Archive for October, 2006

The Ups and Downs of a Day of Research

October 30, 2006

The island I’m using as a setting for my next book has a small museum. I was there several years ago and was impressed with their displays. This morning I checked to see if they had a website and low and behold they did. And today was the last day they were open for the season.

Thank goodness today the time fell back. I could make it over before they opened. Even stopped at a convenience store and bought a couple of disposable cameras since I’d left both our digitals at home when I left for the weekend.

It was a gorgeous day. Bright sun, gusting breeze, cool but not too cool. So I drove over the bridge onto the island and followed the signs to the motel/restaurant I remembered from summer family dinners out years (and years) ago. The road to the motel ran along the water and I pulled into a business (closed because it’s Sunday) parking lot and popped out of the car to take a picture of the beautiful choppy water framed by the land across the bay. The gusting breeze almost blew the camera out of my hand and me off my feet. We’re talking extreme gusts I’m not a small person.

Back in the car and wind around to the motel. The decrepant motel with the tilting docks and peeling paint. Now I vaguely remembered my cousin saying the place had been hit hard by hurricane Isabel. That was in 2003 I believe. I took some pictures, returned to the car hoping there was someplace on the island I could eat lunch before the museum opened.

There was. Good food, a nice waitress who grew up on the island and I just beat the after church crowd. Jotted down some ideas and impressions while I was eating.

At the museum, I pulled in just ahead of the docent and jumped out of the car like a kid at Disney World. She was great. Answered my questions, steered me to some books and asked when my book was going to be published so she could buy it.

Well, first I’ve got to write it and then I’ve got to sell it. She was really sweet. She still wants to buy it. I bet they’ll carry it in the gift shop. After I write it. And sell it.

She directed me to some old houses on the island and told me how to get to the water. All the roads leading to the water are private and posted but she told me to ignore that. So I did. I had a great time meandering around, taking pictures of creeks and inlets and bays and beaches and houses.

When you’re driving around someplace new or when I am, I always see a picture I want to take after I pass it. So I backtracked. A lot. There was this great old place but a bush, several bushes were in the way of the shot I wanted. Between the road and the gap in the shrubs was a ditch. Not too wide so I stepped over it.

The grasses hid the true width of the ditch. And the depth. I went up to mid-calf in cold water. The other foot went to mid-ankle because since I was already wet I was going to take that picture. I took a couple just in case. And went back across the ditch. It had gotten deeper. And I fell backwards. But only the back of my thighs got wet. Well, my socks and shoes and jeans too. Luckily I couldn’t see the back of me so I continued to drive around stopping to take pictures. At the end of a road (yeah, private what’s your point), I found the greatest place. Broken windows, torn screen, stripped of paint by the elements on a small harbor.

Parked the car and walked across taking pictures from every angle, shading my lens from the sun. At the edge of the harbor, I turned to shoot the front of the house. That’s when I noticed the seagulls. Ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. They were wheeling and diving just over my head. So I worked them into a couple of shots. And they followed me. I don’t think any of them hit me with anything but then again I can’t see my back.

I carefully backed up the car and avoided landing it in a ditch. They really have deep ditches on this island. All full of water from the rain we had Friday and Saturday.

Kept driving down one road after another. The island is only three miles by two miles but there are a lot of roads. Found another perfect harbor. And ran out of exposures. In both cameras. Okay. I’ll be back next week because the lady at the museum is copying something for me. I’ll bring the digital with me then. Because I still have to take pictures of the cemetaries and the old wharf.

The people on the island were amazing. No one yelled at me for driving down the private roads or taking pictures. And when I got lost the lady powerwalking just laughed and told me how to get back to the main road. I only got lost twice more. But I saw some more places I want to photograph. If I can find them next week.

I stopped a small deli/gift shop/ post office to buy the local weekly paper because there was an article in it the museum lady had shown me. To my surprise I had two quarters in my purse so I plopped them in the machine, found the right handle to open it on the second try and took a paper. Then I closed the strap of my purse in the box thing and couldn’t get it out. Tug, tug. No luck. I removed my wallet, hid the purse between the paper boxes and crossed the parking lot. The proprietress couldn’t open the box but she did give me change for a dollar. She even bought the extra paper from me because she said she’d forgotten to buy one. She did well on the deal because I did some Christmas shopping while I was there. $106 worth.

She has a great selection of wine for such a small store. I might buy a bottle next week. Today, I was having enough trouble without it.