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50: Weeds

Ancient knowledge used of old
Written down and often told
Weeds for healing
Some for food
Weeds for health
And some for mood
Weeds for housing
Weeds for clothing
Weeds which make
     the world go ’round

When the last great tree is felled,
When all is rock and steel,
Sunshine helps a crack erupting,
There with strength and zeal
A plant is sprouting
—Give it heed—
That fine green leaf
     will be a Weed

Tide slid slowly out from under golden seawrack, withdrawing vital support, throwing luminescent fronds sprawling across rocky shore to blacken and dry.

     Stealthy rustling sounds followed little tidal crabs into damp crevices, under rocks, beneath débris, as they ran for cover while Sea drew away, leaving behind wet footprints in stone pools and sandy depressions.

     Miniature geysers began to spout, revealing where clams lived, making their presence easily detectable for those who might seek to harvest. Barnacles, mussels and all other tidal-dependent shelled creatures locked themselves away in calcareous seclusion, exposed to the same dangerous plight, as height of saltwater lowered, exposing their well-fastened bourgeoning colonies on rocks and old pilings.

     Schools of young fish fled with receding Sea, retreating with trailing edge of water as Tide turned once more from Beach and walked toward Sky where, later, Sea and Moon would decide water height for next flooding of Shore.

     All marine life which made a living burrowing along tide-line with its rhythm of ebb and flow, burrowed now. To be caught between Tide’s twice daily visits without some life-sustaining salt-watered cover was to be found as an empty shell floating on return surge, victim of dehydration or predator gull.

     Only Seaweed held the secret for rejuvenation when time came for waves to move back over exposed shore.

     Then, crisp, seemingly dead marine plants would be transformed from apparent lifelessness to shining suppleness again, as they were lifted by Tide to sway back and forth just as they had been before their abandonment to rocks, sun and drying wind.

     Theirs was a privileged friendship with Sea.

     It was said by Shalisa that Sea loved those golden saltwater flowers and wanted them always trailing within reach, fresh and plump for picking whenever such wish arose, when Wind and Sea shouted their joy in each other’s companionship with wild, frothy, spindrifting play, so a boon of endurance had been granted to these marine plants throughout surge and ebb, calm and storm. They survived, throve and covered rocky Shore with rich colour and fertility, sustaining life, their own and that of others along that space between land and sea.

     Beach was dressed with these flowers by Sea whenever the encounters of the two boisterous friends took place, and they were left scattered there, something the Shalisa considered a gift. The giant bull kelp, especially that which had been torn from its fastholds farther out and was larger than those inshore, was put to many uses as were others of the sea plants left behind by Tide.

     These and other salt water vegetation were the enduring forest for sea creatures, supplying food, water and home situations under, around and with their growth, just as forested land was the life support of those who lived and breathed air.

     Now, as water retreated, sand fleas gathered among the detritus left by Tide’s departure, leaping and bounding in countless hordes, scavenging among what they considered to be the finest foraging on damp, waterless Beach. This was their space of time for frolicking and feeding among the torn sea plants and random offerings brought by Tide at full, and left to nourish the population there as Sea went once more to enjoy unhindered, ongoing, restless wanderings.

     Little peeping Sanderlings ran back and forth searching for food along edge of water, daring lapping waves to catch their swift feet as Tide washed back and forth heading out through Gap. Heads of small rocks began to appear as these permanent residents of shore surfaced dripping faces to enjoy full sun.

     The lower reaches of cliffs surrounding Shalisa Creek Bay were a pastel wash of fuchsia-coloured wild sweet peas, the sturdy vines tumbling downward, holding their flower stalks of fluted blossoms out above the falls of muted green leaves for bees and butterflies to access the sweet nectar there. It was not just simple generosity alone, but necessity for the pollination of next year’s seeds. Even though the roots of the plants went deep into the cracks on cliff faces, assuring a replacement of vine and bloom with fresh vigour every year, seeds were always putting forth hopeful new sprouts in spite of the hard, unwelcoming home the parent plants occupied.

     Meadow was hosting a wealth of daisies, with rose campion claiming the stony dry patches for their own, while the stout stems of thistles grown high and away swayed their purple and fragrant puffs, well protected by formidable thorns which made sure only bees and other insects got a chance to sample the delicious sweetness there. Later fluff-topped seeds would be the joy of Goldfinch and smaller seed eaters, just as the dandelions which had opened with Spring’s advance had offered theirs. Yarrow held its white panicles of tiny flowers high on tall feathery-leaved stalks, and pearly everlasting was showing its first snowy, compact heads of bloom which would also provide sustenance for birds before Wind floated the seeds away on air.

     Summer was being generously profuse with her wildflowers and green growth this year. Mild wet Spring had given all growing things a chance to catch up on past colder and less nurturing seasons and now arbutus trees were busy spreading their last year’s leaves over everything, decorating nearby fir branches with cast-off yellow decorations and giving paths and open spaces a cover of mottled gold which was intensified by Sun’s warm glance. This generous cover held moisture down in the soil when parching days arrived.

     Regarding the busy life which now went on, Shalisa Creek Bay leaned back, smiled contentedly and watched Tide on the turn departing from Beach.

- - -

The end of August brought the beginning of serious harvesting to the gardens of Shalisa Creek Bay. There had already been a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables in season, but now the need to gather and dry and pickle and preserve was becoming the focus of attention for the bay dwellers.

     Sitting on the large rock by Rose’s house, rolling peas down a paper chute into a large pot, David whistled softly, absorbed in his work. This was the third garden’s worth he had picked, the first being Tashakawa’s, the second Bettina’s, and now the fat wealth of Rose’s vines was heading for drying and winter storage.

     Armand had allowed that David could pick peas and shell them, it having been conceded by the doctor that this was a moderate enough exercise, considering the progress which had been made by his reined-in patient.

