When I die I'm going to find myself on The Landing, and the Buddha's saying to me "Sorry guy, no nirvana for you, you're going around again." And I'm going to say, "What did I do wrong?", and the Buddha's going to say one word.
And I'm going to say "oh, right; lobsters."
I didn't have lobster tonight; I had the scallops and a nice red potato. We all walked down the narrow road to bustling downtown East Boothbay and had dinner at Lobsterman's Wharf (one of the three or so establishments in bustling downtown East Boothbay, counting the post office; the general store's a couple of blocks south), and then we walked back in the deepening dusk, with the lights shining across the river (the river that's easily wide enough to be called a bay at this point, as it widens out into the sea), and the water smooth as glass.
But I did have lobster on Saturday, at the Lobsterman's Co-op in Boothbay Harbor where we always have lunch the first day. They may look like enormous threatening bugs, but one of them was boiled to death so I could eat it, and I can't imagine that the Thus Come One would approve.
To the extent that those words mean anything.
So anyway as long time (or even medium time) readers will (or may) already have realized, it's time once again to say something like
Happy Roughly-Sixth Anniversary To The Website(s)!
This year we're back in the Boothbay Region ("Boothbay Region, Exit 52"), in a really impressive house right on the Damariscotta River, one notch east of Linekin Bay (and therefore two notches east of Boothbay Harbor). It looks like it's going to be a rainy sort of week, but we're optimistic. It'll be fun (or soothing, or energizing, or therapeutic) anyway.
We worked with the owners to get their DSL password reset (it was stored on one computer, but known to no living human), and then we set up their modem and their Airport Extreme and all, so we have full wireless internet to use in the house, but I'm mostly pretending that we don't, since it's traditional and all, and I don't want to fall into the trap of (say) VPNing in to work and doing email and stuff. (Later on, I did attempt to fall into that trap, but for whatever reason the VPN apparently won't connect from here; and I'm not going to try to figure out why.)
This is going to be the usual long rambling annual entry on no particular subject and posted on no definite date. Because that's traditional also.
So I wonder about future lives and all. Not (our initial musings about lobsters notwithstanding) so much how it works in the Buddhist picture or any other specific picture, but more how it really ("really") works.
When you die and wake up on The Landing, do you get to choose who you'll be next time around? If you do, do you have to identify a specific person, or can you specify more generally? If I wanted to be, say, someone who spent their young adulthood sharing a house on a hill overlooking a small city in Connecticut, would I have to have done the research in advance and found out the name of such a person, or would that description by itself suffice?
(Or someone who worked a lobster boat on the Darmariscotta River, say, or who waitressed at Lobsterman's Wharf.)
Of course I wonder if you can be things besides people next time around. What about squirrels, or lobsters? Or space aliens? Or people who happen to live on other planets a long ways away? And what about trees, or stones, or sunlight, or loneliness?
And can you come back and do just a part of a life (the part on that hill overlooking Waterbury, say), or do you always do the whole thing start to finish?
And can you only come back as a particular person once, or can you repeat? Maybe living a particular life might mean something entirely different, teach you a whole new set of things, the second time around, because of other stuff you'd done in the meantime, or just because it was the second time around.
Is all this written down somewhere?
On Saturday we settled in and marvelled at the house (one of the owners was here to show us around; a very friendly and welcoming woman). On Sunday we went to Popham Beach, a very nice Maine State Park, with sand and waves and seagulls and scantily-clad young people and a guy with an easel doing Art and stuff. That was great; the water was cold but bearable (subjectively quite a bit warmer than the water off the floating dock at the house here, for some reason), and we spent a long time with the kids building sandcastles and the adults variously sitting in chairs reading and lolling in the water, and cetera.
Monday we went to the Co-op for lunch, and then I brought most of the kids back to the house while the other adults went into Boothbay Harbor, in more or less the traditional fashion. Then Tuesday, in a radical break with that tradition, M stayed in the house with most of the kids, while I went with the smallest kid and the other adults into Freeport to buy objects at L. L. Bean. The result wasn't entirely satisfactory; despite repeated contacts with M by cellphone, the hue and cardinality of the objects that I bought turned out to be nonoptimal when I got them back to the house. (This at least party explains why the other arrangement is favored by tradition.)
And now (as I write this, but presumably not as I post it or as you read it) it's Tuesday night, and we've just tucked the three smallest kids into bed, and I'm sitting and typing this. It's the first significant creative stuff I've done so far; otherwise I've been in a very passive mood, listening to music and watching Babylon 5 episodes on DVD, and reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons (which I'll probably give a rather scathing writeup before long; pretty high wince-factor so far).
More later, or not. The air from the river is soft and cool and damp; I wish I could smell it, but the temperature and the texture by themselves are sweet and soothing.
Now it's Wednesday afternoon, sometime before dinner. The other Dad and I took the three littler kids (the two Moms and the teenageer being happily and lazily ensconsed in sofas in the living room, reading books and watching tennis on TV and reading Sims stories on the Web) off down the road (them on their scooters and us walking quickly along behind), down through bustling downtown East Boothbay (past the boat works, the post office, the restaurant), south the two blocks to the General Store, where we bought things to drink (and I got a local paper and a Peppermint Pattie), and then continued down the Dead End Road next to the general store where we'd never been before.
The weather was windy and moist, cloudy at first but then a big splotch of blue sky blew by, and it was almost sunny. The Dead End Road turned out to be pretty long, with nice views of the top of the bay, and a Public Boat Launching place where we sat and drank our things to drink and watched the waves coming in.
