Darcy Scott once again, ruminating on the weird things that have been happening in my neck of the woods since Covid 19 came to call.
Crazy times, right? I’m tempted to pause and waft philosophical about such things as hunches and premonitions, but I’d probably lose you before we even got started. Besides, I don’t believe in such things. Omens are another matter, however. Take our boat shed, for instance. During the coldest winter months, our sailboat—a.k.a. floating summer home—lives in a fifty-foot domed shed composed of pine strapping and one-by-threes that my husband erected some 15 years ago and topped with specialized tarps against the brutal onslaught of New England winters. Notice the word “erected” as opposed to “built,” reason being the lack of a foundation under this puppy—foundations requiring actual building permits, as they do—the thought of which throws my man into a twitching, spittle-spewing frenzy of anti-regulatory rhetoric about zoning, town permits, harbor regulations, mooring fees, and the like.
Known by all and sundry as Jabba the Hut due to its rounded and somewhat corpulent shape, the shed sits in a sprawling stretch of puckerbrush behind my husband’s business, allowing for convenient access when making the various repairs and upgrades that consume us during those cold, land-locked months when dreams of sun and sailing seem very far away indeed.
Just as the virus was ramping up, its devastating economic and social upheaval just over the horizon, we were hit with the year’s only big winter storm—one that dumped over a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on our corner of the world. And as luck would have it, or rather the lack of it, the storm demolished the shed—collapsed the whole thing onto the deck of the boat, but with only minor damage, thank God. A disturbing metaphor for everything that was staring us down, and an unsettling omen of what was to come.
“That’s it,” I announced with perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm. “Time to sell the boat!” An empty threat of some 25 years duration, to which my husband, who’s a pretty easy-going guy despite those occasional anti-regulatory rants, responded in typical philosophical fashion. “We’ll just redo it.”
When I suggested that perhaps mid-winter wasn’t the best time to begin such a project—it was a honkin’ snow storm that got us into this mess, after all—he reminded me that like so many other small companies, his was quickly grinding to a halt under the onslaught of the virus. What better time to take on something like this: a physical project to vent frustration until things picked up again. Besides, he reasoned, it couldn’t hurt to slow our crazy lives down a bit.
God, I hate it when he’s right.
Jabba’s re-erection (a non-word it’s probably best not to think too hard about) was no simple project, involving as it did the initial clearing away of ice and snow and debris, then moving Old Blue—our erstwhile 1940s-era Ford tractor—into position astride the boat and bracing a 10-foot ladder vertically in its bucket. All this to get the 25-plus feet of height necessary to climb the ladder (still in the bucket, of course) and set the 13 newly constructed spruce strapping arches bow to stern along the new ridge pole. Much of it while my husband was on his tiptoes. Definitely not for the weak of heart.
It was midway through Jabba’s reconstruction that the weird stuff started happening. I’d been hunkering down at home for a month or more by this time, and when I eventually emerged from the house in early May for a preliminary reconnaissance of the area (masked, gloved, and with a bottle of hand sanitizer jammed in my car’s glove box), the world felt a very different place.
Let’s take the grocery, which had apparently slid into a parallel universe during my stint in lockdown, stocked with things I’ve never before seen, brands I’ve never heard of—much of it shelved in seemingly random fashion. I spent 15 unsuccessful minutes searching for the stash of Crunchy Peter Pan (something that might not qualify as a disaster in your book, but we take our peanut butter very seriously in this house). “Same place it’s always been,” the harried clerk told me. And damn if it wasn’t.
Heading into town, I passed a barn I didn’t remember seeing before smack in the middle of a meadow I also had no memory of. Hardly seems likely they’d built the barn while my back was turned. Still. Then there was all the recent tree work that had been done along my road when I wasn’t looking. Something I should have noticed, don’t you think? I mean the road runs right by my living room window.
All this got me thinking. Just when did I stop paying attention to the everyday, let my focus slip as I was winging along through those relatively carefree pre-Covid days? My course set on autopilot, I’d clearly allowed the busy-ness of life to become a filter obscuring my view of a rust red barn, a meadow greening in spring, the smell of fresh tar on a newly paved road.
It’s then I remembered something my husband said when we were debating Jabba’s redo. Veering uncharacteristically toward the philosophical, he suggested that sometimes you have no choice but to slow things down in order to notice what’s right in front of you. If we can take anything positive from all the pain and uncertainty of the last few months, maybe that’s it.
Darcy Scott (Winner, 2019 National Indie Excellence Award; Best Mystery, 2013 Indie Book Awards; Silver Award, 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards; Bronze Prize, 2013 IPPY Awards) is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser with more than 20,000 blue water miles under her belt. For all her wandering, her summer home and favorite cruising grounds remain along the coast of Maine—the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serving as inspiration for much of her fiction, including her popular Maine-based Island Mystery Series. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in Britain in 2010.