     That progress had been gained by total laid back loafing while everyone else worked, which prescription for regaining normality quickly had finally been undertaken. What had at first been seen as restraint had turned into something close to the way he’d felt when he had come for a break after a busy casino season, and was left to his own devices at the Bay with Ulf and Gurth—time to do as he pleased, to interact once more with the environment around him, and to consider how overly busy he had become since that first beginning.

     One thing missing was the company of his flute, but he had resolutely put that old companion aside with a promise that it would all be made up later on. Lounging beneath his friendly Tree to simply ruminate, going again to Pond across Creek, sometimes with Rose and the two samoyeds along, sitting at Beach’s sandy edge with clothes laid aside as Tide, that sometimes rowdy friend, rolled in and splashed him with salty washes, strolling slowly to Meadow alone or accompanied, he actually began to enjoy Armand’s prescription.

     Earlier this morning he had watched as Howard put down his shovel after digging potatoes, telling Rose with a laugh that he needed some down time, and his young brother had gone off with a swinging stride toward Deer Ridge for some ‘refreshing air’.

     David had smiled, thinking that the Ridge had become a favourite place where Howard recuperated whenever he became restless and seemed to feel the need to walk it off, which was frequent. When the young man came back relaxed and pleasant, chewing on wild mint, David was glad that Howard seemed to be finding a little peace of mind here at the Bay. Compared to the unruly, uptight brother he had brought unwillingly to this place, the price he had paid for his impulsive act of ‘kidnapping’ seemed to him to have been almost worth it.

     While his older brother rolled peas, thinking well of him, Howard was busy with his own harvest.

     He had looked around to find a hidden place for drying his illicit crop and had found a small sheltered space under an overhanging, bent hemlock which shadowed a warm hollow where deer often rested below in the shade, and here he brought his hoard to be hung from a branch for curing. He didn’t take all the crop available, leaving a couple of sturdy specimens to continue growing, with the thought that maybe some seeds might fall and grow another stand in the same place if he left a couple of plants to continue their own natural habits and, he figured, maybe he could visit again with David somewhere around the right time next year. Otherwise he would drive, saying he wanted to visit Lucy. Two great things at once.

     It was something not to be left to chance. This needed planning.

     Happy and satisfied with his efforts, he next had to think of how to get the product of his shady husbandry aboard TJUTELA, for the trip home. He decided that he’d sneak small quantities of it out to the boat a little at a time and stash it in a plastic garbage bag surrounded by a pillow case, covering it with his blankets, and eventually replacing his pillow with his stash. This he figured wouldn’t be too difficult to do since David was mostly ashore these days. That would get it aboard safely, but getting it off the boat might pose a problem.

     He worried about that a bit.

     Meanwhile, this was the best stuff he’d ever had, he was enjoying it, and he had no doubt that future problems could be dealt with one way or another. He rolled one, using a page from a book he had lifted from David’s onboard small library. This weighty tome had been printed on very thin paper, being a large anthology of English poetry, and Howard figured a few missing poems would never be noticed, since each one was as boring as the next as far as he was concerned. He lit up and strolled to Deer Ridge, drawing deeply of his pacifying plant, doing a bit of dreaming, and that dreaming conjured up a vision of blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque Lucy.

     He topped the ridge and started for the old moss covered log he had sat on the first time he’d come up to this place, where he could look out into the tops of the trees and let his imagination go, but then he stopped, startled, as Dancing Water, who was already sitting there turned with a smile, saw him and greeted him with,

     “Ah, it is young Howard. I have just come to have some quiet time and think on how good it is to be living here in this fine bay. Have you also come for a peaceful rest from your hard work?”

     Hastily holding his smoke behind him he answered,

     “Oh—uh—yeah—sorry. I didn’t see you. I’ll just leave again and let you have it all to yourself.”

     “There is no need to go,” he was told, “There is room for both,” and seeing the smoke rising from behind him she added, “I do not mind that you smoke. I like that fragrance. It is a fine thing to bring here. It shows respect for the Spirits.”

     Howard was surprised at this reply, but gathered from the remark about fragrance that Dancing Water knew very well what it was he was smoking. He decided there was no point in being rude by walking away, since he’d been caught out anyway, and he had found that he enjoyed her company. She wasn’t always preaching about being ‘good,’ or ‘behaving’. She looked at things from a different viewpoint than most older people he knew and he liked that approach.

     He went to sit by her and then it occurred to him that, since she knew what it was he had, maybe she herself toked when no one was looking, so he offered, holding it out to her,

     “Would you like... ?”

     “Thank you,” she said with a delighted smile, taking it carefully from him.

     Then he watched, astonished, as she rose and, with her free hand, wafted the smoke with gentle slow waves as she stepped in a little circle, saying something in a language he didn’t understand.

     When she had finished she handed the twist back, saying,

     “It is fine, young man, that you have brought this offering here to the place where you and I and our friend Deer come to be at peace. I thank you. The Spirits will be pleased. I have thought of this but have not had anything to give.”

     Howard was more than puzzled. What he had brought the plant for was to please himself. He didn’t answer for a moment, then asked,

     “What was it you said just now?”

     “It is only thanks to all Spirits around for all good things they give me and others in this place.”

     “Why did you turn around like that?”

     “It is so that all Spirits in the circle will be included and none left out.”

     “There’s a ceremony that goes with smoking?” he asked, interested.

     “It was so at one time,” she told him. “It was not for everyday use as it is so much now, but for special occasions. I find it is sad that so many of the old ways have fallen away.”

     “I didn’t know,” admitted Howard, feeling a sudden strange sense of guilt that he’d been smoking something which had been meant for ceremonial purposes of which this woman knew so much and he knew nothing. “Maybe I’ve been offending your Spirits here by just coming and—smoking.”

     “Oh no. Even by doing so, it is good for peace. Too much of this is not good, for then Spirits may feel that we have forgotten for what it was intended. It is also a powerful medicine for those in pain which it can ease. Those who can not eat well because of sickness are encouraged to do so by its comfort, and it is of such good use that it is returned to Spirits by ourselves in this way, on Wind, into Sky, so that they will know how much we appreciate their gifts and that we would like to give back, even such a little bit.