On the way back (having gotten to the end of the Dead End Road, and comforted the child who crashed her scooter on a fallen branch lying in the road, and maybe probably seeing across the top of the Bay the house that we stayed in the first four years), I stopped at the "Rare Books -- Open" house at the bottom of the road (which had been "Rare Books -- Closed" every previous time I'd passed it) while the other Dad took the kids the rest of the way back.
It's a very nice little house, neat and orderly inside and out, lots of light wood and white paint. Very New England. Two small front rooms with the Rare Books; a few bookshelves with old hardcovers, a basket with newer paperbacks, another basket with rolled-up "Old Sea Charts -- $10". None of the paperbacks looked like anything I wanted, none of the Old Sea Charts were of the immediate area, and while some of the hardcovers looked neat and/or interesting they were all about twice the price I'd actually have been willing to pay for them, given the numbers of similar books I have waiting for me, sadly underutilized, at home. But I had a nice talk with the owner (assuming that the guy who came to the door when I rang the "Please Ring Bell Before Entering" bell was the owner), about the river and the bay and the tides, and I got to admire a shelf of old Kipling ("A Fleet in Being" and a slim old volume with two short stories whose names I now can't remember, and various "Kim"s and others of the better-known works) and lotsa other books that I'm sure would have sat nicely in my library but, well, you know.
And now I'm back, and I think I hear dinner-related sounds, and the dove that's made its nest on the old lobster-trap nailed up just outside the window here is cooing (is she worried about the wind, I wonder?), and I'm thinking that maybe I should stop writing quite so much here or all of you will lose patience before you get to the end. But we'll see. *8)
Okay, one more (last?) bit of sitting and typing. It's late Thursday afternoon now, the first of September (and how did that happen?), and I'm sitting under the ceiling fan here, a bit chilly because my core temperature is perhaps lower than usual due to this frozen Margarita, and due to having been out swimming in the river, which is pretty cold. Not quite as cold, I don't think, as the coldest of the five previous years, but still cold. Mid-fifties, fahrenheit, maybe? (Ha, I spelled "fahrenheit" right on the first try! But is it supposed to be capitalized?)
It was very nice in the water. The sun was just sinking down behind the trees on the shore, and the floating dock was in shadow but if I stroked out ten or twenty feet I was in the sun again. The wind last night blew away all the fog and clouds and damp (but doesn't seem to have bothered the dove), and today was full of bright sunny loveliness. We went into Boothbay Harbor, all eight of us, and had ice cream and watched the taffy-pulling machine and bought salt-water taffy and generally bounced around. At the bookstore (Sherman's) I splurged on "Holding Ground; the Best of Island Journal" (Island Journal is the annual publication of the Island Institute), which is a lovely book that I hope to have the time to read in some bright future. And then when we got home I went into the river because I was hot.
There isn't a ladder on this floating dock, but I found I could pull myself out of the water by jumping up and grabbing the edge of the descending ramp and pulling up, and then later on (after M's sister's daughter, my niece, came down to join me) we tied some knots in some of the ropes on the dock, and used those as footholds to hoist ourselves up and out. There's a signficant current out there, and you have to swim slowly north (or hang onto the dock) to avoid being swept out toward the ocean (I wanted to write "toward x", where x is some nice Maine-sounding town name, but it looks like there isn't actually anything much with a name between here and the ocean, at least not on this side of the Linekin peninsula).
And after swimming I took a shower and finished Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" (here's the promised complaining about it), and now I'm sitting here typing this and wondering if I should go help with dinner preparations. On the television they're showing scenes from New Orleans; bizarre and apocalyptic and heart-wrenching. Sitting here in the beauty of the Maine coast, the flooded miserable city is surreal, impossible to really believe.
We push a few buttons and give some money to the relief effort, and outside the gulls wheel.
So have I done any serious introspection this year, any summarizing of myself to myself, run any diagnostics? Not really. Somehow it's seemed like a short week; despite the clouds and the not doing much of anything serious here we are on the second-to-last afternoon already, relaxed and refreshed, but without the feeling of any long contemplative stretches of empty time in the recent past. For whatever reason.
Shall we do the traditional inventory of books, at least? This is a larger and more complex house, and they're more scattered than usual. Right here there's "Holding Ground" and "Angels and Demons". Upstairs, undisturbed in my day-pack, are a few recent issues of the New York Times Book Review, the June 2005 Wired (with Spielberg on the cover), Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" (I'm about forty percent through it; elegant but slow-moving historical vampire fiction, with wonderful descriptions of various corners of Europe), Toulmin's "Night Sky at Rhodes" (haven't started that yet), and Soyen Shaku's "Zen for Americans" (translated by D. T. Suzuki; bought for money at Librarium back in July (at the same time as Angels and Demons, come to think of it)).
Then over on the side-table (side-bench) by the bed is Grisham's "The Brethren" (basically forgettable for the lack of sympathetic characters; I suppose I ought to write it up) borrowed from M's sister's brother, and Swanwick's "Stations of the Tide" (very very nice post-cyberpunk SF, bought used on Amazon on Bill's recommending it; I really ought to write that up also, so I don't forget it). And then off somewhere in the living room the complete second and third seasons of Babylon 5 on DVD (I'm somewhere in the middle of the third season now, I think).
Not as long a list as some years; we haven't been to any used book stores this trip except the one that I successfully resisted...
Evening again, back in the house after another walk with the little boy and his girl cousin, them on their scooters and me trotting along behind. On the way back in the twilight, on the little side road beyond the general store, we passed one house where someone was practicing on a drum set; the same rhythm for six or eight measures, then a long energetic run in doubletime, then back to the original pattern again, over and over, out into the dusk.