mood instantly changed a little and she became a veritable chatterbox about everything. Everything relaxed a little, the steep climbs, descents and switchbacks became rolling and lazy. Even the firs, pines and spruces relaxed a little as their limbs became sprawling, knotty and craggy as we approached lower and warmer elevations.
Our drive was uneventful. Everyone sharing the road, did just that, shared the road. For the most part we obeyed the posted speed limits, kept to our respective lanes and kept our three second count apart from one another. That is, until we drivers hit the toll booths. We would all come to the end of the dotted lines, and the change from Jekyll to Hyde was instant as we faced ten, open, unmarked lanes for road tolls. Driving went straight to Hell. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200, our collective brains became single celled organisms with one goal of being first. Drivers would cut us and each other off narrowly missing front ends by a foot or so, while we jockeyed our positions to get to an open booth. Psychotic in a word where I may have taught my daughter how to creatively swear. As far as I was concerned, everyone could get ahead. I didn’t really care, safety was my primary concern. What sent me into paroxysms of white hot rage were the cars that would cut us off to be first in line only to hold up the line for ten minutes while paperwork was completed for a whopping .75 cent toll. Ten minutes drumming my fingers on the wheel, I was to the point I wanted to pay the .75 cents for him. A momentary feeling of guilt coursed through me about my choice of language, I forgave myself knowing Sarah has heard it all. Random moments of time, long forgotten burbled to the surface of my thoughts. I related to my fellow rover riding shot-gun about travels with my mom and dad. In the 70’s and 80’s instead of handing your change to an attendant you had to throw your coins into a small plastic funnel. God forbid if my dad missed…the world ended… and my brother and I learned first hand some real keepers. So, I simply passed the torch.
Our first real stop was Portsmouth, the most southern point in New Hampshire. While the beach was a goal, my ultimate goal was looting the beach for treasures like shells, driftwood and sea glass. In my research for the trip I discovered Scallops, a business that specializes both in shells and minerals. Here, I began to fill my bucket and shopping basket with a couple of specimen shells for my display cabinet at home. Loot in tow, we headed north on I95 to the County of York, specifically the village of York Beach where we had reservations at the Union Bluff Hotel. We were fast losing our light and I was anxious to hit the beach at twilight to beachcomb for treasures.
Before leaving Ottawa, I purchased surfer booties and socks for Sarah and I. Sarah took one look at them and turned her nose up. My goodness the water was chilly at 48 degrees farenheight and as salty as I remember. I tasted because it is always said that your pasta water should taste like the sea and I needed a point of reference. Short Sands beach, the beach next to our hotel, was just that, a very short strip of sand with parallel rocky boundaries on both her sides. Sarah and I had spent eight hours in the car together, so we both needed some space from one another, so I let her do her thing while I did mine. I felt safe as our neighbourhood was well heeled, well lit and charming. We filled our mesh loot bags with slipper shells, limpets, northern moon snails and sea glass. After about 90 minutes on the beach, Sarah was finished and asked to return to the room.
At 19:00 and I noticed that Sarah was shaking and walking strangely. Concerned, I asked what the trouble was. To which she replied that she thought she had frostbite on her feet. Instant anxiety raised its ugly head while I looked up the symptoms, the degrees and the solutions. Sure enough her feet were swollen, red, tight skin and very painful. Thankfully there were no blisters, so I ran a warm bath and stuck her feet inside the bath. Once her core had warmed up I wrapped them in wool socks and stuck them in the surfer booties. When she complained, she received the mom look and that was the end of that. When I asked her how, she simply said, well I went in the water with my shoes, a lot. We had dinner at the hotel, lobster in the rough for me and a burger for Sarah. With full bellies and thawed feet the sandman was sprinkling his stardust the moment our heads hit the pillow.