     “Many of the plants around us offer much for healing and comfort, but most are called weeds now, and are no longer used. When we forget these things it is not the loss of the Spirits but that of our own. We lose some of the richness which comes from all the good things we live among.”

     “Are there other things here like this?” he enquired, wondering if there were plants which might be as delightful as the one he held.

     The answer he got was in a different direction.

     “Yes, many of the fine plants around us here which others consider to be weeds have very good uses. Perhaps you have come into contact with stinging nettle?”

     “Oh yeah! That I can do without,” stated Howard emphatically.

     “Perhaps yourself,” she laughed, “But stinging nettle is seen as bad only because people who do not know it have only unhappy touch with it, but it is fine medicine for some who have hard breathing, which our good doctor would call asthma or allergy. It is also for those with ‘sore toe’. Armand calls this ‘gout’. I learn much of the new names from him and he says he learns much of the old medicines from me. In the old days much of what you see growing around had use for something—medicine, food, tools, clothing, household things, but now it is seen as too much work to obtain its goodness. It is torn up, thrown away and ignored as useless weeds. Everyone now buys cans and packages—except for those who do the canning and packing.”

     Howard’s interest was tweaked further. He looked around at the trees and green growing things and tried to imagine what use might be made of them.

     “You mean just about everything around here was used?”

     “It is so. Beautiful dandelion can be eaten as greens, and the root dried and powdered for something like coffee. It is a fine tonic but most now regard it as a pest to be destroyed. See the shining bright rose hips? They are good snacks, if the seeds inside are not eaten. That will give you an itch somewhere you will not like.”

     “Too bad everything has to be so full of seeds,” complained Howard. “They get stuck in my teeth sometimes, never mind give me an itch. Maybe somebody will change berries and stuff to grow without them one day.”

     “I do hope not,” smiled Dancing Water, “For it is that you think of these things entirely as food for you, but Plant is doing only as we do—making more of itself—and, finding itself in difficult circumstances, grows many seeds, hoping one or two will sprout and survive to carry on without being eaten, or dying from drought or cold or disease, or any of these other things which can happen to us all. We need them to continue with many seeds for our own selfish wishes. If they should be stopped from this we would have nothing at all to eat.”

     “Guess you’re right,” agreed Howard, seeing a point of view he hadn’t been exposed to before, “Vegies, anyway.”

     “Ah, but what is seen as meat, when alive, must also eat plants,” laughed Dancing Water.

     “Huh! More seeds needed I guess,” snorted Howard.     

     “It may be that you have had jam made by our friend Bettina of the large blackberries whose ancestors were brought here from another country,” she suggested, “And it is true they have many seeds but it is very good jam. These berries also make fine wine for any who like them that way. Those who wish this plant gone see only thorns, and a weed which is too successful in its efforts to continue its family. It is taking over, they say, but it seems to take over only deserted and unused places such as country roadsides or places disturbed by people.

     “Perhaps you would like better the little wild strawberries in early summer. These are very sweet, like small wild trailing blackberries, if one is able to find some before all hungry wild forest dwellers get to them first, as they are much looked for by Bird and Mouse and Deer and Raccoon. Leaves of these when turned red in late year also can be used as tea, and little forest people eat them and know to like the berries of Oregon grape and salal also, as we people do. Leaves of many plants are also food of our wild friends. Everything growing is used by everything else and not only for food. Wild yellow-flowering broom, which also came from afar is a medicine for killing stomach worms for Deer and such. They nibble the new tips in spring.”

     Howard felt the subject of stomach worms was getting pretty far off from the idea he still had in mind, so to get back to the subject he asked,     

     “But that’s all wild stuff—where did you get—this—when you used it?”

     He held up his twist, still wondering about its origin.

     “Do you think it is tame?” she laughed. “It also is called weed, found to be growing wild in some places many years ago in the old days and used as I say since then.”

     “Really?” he asked, surprised. “Does it grow wild around here?”

     “I do not believe so, but then, this has not been my home for long and I have not yet discovered all the good things which Shalisa land has. It is as yourself. It is not wild plant used today, it is another import unlike the wild. Anyone who would have this now must go around and about to have some. Many people who wish to honour the Spirits these days often use tobacco. There are also other sweet grasses which people use, but I do not know them all as they are in other places.

     “Also, this which you have must never be confused with wild hemp as some young people do. It has other uses as a very valuable plant because of its tough fibre for nets and fishing line and many other things in the old days. It is very strong even when wet and was prized much. It is not for smoking, as you do with your plant now.”

     Howard sat there still considering whether his discovery might be ‘wild’ or not and if maybe everyone saw it as a weed and ignored it. He was convinced that it wasn’t David’s because he felt certain that his brother would have been around to check on it before now. He was a little uneasy that someone knew he was smoking pot, but he figured that if Dancing Water took it so much for granted as part of the scenery she probably figured David did so as well and she wouldn’t even mention it to anyone.

     “Guess we’re surrounded by useful weeds,” he agreed at last.

     “It is so,” replied Dancing Water. “Even lichens there on dead tree branches make beautiful colours to dye reeds for baskets, as do others of that family growing around. It is that some mosses once stuffed pillows, also being soft enough for baby cradles. It is like sponge, and for cleaning things, and has many more uses for people.”

     “I met someone who told me that some seaweeds can be used for food and she collects them sometimes,” offered Howard.

     “She is well informed,” he was told. “In Bay here there are fine things. Seaweeds still are used with cooking and for eating. You perhaps have seen bull kelp washed up on Beach with their trailing stipes and bulbous tops. This made very useful cord when its long stipes were spliced together, but it was brittle until soaked in water for use again. The large bulbs which kept the plants with their flowing blades afloat could be used for storing food such as fish oils and many other things. Seaweeds are also used with cooking for their salty moisture and their flavour as well as nourishment, and also giant kelp makes fine pickle.”

     “People sure must have been busy collecting it all,” mused Howard, “Lots of hard work making it into stuff, just like they’re doing in the gardens now.”

