I honestly can’t say for sure why it is that I am drawn to bodies of water. Though not much of a believer in the whole Astrology thing, the fact that I am a Pisces suggests that the alignment of the Stars when I was born predetermined my affinity for water. Humbly admitting that I don’t, in fact, know everything, I simply take it at face value that this is, at the very least, one possibility.

Another possibility, given that I grew up in a family that routinely found its way to the water for many vacations or weekend excursions that we took over my early years, suggests this is just how I was raised. Whether it was nature or nurture, it has always been in the company of water that I am at my most calm, relaxed, and complete.

Living in Northern New England, with large bodies of water available to me in every direction, I have been fortunate to have visited both widely popular tourist attractions and well-hidden, wildly remote locations over the years. From the glacial lakes to my West to the rocky coasts in the east and the mountain-formed rivers and streams in the North, there is no shortage of opportunities for lovers of water to find peace and tranquility.

Although I have not written extensively on this subject, this is a good time to mention that- not long after my return to the Northeast from the Southwest- I moved in with my mother, suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, so I could take care of her and keep her company as her light excruciatingly faded over the last four years of her life. I can honestly admit that these were not only the hardest years of my life but the ones during which I learned the most and will die regretting the least.

Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that I learned more about myself and the woman that brought me into this world than I could have ever imagined. It is a sad and terrible thing about life that each of us must wait until our twilight years to understand fully and appreciate just how much of themselves a parent sacrifices for their children yet will not live long enough to see that their children eventually come to understand and appreciate that sacrifice for themselves. But, as Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

Not far from where we lived, there is a tourist attraction, alleged to be the most photographed Lighthouse in the world, that Mom insisted I take her to visit just about every weekend when the weather permitted. As you might imagine, visiting this location is incredibly chaotic; access to the rotary-shaped Lighthouse parking lot is more or less an eternal traffic jam, and there are pedestrians walking around aimlessly, taking countless photographs, mind-numbingly ignorant of the reality that people driving in are also staring at the Lighthouse and paying no attention to the foot traffic. To this day, I am amazed by the fact that no one, as far as I know, has ever been splattered because they… And the traffic they are weaving in and out of defies death by the millions each and every year.

Because she couldn’t walk well or drive anymore, a fate that befell me six weeks after she passed, she had a handicap sticker for her car that allowed me to park her right in front of the Lighthouse, which was built on a huge rock, about 200 ft. away and separated from the public by a channel of seawater. She was so happy whenever she went there, maybe even serene, and she would open her door just a little so she could take in the sea breeze while I walked down the tourist paths and climbed the rocks in search of the best spot to sit by myself, with my eyes closed and just listen to the birds arguing and the tide smashing against the rocks, trying as best I could to block out the voices of the tourists as they came and went. Those final four years we spent together were challenging and, from time to time, quite difficult, but the countless hours we spent at the ocean together allowed both of us some time to recharge our physical, mental, and spiritual batteries, and I thank God for them every day.

About 45 minutes south of the Lighthouse, teeming with millions and millions of people every year, is New Hampshire’s most popular hotspot for tourists- Natives and out-of-stators alike- that I personally avoid like the plague. I mean, I get it… Some people like to tan, some like to check out mostly naked, oiled-up bodies hoping not to get caught by their significant others, some light to get over-served after dark in pursuit of shameless bawdy conquests, and some just can’t live without locally-made saltwater taffy; that doesn’t mean there doesn’t exist a grossly undercounted number of ocean-loving people haters in New England. Personally, I have never been asked by a poll taker what my positions were on densely populated New Hampshire Beach fronts. The good news for people like me, by God’s grace, is that Oceanfront spots 15 minutes north of that Beach are perfectly suited for my kind of fun in the sun.

I’ll not share the name or precise location, hoping to avoid enticing you to check it out for yourself and become the ultimate cause of its ruination for me, but – having been shown this place by my first ex-wife 45 years ago, and having found it to be my number one go-to place to recharge my spiritual batteries, I have but little choice than to take that risk here. And probably the best thing about this spot is that, unless you know it’s there, you will drive right by it on your way somewhere else.

It is incumbent upon me, before we go too far here that I acknowledge the seemingly contradictory notion that a Hermit would want any part in commingling with a sea of humanity at the Ocean’s edge. The key to success for the tried-and-tested strategy behind having such a popular destination all to yourself lies in how early you get there and how quickly you leave. I have learned over the years that if you can’t get there before everyone wakes up and gets breakfast, you might as well not even bother going. And your cue for knowing when it’s time to hit the exits is the arrival of the first set of parents with kids in tow that have no interest in getting along with their siblings, calming the fuck down, and enjoying the view.

