Category Archives: nature

The Cove of No Return

One afternoon a few days into our vacation, the P-Dawg and I began trolling for a cove in which to dock for the night. He was at the helm and I was leaning over the front railing like Kate Winslet. Only instead of a party dress, I was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, and instead of my long hair flowing behind me, it was busting out of a half ponytail.

And instead of an ocean liner, I was on a houseboat.

Any time we’d approach a cove, the P-Dawg and I would debate the merits of parking our boat there. There were other house boaters on the lake, and I was hell-bent on securing the best possible location before anyone else found it. If it came down to two house boats and one cove, I was prepared for a sudden death showdown.

Both the P-Dawg and I are wishy-washy people when it comes to life’s most inconsequential decisions, and neither of us wants to shoulder the blame in case a bad one is made. My modus operandi has always been to throw my hands up and let the P-Dawg make the final call, then be utterly disappointed. It’s how I ended up with a sofa that has a pattern of pineapples and coconuts on it.

It was the same with cove selection. We passed several coves that I deemed near perfect. But whenever I pointed one out, the P-Dawg just kept on motoring as though I hadn’t spoken. Eventually we reached a small island, which we both admitted was a tempting location. Problem was, we couldn’t agree on which side of it to dock. By the time we’d circled that island fives times in our houseboat, I had decided it was completely unacceptable and my husband had decided that it was the Promised Land. I wanted to press on further, where I thought I saw the Cove of My Dreams. The P-Dawg was reticent, but neither could he name one good reason why we couldn’t at least give this cove a quick drive by. He finally agreed to motor in for a closer look, at which time he summarily dismissed it.

We continued on our path around the lake – me sulking, the P-Dawg wearing a grim look of determination. Finally he spotted what he believed to be the Mother of All Coves, and which I quickly assessed to be the worst cove on the lake, if not the entire universe.

That one? That cove couldn’t even shelter a hamster!”

“Nonsense,” said the P-Dawg.  “It’s perfect.”

Personally, I thought the cove we’d recently passed, where the houseboat with the whirlpool on its deck was parked, had been perfect. And if not for the half hour we’d spent circling Indecision Island, I felt certain we could have snagged it.

“Fine! Let’s just dock here!” I said, which everyone knows in the international language of married couples means, “You will regret this.”

The P-Dawg made a beeline for his Chosen Cove and right after we hit the shoreline, I jumped out to tie off the lines (our boat didn’t have an anchor). That’s when I noticed that the spot where we had landed was completely unsatisfactory. The spot where we wanted to dock was about six feet to the right of it. Don’t ask me how I knew it.

“I hate to say it,” I said to the P-Dawg, “But we’re going to have to back out again and move this boat a couple feet over.”

The look on P-Dawg’s face said, “Only one of us will survive this vacation.” But he agreed to give it a try. Problem was, our houseboat was rammed up against the shoreline, and when the P-Dawg turned the motor on, it didn’t move. I selflessly offered to stand on the craggy shore and push the houseboat with all of my might while the P-Dawg gunned the engine in reverse.

I nearly gave myself a hernia. Luckily my Mama wasn’t with us, because a hernia was always on the top of her list of things that I would give myself if I wasn’t careful. But by some dumb stroke of luck, and also brute strength, I was able to push the boat hard enough that it became unmoored.

And as I stood in my flip-flops on a rock against the steep wooded shoreline, watching my husband receding in the distance, it struck me that he could just as soon leave me there for good.

I know I would have.

The Cove of No Return

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Dispatches from a Houseboat

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to take a houseboat vacation?

I never did, but it had long been a dream of my husband’s. And since the word “houseboat,” when he mentioned it, immediately conjured up visions of sitting barefoot on a deck listening to Warren (or is it Jimmy?) Buffet and drinking something with a paper umbrella in it, I agreed to give it a try this year.

We rented a boat on a calm lake in the Pennsylvania foothills. And unlike the RV of 2011, it is clean and well tended. Our houseboat has three decks, a grill, a waterslide, a full kitchen, and a bathroom with a decent shower. It’s air conditioned, too, but the breezes from the water make it cool enough that we’ve hardly had to run it.

During the day, we swim off the boat or take little side excursions in the blow-up dinghy we brought along. I actually went down the slide a few times and washed my hair in the lake like some kind of modern day mermaid. The P-Dawg has been doing a lot of fishing and I have been doing a lot of reading with my feet up. As first mate, I have also taken the helm a time or two.

Have there been moments of tension, of good-natured wifely nagging? Has there been sibling-on-sibling violence? Times when the P-Dawg may have wished to throw me overboard?


But all in all, it’s been a fabulous vacation. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!




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The First Rule of Hiking is “Stay on the Trail”

“Stay on the trail, kids! The first rule of hiking is ‘Stay on the Trail’.”

“You’ll know it because it’s been cleared of brush.”

“Isn’t it beautiful here, guys? Just imagine! This is what Ohio looked like when only the Native Americans lived here.”

“Wait up.”


“Look at that tree.”

“Watch out for poison ivy.”

“Stop waving those sticks around. It’s always funny until someone loses an eye.”

“JONAS, GET AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE! Do you want to fall and crack your head open?”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up!”

“Don’t touch that. It could be poison ivy.”

“Let’s stop here for a rest and to look at the beauty of nature.”

“Seriously, guys, what did I tell you about those sticks?”

“No, no snacks.”

“Because we just ate breakfast. Besides, it’s not like we’re climbing Mount Everest.”

“Wait up.”

“You think the Native Americans had juice boxes and granola bars? If a Native American got hungry, he would just go down to the lake and scoop out a fish with his bare hands.”


“Because we’re not Native Americans.”

“Are you kidding me? We’ve only been out here for like twenty minutes.”

“JONAS STAY AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. What do I have to do, get you a collar?”

“Look at those huge boulders, kids. That right there is what the Native American kids called a ‘playground’.”

“Don’t climb on that.”

“Wait up.”

“Leaves of three, let them be.”

“No, I don’t actually know what poison ivy looks like. Ask Daddy to Google it on his phone.”

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This One’s for the Birds

Lately I’ve been obsessed with trying to catch birds in the act of flying in the wrong direction. Specifically, north instead of south for the winter. So far I haven’t been able to bust even one flock and frankly, I don’t know what I’d do if it ever happened. I guess it would just give me a sense of personal satisfaction, knowing I’m not the only one who gets lost.

I asked Facebook for the answer earlier today and one friend told me that some birds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, while others know where the sun rises and sets. Another friend said she thought the one in the front had a compass.

Anyway, I was at the mall today. I was there with my mother because we were going out for lunch. Well, my mother and I had a nice lunch at the newly renovated Nordstrom cafe and when we went back out to the parking lot, someone had moved our cars. Both of them!

We looked and we looked and we looked some more, but our cars were nowhere in sight. We had to walk back and forth through the north, south and east exits before we located them a great distance from the spot where we swore we had parked.

I chalked it up to the Car Moving Fairy, but I have a nagging suspicion there are some geese up there, laughing.

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