     “Oh, but it is not to think that this is all work,” she told him. “A garden just outside home full of good things to eat is a pleasure always. To go gathering with family and friends is much fun and happiness to be remembered, and it is not only to be used that wild things are admired so. It gives much happiness to take these things and make handsome and useful articles from them. As well, there is beauty all around. Our tiny calypso orchids are prized elsewhere, but seem to be too small to be treasured by those who seek show here, even though if looked at closely they are perhaps even more beautiful than the large orchid which is so sought by some who sell flowers. That kind is growing happily wild as a so-called weed in its native home. Earth here still smiles on her own little ones, and to see a stand of cat-tails reflected in water of sunny pond, swaying tall and green, holding high their soft brown seed spikes, is beautiful indeed. Even though one might be gathering reeds for baskets, weaving these is itself a happy thing for hands to do.

     “The children find much fun in going along the shore and stamping on the little air bladders attached to seawrack to make them go ‘pop’. Heron has also shown the others how to take dry floats of bull kelp and throw them into fire to make them explode—which is not always at the right time, as at cooking dinner, or to startle elders. It is their ‘firecracker’, and also ‘cracking the whip’ with the long stipes while they are wet.

     “We who are grown also amuse ourselves much. You will perhaps smile to know that yarrow stalks make very fine gambling sticks. Men will always find interesting things to do with idle time. It is that a game such as hockey was played along the shore with ‘pucks’ made of sections from kelp—that one known as laminaria. Oh yes—everything here is part of us—to please our spirit as well as our stomachs and homes. There is a good use for everything, but it must not be gathered to excess as there will be none left for next time. We should talk of this more if you should have the wish. This is indeed a fortunate place to live, with so many good things all around.”

- - -

Later, when they had walked back down from the ridge to the beach, he thought of the conversation about weeds, and Dancing Water’s knowledge of seaweeds got him to thinking again that Lucy had told him how interesting she found the marine plants and that she was always drawn to look at them growing like small forests in the sea whenever she went diving.

     After Dancing Water had left him on the beach he pushed the dinghy off, rowed himself to TJUTELA and got out the cell phone. A bit of searching found Lucy at the Sea Urchin where she worked in the kitchen.

     No idle conversation this, although he tried to keep it that way. He wanted to see more of Lucy and he thought he’d figured out a way to do it. This, though, was going to take some manipulation of Big Brother.

     Undaunted, Howard set about getting what he wanted.

     David, sitting contentedly shelling peas and contemplating them as they rolled down his paper chute into the pot, had no inkling of what proposition was about to be put to him when Howard strolled up and sat down close by.

     “Hi,” came the big smile, “Having fun?”

     “Yeah, actually,” replied David with a little laugh. “You know, peas in a pod aren’t exactly the same at all. They’re as individual as you and I are.”

     “Oh? You making a study of it?”

     “No, just a little close scrutinising and philosophising.”

     There was a companionable silence between them until Howard said,

     “I was talking to Lucy and—oh—I forgot—the cell phone needs recharging.”

     “You ran it down very thoroughly did you?” laughed David.

     “Well—it was kind of gone before I got to it. Here. Maybe you can plug it in somewhere.”

     “Thanks a lot. Since you’re the only one using it, when did you get to it?”

     “I gave her a call when I was just now out checking the boat.”

     “How is TJUTELA?”


     “Mmhm—and Lucy?”

     “She’s fine,” was the lame reply.

     “Uh huh.”

     Silence until,

     “Guess Armand isn’t going to let you do any diving is he Div?”

     David noted the endearing boyhood nickname, and all his wariness arose.

     “Nope. Strictly forbidden for awhile.”

     “Guess you don’t need to, since we checked everything out and got LEAF WINE patched up,” said Howard, hoping David would take note of the fact that all this had been done with much help from his young brother, “Do you think I could borrow your diving gear then, since you won’t be using it?”

     “And what might you be planning to do with it?” enquired the owner of the desired equipment.

     “Well, Lucy and I got to talking and—well, I suggested that we might go diving together, because she was telling me before that she’s interested in seaweeds and stuff and I thought it would be kind of nice if we could do some diving off the coast here a bit, and we decided tomorrow would be good.”

     “What was it you were you going to use for a boat?” enquired David.

     Howard realised David was on to him, but he tried not to let on and continued his plan of attack.

     “I thought I’d ask Harry if he’d lend me his runabout,” he lied.

     David looked up and stopped shelling peas.

     “I hate to tell you this,” he told Howard, “But his boat motor has been malfunctioning, and you know Harry where machines are concerned. He has it in pieces, all getting thoroughly reviewed.”

     It was exactly the reply Howard had been hoping for. He already knew that Harry’s runabout was non-functional.

     So did David, and he was pretty sure that Howard must have known too, but the look of disappointed shock in Howard’s face looked so very genuine that he had to restrain himself from laughing. He knew too that his brother was interested in Lucy but he hadn’t expected such the definite reaction he now got. If anything went wrong with plans which had been made with Jan there had usually been a shrug and a response of, ‘Oh well, guess she won’t mind’.

     This time Howard broke out with,

     “Aw hell! What am I going to do now? We can’t go diving where she wants to without a boat.”

     “Maybe she won’t mind not going too much,” suggested David, stringing the scenario along.

     “She’ll think I’m a nerd. She’s arranging to take time off tomorrow so we can go, and that’s not easy for her to do.”

     “Oh—tough luck, How. I’m sorry.”

     With a disconsolate demeanour, Howard reached into the container of peas and helped himself to a handful.

     “Guess that screws me up permanently with her. I don’t think she’s the kind who likes to get stood up, and she’ll think I’m lying.”

     “Why would she think that?”

     “That’s what all women think when they get cut isn’t it?”

     “Maybe the ones you know, but could be Lucy’s different.”

     “Yeah—well I wish I didn’t have to find out.”

