Stuart called wondering if I wanted to go to the beach with his folks, so I put on about a liter of sunscreen and followed his aunt down the Sonora Road almost all the way to Wine Harbour. This was an off-the-grid area: Not a power line in sight, and the access road was an adventure. It was private land, but it was populated by only one cottage that I could see (midway along the road) and the owners apparently tolerate people going in to use the beach but they stopped aggressively maintaining the road when they noticed people bringing in camping trailers.
We drove in our own vehicles until we reached the head of an inlet, where there was a little space to pull over and park. That was the end of the civilized part of the road. Then we hopped in the back of a truck of one of Stuart's uncles and endured quite a ride - we didn't get splashed, but I really strained my arms and wrists hanging on to the railings. My butt bouncing on my bundle of clothes was the least of my concerns. For a while I had to hold on with one hand, holding Stuart's beer in the other while he applied sunscreen for himself. "Are we almost there?" I asked at least once. I was having a hard time of it.
But finally we got to the beach. We saw seals in the distance and mused about how they might eat the little dogs that accompanied us, were they given the opportunity. Stuart then collected some debris for a still life he had in mind to paint. I walked around a bit. The beach was rocky right down to the water - no expanse of white sand here (it's going to need a few centuries or more of pounding surf), but the view was something else. Apparently the shipping lanes lay just offshore, too.
Before long I had to go back. The bottle exchange in Sherbrooke is done out of the back of an ex-U-Haul, and it's only around every second Saturday until 1:30pm. This was a second Saturday. It took me a long time to walk out and there was a fair bit of puddle fording (luckily I was wearing sandals), although for one of the large brown muddy ones I detoured into the woods instead. But I got home in plenty of time to make the run.
If it were me, I'd have no problem hoarding the returnables for a while, and I'd also keep the original boxes for things on hand and fill them up with their empties. But the head of this household wants it all cleared out at every opportunity, so I end up between people making their once-or-twice-a-year trip to the exchanger, waiting 10-15 minutes just for four dollars and twenty cents. It's more efficient to make fewer trips, but I suppose if you've got a bunch of stuff stockpiled, you dread making the trip. Also all your neighbours know what a boozer you are. Anyway, it was my last voyage to the exchanger this summer, so it's all behind me now.
I came back with the box used to hold the loose bottles and cans - the bottom had come out of it when I went to lift it from my trunk, and the contents went all over the place. To get it across the parking lot and up to the exchanger van, I'd dragged it. But I took the (broken) box back home because I was asked to.
"You buggered it up, did you?"
Geez, it wasn't my fault. "The bottles did." At least I got to keep the money.
In hopes of becoming less icky, I had a shower, but I still had a tinge of sunscreen in my eyes and mouth. It was a weird feeling. I then spent time on the deck with my uncles and grandfather, enjoying conversation, a few beers, and a beautiful breeze.
We celebrated my grandfather's birthday (Aunt J. made a delicious tortellini casserole) and then we watched some TV. We split up for the night and I sat down to start writing this, but after a timely text message I ended up down at the riverside camp belonging to Stuart's mother. Among other things, we "discovered" the recursivity in being paranoid about being paranoid. (I don't mean to make you paranoid about being paranoid about being paranoid.)
We listened to The Bridge on Sirius while chatting around the fire, where an old washing machine drum made a dandy firepit. One of the many songs we noted was Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman". I really feel the sincerity of what he's singing, and I feel like he's praising her, but I can't work out how. Is she one way to everybody else and a different way to him? Or is she a flawed person just like anybody else but he loves her because of it? Is he singing "Blame it all on yourself" to the listeners, or to himself? Ah, well, Wikipedia to the rescue.
I'm apprehensive about the coming year because I fear it's going to be more of the same old drudgery. I know I have it in me to survive it and come out the other end, but I really don't want to do it. I guess you have to sacrifice a little for anything worthwhile. Yes, I have to live with a bundle of crazy neuroses for one more year. And that makes me mad, even as I should be grateful that I don't have to go deep into debt and live away for school.
Should I be leaving Sherbrooke now? More to the point, how sick is my grandmother? I figured she had a decent chunk of time left in her, and I'm prepared to come back if things take a turn. I don't think it's day-to-day yet, though. Anyway, they're going to get home care and meal support for after her sister leaves (1 week from now) and I was going to have to go back to school anyway (2-3 weeks from now). I don't think I'm being unreasonable - I've been down here since late May. I've had a good visit. I've telegraphed my departure far in advance.
As therapeutic as being down here has been, I still anticipate that my heart rate will sink several tens and a wave of relaxed ecstasy will wash over me as I drive off the boat and onto PEI. It's what usually happens. I need that feeling. I like being somewhere where I'm not understood but people accept me anyway. Home, it's usually called. Stuart's girlfriend told me she felt the same way about her home in Upper Musquodoboit.
I slept comfortably in the trailers overnight and drove back home. My grandmother got the idea of having homemade waffles, and it took forever to find the waffle maker, but once we found it and got it going the waffles were delicious. Soon after that, Alex came with his friend Matt*. It looks like more good times are ahead.
* - I was going to write "his friend", but that would have been too ambiguous. It's times like this I wish we had gendered nouns. I think when I need them, I'll "invent" them. (Perhaps I'll "invent" appropriate possessive pronouns too.)