When I embark on these sojourns, thanks to my daughter’s willingness to get up stupid early on a weekend morning (notwithstanding an understandable amount of pre-coffee bitching and complaining in protest), Daisy and I hit the water’s edge shortly after sunrise and immediately head for the most remote corner of this location that we can find. It is a bit of a walk and requires trundling over a berm, climbing a few rocks, and- most importantly- taking into consideration the status of the tides so that, high or low, you don’t have to keep moving your stuff in order to keep it dry. I have visited this spot consistently for the better part of 45 years and consider it number1 on a very short list of favorite places to go in order to unwind, recharge, and meditate (more or less) using the raw and most powerful natural forces as my physical and spiritual “white noise.”

These trips always feel like Rockwell picture postcard sorts of days; perfectly clear pale blue skies, vessels of every shape, size, and color drifting majestically past you, heading in every direction. And, without fail, you are bound to witness the occasional seaplane buzzing overhead, some of which are dragging huge banners behind them, advertising this or that place of business, a notice of upcoming events, or tacky expressions of love… Almost always coming from some poor bastard hoping to impress his girl. My personal favorites are the proposals of marriage because they always make me chuckle, thinking to myself out loud in Daisy’s general direction that it takes a special kind of dumbass to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you in such an incredibly impersonal and distant sort of way.

Perhaps my favorite part of these outings is the endless entertainment that comes from watching the interactions of the various species of waterfowl. My most recent of these recharge sessions brought with it the compulsory bitch fights between seagulls and cormorants… each, in turn, pronouncing to the bird world that they had – at long last – come upon the perfect snack in this or that shallow pool that had been exposed as the tide went out. The big seagull over there on the left, with more or less a dappled appearance, was heading to shore to break open his little crab breakfast while three big standard black and whites, over there on the right, were mustering up a conspiracy to get it away from him.

Initially right in the thick of things, watching from my short distance away, the cormorants abandoned the fight and worked their way back to the rocks after several futile dives and commenced with the job of airing out their wings and pooping a new layer of white paint on their landing strips. It occurred to me, at that moment, that – more than any other aviator along the seashore – I find the cormorants most fascinating to watch. To be sure, they are not very pretty, and they don’t appear to be terribly majestic. Their takeoffs and landings seem clumsy and awkward, and their heads, bodies, and beaks aren’t well-suited for each other. Having said that, however, after having seen them swim underwater at another one of my favorite spots, I am quite sure that they are just about the coolest mashups of land and sea creatures ever made; on the one hand, they can fly, but on the other, they fly much more efficiently below the surface of the ocean then they do above it.

As we had been taking all of this in, Daisy and I were curled up in a bed of drying seaweed and munching on our respective brunches. The tide had gone all the way out and was starting to turn itself around and make its way back in. The Sun was high enough above us to suggest we were running out of hermit time. And, as if right on cue, I noticed that Daisy kept looking back toward shore. Knowing what that meant without even having to look, I worked my way to a standing position and turned to look in the direction her nose was pointed. Sure enough… humanoids were starting to storm the beach, en masse, with their waddling broods in tow… it became painfully clear that it was time to make like Elvis and exit the building.

I gathered up our supplies and threw the remnants of our meals out toward the edge of the seaweed bed, knowing full well – with maximum malice aforethought – that I had just set the stage for another bird riot to kick off.

We worked our way back to the beach from our remote spots at the outer edge of the point and headed back toward the public entrance. It occurred to me as we were walking, weaving in and out of the gathering masses… many of whom, apparently, had never seen a dog before… Being successful as a socialized hermit requires the ability to flip personality switches as situations dictate. In order to blend in with the rest of society, you have to be at least moderately sociable so as to not draw undue attention to yourself while maintaining the ability to tune all of that out the instant you reach your isolation destination. It’s an art, really, but one truly worth the effort to master.

Once we reached the parking lot, having cleared the gauntlet without major injury, Daisy and I settled in for the 30-minute wait to be gathered up and taken back home. I smiled to myself, here and there, as people greeted us and asked if my dog was friendly before patting her and loving on her, thinking that my dog and I really do balance each other out. Where I like to reside in my bubble… no touching, no handshaking, no fist-bumping, and fergawdsakes, no hugging… Daisy would prefer to be inside your skin.

Whoever it was that nicknamed the dog man’s best friend clearly understood the value a canine adds to a human’s life. Where the one prefers to be left the hell alone, the other soaks up all the attention and seeks it out wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. There’s an analogy in that somewhere, but I will leave it to the reader to sort through the possibilities for themselves.


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