     Howard helped himself to more peas, looking very downhearted as his brother’s eyes went out to where TJUTELA rested on the bay waters. There sat a lovely boat—doing nothing. He knew he was being worked over, but he remembered the look in Howard’s face when he had first seen Lucy, and then how the two had seemed to hit it off so well. He thought about how he might have felt at the time he was Howard’s age, having to break arrangements for whatever reason—pretty crummy.

     <But—TJUTELA’s my pride and joy. She and I and the pups are buddies. What if he—>, there was an inward flinch as the word ‘wreck’ came to mind but then, <Well, he did take her all the way to the Gap here while I was totalled. Maybe he’d be okay with her. Anyway, he’s already made a mess of her below decks and since she needs a going over when we get back because I dinged her getting through the Gap—what the hell.>

     There was silence for a few moments as peas began to roll again and David convinced himself that everything would be fine before he offered at last,

     “I know you’re trying to make an in with Lucy, and since I’m landlubbered for the moment—,” David teetered on the edge but finally fell off, saying, “Yeah, you can borrow my gear and—,” it came hard but it came, “Do you think TJUTELA is too big for a bit of diving?”

     The look of delighted surprise on his brother’s face almost made David reconsider his generosity.

     <Damned good acting. I just wish he wouldn’t be so devious. Let him take TJUTELA off on some junket just so he can make time with a woman? Maybe I’d better squelch the idea while I can still get out of it.>

     Before he could withdraw his offer Howard went for him and hugged him, knocking peas and chute flying.

     “Div! That would be fantastic! We could have an overnight.”

     “Hey! Quit! You’re spilling all the peas—I didn’t say overnight—and there are a couple of conditions.”

     “Oh!” Howard backed off, real disappointment showing in his face this time. “You don’t mean you’re going to come along too, do you?”

     “Not a bad idea,” David told him, picking up the chute and setting the pot straight, “But no. Lucy’s a good seaman and between the two of you I guess you can manage. I do know you can navigate, and run her on power, but—you let me take her in and out of the Gap.”

     Howard’s expression changed to one of mistrust as the peas started rolling again.

     “So you get her out—how do you get back? Swim for it?”

     “No, I’ll borrow BRIGHT LEAF, and tow her along and paddle back.”

     “Oh—and we can overnight?” came the question with renewed enthusiasm.

     “You’d better ask Lucy that,” laughed David with raised eyebrows.

     “Yeah! Got it made!” exclaimed Howard, forgetting his act and making a swinging gesture of triumph with his fist, “I’ll go ask her right now.”

     “Better recharge the cell phone first,” advised his brother.

     “Rose’s is closer,” replied Howard as he started on a run for her house.

     “Geeze! What a user,” muttered David, getting back to rolling peas, aware of just how used he had been.

- - -

The morning was warm and sunny with a promise of more to come as TJUTELA, with Lucy and Howard aboard, sailed away from the village wharf. He had bumped her a bit getting her in, but had managed nicely with the help of someone on the boards, and getting her away was a breeze because Lucy took care of casting off.

     The two smiled at each other as the yawl headed into deep water.

     “This is sure a beautiful boat,” Lucy told him admiringly. “It’s nice of David to let you take her out.”

     “Yeah, I borrow it sometimes,” was the careful reply, Howard not wanting it to seem as though his having the boat was an unheard of thing.

     “It’s such a nice day, let’s sail,” suggested Lucy. “She must be pretty and quiet when she’s under sail.”

     Howard, who’d had no intentions of sailing, hesitated.

     “Uh—that’ll take us longer to get where we’re going,” he waffled.

     “But it’ll be lots of fun,” argued Lucy.

     Not wanting to seem unwilling, or worse still, having to admit that he wasn’t all that up on sailing the yawl, Howard decided that he’d give it a go anyway.

     Trying to remember what David had been attempting to teach him, he started the main up the mast without putting the motor in low. Not having remembered to luff her up into the wind to keep the sail slack while he raised it, TJUTELA immediately decided to help, took the hand of her good friend Wind, the sail filled, and the boat began to make way before the sailor had quite got the head of the sail halfway to the top of the mast. He struggled and winched and finally managed to get some semblance of a set and, hoping that his efforts would satisfy Lucy, who was inexpertly handling the wheel, he returned to the helm intending to take over from her but instead she asked,

     “Aren’t you going to put up the front sails?”

     “Oh—I guess we could—but there’s quite a bit of wind,” returned the amateur skipper, finally expressing his doubt about the idea.

     Lucy, who knew of wind only from the deck of a boat under power, thought that it wasn’t too bad and told him so.

     Howard succumbed.

     He put up a ‘front sail’, which happened to be a large jib, using the same strenuous process which had been applied to the main.

     “Wheeee!” said TJUTELA, and promptly buried her lee rail in the water, getting ready for a wow of a sail and forgetting that it wasn’t David in control. In fact, she was out of control, much like the two aboard her.

     Flying along at a very fast pace, Lucy, who wasn’t used to the heel of a sailboat, particularly at this extreme angle, watched Sea frothing along the partly submerged starboard deck, listened to the hiss of it and, having had quite enough experiences with rough water, began to get alarmed.

     Much to her surprise, Howard seemed to be enjoying himself. There was a grin on his face. It was a grimace of bravado but she didn’t know that. TJUTELA, being a heavy, stable boat kept roaring along without hindrance from anyone aboard and Howard, not knowing enough to put her into the wind a bit to curb the speed and dangerous heel, or to at least let the sheets out to lessen the wind’s driving force, and not having the presence of mind to turn off the engine, let her have her way.

     Lucy struggled with the helm, unused to the technique of handling a sailboat at speed as she came down at the head through wave and tide.

     Aboard the LOUISA there had been a standing edict that anyone who didn’t know enough to be afraid, or who wouldn’t admit to it when they did, was an idiot. Not at all afraid of admitting that she was afraid, and quite confident that she wasn’t an idiot as they careened along, Lucy finally said,

     “Howie, I don’t like this. Take it down.”

     Surprised at these words, but also quite relieved, and certainly not going to admit it or that he too had his doubts, Howard replied with the superiority which he didn’t possess, and with tones of disappointment,

     “Oh—okay. We’re making really great time though.”

     They were, and he made even better time hastening to get the sail down, but TJUTELA’s disappointment was genuine. She wanted to sail. She didn’t cooperate, almost causing a disaster as sail billowed and flapped on its way deckward and sailor scrambled and scrabbled to keep it from going overboard and scooping water, which would have given him something really interesting to deal with.

     “Gimme the sail ties,” he requested breathlessly as he hung and swung over the boom with both arms, trying to control the sail he had captured and bundled, as well as also keeping his footing.

     Lucy, not knowing how to set the wheel steady on, left it and grabbed the sail ties, the ones Howard should have taken with him before he started lowering sail, and she thrust them quickly at him.

     With her wheel free TJUTELA had fun doing a doughnut, helping the sail to escape a little from the clutches of the straining and stressed novice mariner who was trying to keep it in check.

     As he went about his inept way of securing main to boom and stuffing jib into bag, Lucy began to get the first unsettling feelings that her secretly and previously much admired man actually didn’t know what he was doing. She decided to put it down to too much wind, like he’d said to begin with.

     Crisis over, they sailed on, motoring.

     “This is much nicer,” smiled Lucy, relief in her voice.

     “I guess,” Howard agreed, with a reluctance he didn’t feel, as he remembered to bring the main boom inboard and midships. This he remembered only because of the other disaster he had caused on the trip to the bay with David and he didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

     With TJUTELA rather sulkily behaving herself under the guidance of uncertain hands, the two young inexperienced sailors settled down to enjoy their trip to Lucy’s designated dive destination.

- - -

The little bay they entered was relatively quiet considering the wind which was blowing beyond it and Lucy, having taken shelter here before in the unfortunate LOUISA, when Wind had been blowing up in the direction it was now holding, knew the entrance and the bay reasonably well. That was why TJUTELA managed to miss the rock which sat close to centre of the seaway, because Lucy warned Howard, who was now masterfully in charge of the helm, to stay starboard.

     “Why?” enquired Master, thinking that middle water, like that at the Gap entrance to Shalisa Creek Bay would be safest and deepest.

     “Because we’ll hit a great big rock if you don’t!” returned Lucy, strain in her voice as she grabbed the wheel and turned them off the danger.

     “Hey! Get off my helm!” ordered he as they slid safely past. “I’m the captain on this boat.”

     “Well maybe you should listen to the navigator when she tells you something,” snapped Lucy. “I’ve been here before and I know the place.”

     Howard didn’t answer. He had been busy enjoying being Captain Godwin, and he didn’t want any interference, even if he might just possibly have gone a little too close to a rock there.

     He cut the engine back and began to wonder just where to anchor. Lucy, anticipating this manoeuvre, said,

     “If we go a little farther in we’ll be just right for diving on that slope over there. It has lots of interesting stuff.”

     “Okay,” agreed Howard, this time without rancour, knowing that Lucy did have information about their diving expedition, since she had planned it.

     Thinking to herself that at least she knew how to lower an anchor she started forward, offering,

     “I’ll set the anchor.”

     What she wasn’t too informed about was the operation of this deep draught sailboat, and she heard Howard’s laughter, followed by his suggestion,

     “Just push the switch there—it’s electric.”

     This sense of being put down was beginning to wear a little on her. She was used to being in control of everything herself, and also of always being considered competent, and the tone of superiority she was detecting in Howard’s voice was not pleasing her.

     She pushed the switch.

     “How much do you want out?” she asked as chain rattled down.

     “That’s good,” ordered Captain Godwin, not having the slightest idea of boat length to rode length necessary to hold a boat.

     The novice skipper did have enough cautious sense to stay a little away from shore, but he didn’t take into consideration the depth beneath his keel. TJUTELA swung tight to her anchor with Tide’s motion, her rode straight down as she missed, by no great distance of depth, the rocks hiding under Sea which reached out from the base of the slope they were going to explore, and Tide was on the turn in.

     Tension gone, the two sat quietly enjoying the peaceful bay, watching waterfowl diving, and laughing at the little drama of River Otter who had captured a fish, brought it ashore and was on his way home with it when Bald Eagle, noted for his eagle eyes, spotted the little fisherman and decided to piratise the meal.

     He launched off from the tree where he had a clear view of the water and took after Otter, but he was just a little too late. There was a volley of high-pitched squealing bad language from Otter as he hastily managed to get himself and fish into his waterside home just as Eagle swooped, and the bird was left to find something else to give his attention to.

     He flapped back to his tree in a bad humour.

     “This is a great little spot when the weather’s good,” Lucy told Howard, “But not to be used much for hiding from the wind if it’s any sort of big blow. It’s too exposed. We’ve only come in here when we’ve been tired and have a big load and the wind and wave is getting to us, so we take a bit of a rest.

     “We think there could be a good source of seaweed here and maybe we could find a market for it in the village. I just want to have a look. There’s all kinds of other seaweed I’d like to see too. A lot of it growing along the coast hasn’t even been documented yet. I want to save my money so I can study marine plants. I guess it’ll take awhile before I can because we don’t make that much, but I really want to. I think it’s sure interesting how all the water plants and the sea life are so interconnected.”

     Howard, who went to university just because all his friends did, paying a minimum of attention to classes while they used the place as a social club, was quite surprised to hear someone actually express the idea that attending there was something she really wanted to do for a different reason.

     “Are there courses for that sort of thing?” he asked, knowing only what he himself was concerned with—the easy, sure things.

     “Well, there’s lots of interest in the marine environment now and yeah, there’s all sorts of stuff people are studying. It sure would be nice to be able to do something I really like and get paid for it later on. It would be something we three Louisas could work at together.”

     Money had never been a problem for Howard. He lived at home and his parents looked after everything.

     “Maybe you can get a grant or something,” was his suggested solution.

     “Not for first year, and it’s not just the fees. I have to be able to keep myself while I’m doing it, so I have to have something to back me up for awhile. Anyway, that’s in the future—let’s talk about our dive. I’d like to go along that outcropping there and maybe down about thirty feet—and we stick together—okay?”

     “Okay,” agreed Howard, not too concerned about procedure.

     When he made a dive with friends everybody trailed about in a bunch and he was used to letting others follow him.

     Suited up, the two dutifully put out their diving flag in the deserted bay and went over the side.

     Things went well for the first few minutes as the two examined together the things they found interesting, but shortly thereafter Howard’s eyes strayed from the direction Lucy was heading. He saw something he wanted to look at farther to his left and he went for it. It wasn’t long before Lucy was beside him, scowling, shaking her head and motioning him to follow, but he wanted to see what he had come for and she held her place beside him until he was ready to move on.

     This happened two more times and the third time, just as he had reached out to the rock face he’d found to be so intriguing, a hand pushed his face mask up onto his head, he was grabbed by the neck of his diving jacket and propelled ‘up’ swiftly and with powerful force.

     He broke surface spluttering and angry, yelling,

     “What the hell did you do that for?!”

     “You’re a lousy buddy!” she yelled back. “I’m going back to the boat.”

     The boat, which should have been waiting patiently for the return of the two had got an idea of her own. Tide had lifted TJUTELA as it had come in, she had lifted anchor from the mud bottom and was doing a lazy float toward shore.

     “The boat’s dragging anchor!” Lucy shouted, seeing that it was gone from its place by their flag.

     The two swam madly for her, Lucy reaching her first and scrambling aboard, diving fins flapping like a fish out of water, and she made for the controls. Howard, not far behind, reached the sailboat as the motor turned over and as he held to the stern ladder trying to remove his own fins, the face mask—David’s nice new one—which was set far back on his head, fell off, banged against the hull and disappeared into the water.

     “Oh! Damn! HELL! He’ll kill me!

     “Never mind that,” urged Lucy, “Help me get her out of here before we go aground.”

     Throwing his fins up into the cockpit, Howard scrambled up the ladder, grabbed the wheel, jerked it to port, made a sharp curving turn, scraped a rock with a sound that made both aboard glance at each other a little fearfully, then motored free—until TJUTELA’s dangling anchor grabbed on to an underwater outcropping and brought things to a halt.

     TJUTELA winced, not because she had hauled up short, but because the views expressed about the situation at that moment by the two aboard her were not of the sort anyone from polite society would have liked to hear. Neither of them had thought the other would use such language, so they hadn’t thus far. Now they eyed each other, a little surprised, both figuring that at least they stood on common ground somewhere, then Lucy ordered,

     “Turn the bloody motor off and I’ll go down and get us free.”

     He was about to argue that he could back her off but Lucy had already flipped over the side. He shut down the motor quickly, and tense moments went by until she surfaced again, and yelled,

     “Let out some more rode, I’ll work it loose and swim to port and when you see me come up start the motor and get her out of here—and this time haul up the anchor. You can pick me up after.”

     TJUTELA, not at all liking the casual bottom-pat greeting Rock had given her as she’d passed by, cooperated, deciding that maybe shore wasn’t all that interesting after all, so Lucy came aboard at a safe distance away from it and the threat of grounding.

     “Let’s get the hell out of here,” breathed Howard, heading for open water.

     “Stay to port,” Lucy ordered again, “Or you’ll hit that damned rock in the middle.”

     It wasn’t until they were past the rock that Howard remembered the face mask.

     “Lucy, do you think you could find my face mask?” he asked anxiously.

     “Oh great. A treasure hunt. Tell you what,” she decided, “Anchor us out here properly and we can take the dinghy back in and see if we can find it.”

     Howard, somewhat deflated by having been hauled to the surface and called a lousy buddy, and not having anchored safely, decided that maybe he should listen to Lucy sometimes. He wasn’t too sure what ‘properly’ entailed, but he figured it meant put out more scope, so he did that, and he put out so much that TJUTELA had a grand time sweeping a large arc in the water while the two rowed back in the dinghy to see if they could recover the lost piece of equipment.

     They couldn’t.

     “It must have sunk into the mud at the bottom,” was Lucy’s assessment of the problem. “I looked all over. There’s nothing but mud.”

     “I’m in big trouble,” stated Howard glumly.

     “He can’t be that much of an ogre,” comforted Lucy. “It’s just a face mask, not the end of the world. Forget it. Let’s go for a walk instead and then we’ll have something to eat.”

     “Okay, but—could you maybe take a look and see if I did any real damage to the hull when we hit that rock?”

     She could.

     Dried off and changed into jeans and tee shirts, they rowed ashore and climbed up to walk along the top of the slope. The sun was warm and the wind had abated as they walked along and talked about things they both liked to do, music they enjoyed, places they’d like to see and had already seen, and the day was becoming pleasantly benign—until Lucy stepped out onto a ridge of rock saying,

     “Oh look, we can see TJUTELA from here—she’s so pretty... .”

     Howard, remembering his own experience when he had been pulled back from the cliff by Dancing Water, saw the danger and reached out, warning,

     “Lucy—get back here—that moss can slip under your feet when you walk on it.”

     He stepped forward, pulling her back to safety—and the moss slipped under his own weight.

     Feet first and face in, he slid down, grappling and grabbing at anything he could get hold of to break his fall—thorny blackberry bushes, broom, wild roses—and he landed at the bottom in a splattering splash as he hit the water.

     “Aghhh—fuddle it, fuddle it, fuddle it!”, came the shout from the bottom of the slope.

- - -

Sun was lowering in the late afternoon when David, idly splashing along the beach where he and the twins were playing with Ulf and Gurth, looked up to see TJUTELA boldly and swiftly motoring dead centre through the Gap, making a graceful turn—and heading for the wharf.

     <That little beggar,> he swore to himself, <Good thing it’s slack water. I told him to call from outside the Gap. Can’t he ever listen? I thought they were going to overnight. What’s he doing now?>

     He walked down to the wharf as Howard, having banged TJUTELA against the old pilings, jumped onto the boards and busied himself making the sailboat fast.

     “Hi,” David greeted him, “You’re back early.”

     The young man stood up, took a couple of unsteady, limping steps back from the boat, turned around and presented to his brother a scraped, red-raw face. The two looked at each other for a moment, the older with enquiring surprise which was bordering on laughter, the younger with hardened determination, and then Howard said,

     “You make any more fuddling funny cracks and I’ll massacre you.”

     “Didn’t say a damned thing that was funny,” David defended himself, straightening up his face.

     “Well don’t!” he was ordered. “Except for getting here with you I’ve never had such a crappy trip in my life. It sure didn’t turn out like I’d planned.”

     “Well—that goes for the two of us—in both departments,” commiserated David. “Where’s Lucy? I thought you two were going to overnight.”

     “I took her back to the village.”

     “What the hell happened?” was the inevitable question.

     “You really wanna know?! Okay—I made a fuddling fool of myself—I don’t know how to sail your damned boat, and I lost your new face mask overboard, and I put a scrape in TJUTELA’s hull—and I damned near killed myself falling down a cliff and she had to come and get me in the dinghy, and later when we tried to have something to eat she choked on an olive and I had to do the Heimlich manoeuvre on her and she barfed all over—and the next time I ask to borrow something from you say ‘no’. I can’t handle the consequences. I don’t think she’ll ever speak to me again”

     <He lost my mask and—scraped TJUTELA and—she barfed all—oh geeze!>

     David stood silent for a moment, about to break out with a blast until, looking at his brother’s facial expression, he realised that Howard was not holding forth with a petty outburst—he was totally distressed, not because of his injuries or any of the other happenings but because he’d flubbed it with Lucy.

     Boat and face mask got hastily put into perspective.

     “Hey, it’s okay—,” he offered, “TJUTELA’s hull has to be gone over anyway,” which kind words were followed up with, “Uh—is it a big scrape?”

     “She said no,” was the short rejoinder.

     “Oh—guess that happened after you lost the mask since ‘she’ said it,” deduced David, then, trying a little levity for lightening things up he said with a grin, “Agh—what the hell, Howie. As you always say, there are lots more girls around—and expensive face masks—and fixings for well-loved hulls—and... .”

     “Fuddle you!” was the unreceptive response and Howard started to walk away, staggered badly, and stopped to regain his balance.

     It came to David’s attention that the stagger was not caused by the limp alone.

     “Okay Little Brother,” he said gently, “Seems like you’ve had an interesting day. We’d better go find Armand. He has an old-fashioned black bag full of comfort for all kinds of injuries, feelings as well as faces.”

     “Oh sure—he’ll be glad to see me,” replied Howard ironically, “No doubt he’ll say we’re two of a kind.”

     “A pair of deuces—guess that’s about as low as we can get except for a dead hand,” returned David with a laugh, as Howard let his Big Brother take him by the arm to guide him safely off the wharf, “And judging from the way you’re falling around, I’d say you’ve been giving yourself too much first-aid from the bar aboard all the way home. You must be pretty numb already.”

     Had David been a bit less concerned with the obvious he might have detected something other than the aroma of alcohol wafting around his brother as he headed him for medical attention because Howard had given himself solace with more than that offered by the bar.

     TJUTELA, seeing the two walking away, called after them,

     “Well how about me?! Don’t I get any sympathy? I’ve been kicked around a lot too.”

     Unfortunately, they were already too far away to hear.

- - -

LEGER DE MAIN was pleased to have TJUTELA alongside. It had been some time since the sailboat had occupied that place. David had moored her there and put Howard in his bunk so that he could keep his eye on things, opening hatches, ports, and the companionway, expressing the opinion that TJUTELA needed a good airing out after her calamitous adventure. Even when he’d finished doing some cleaning up his nose told him that she still smelled less than appetising below decks.

     Apart from that, he himself wasn’t ready to sleep aboard at anchor. He had been enjoying walking over to Rose’s house from the barge and wallowing in her company during the day without having to return to the boat for lunch and dinner. Ulf and Gurth were also taking advantage of having the freedom to run around as much as they liked, so much so that Charm was becoming blasé about their presence, ignoring them, and they, still intimidated, never got close enough to be chastised by her swift and razor-sharp claws. Gurth had received that treatment once and Ulf had seen the results, so the two had played it safe from that time on.

     Now the two were sprawled on either side of David where he sat on the beach with Armand, Dancing Water, Fitz and Charm, watching Sun going down in a clear sky, as they talked softly about Howard’s ‘cruise’ while Fitz and Armand enjoyed a sundowner from the bottle of wine they had carried along with them, glasses in hand.

     “Howie’s a bit down on himself right now,” David told them, “But he’ll get over it, and I guess Lucy didn’t have much of a great time either.”

     “Having me picking the remainder of those thorns out of his hands and face couldn’t have made him feel too ‘up’, I’m sure,” commented Armand, “And when will people ever learn that swallowing liquor is not the way to treat anything?”

     “Maybe not,” grinned David, “But when it’s the nearest thing handy it sure does dull the pain a lot, particularly where the psyche is concerned, and Howard is hurting in more ways than one. Guess he’ll have one big hangover in the morning too.”

     “Do not worry too much, for the young are as the wild weeds,” smiled Dancing Water. “They sprout fine and strong and sometimes they are in the wrong place and get trampled, but soon they rise up again, with even more energy than before they were trodden. It would be a sad place indeed having no wild weeds to give life and joy to everything around.”

     “Right,” smiled Fitz, holding up his glass to let the sun shine through Bettina’s home-made wine which it held, “The wild weeds we’re drinking right now do a pretty good job of happifying things.”

     “Here’s to the other wild ones, even if they do fall down cliffs, choke on olives and get hit by booms,” laughed Armand softly, “And to all weeds everywhere. May they always be around to feed us and heal us and warm our hearts. Cheers and bonne chance to the lot!”