Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: Short Essays Page 2 of 14

Last Sailing Experience of the Season: October 31, 2017

My two month sailing window of September and October came to an end with one final outing. It was not world cup class. In fact It was the worst sailing experience I’ve ever had.

I boarded the boat and bailed the bilges. I untied bow and stern lines and readied the sail. I pushed off into the middle of the creek and raised the sail. There was a strong south wind. I coasted backwards. I lowered the sail and paddled. The main sheet got tangled in my life jacket. I removed it and recovered control. The boom was too low and I had to duck. Usually I can raise the sail to have the boom high enough above my head so I don’t have to duck. Meanwhile I was blown to the shore. Lowered the sail for the second time to try to get into a position where I could make forward progress. The centerboard caught the bottom and stopped progress. I raised the board and still made no progress. When I raised the sail, it wouldn’t rise…I had my foot on the Halyard.

My friend Darrel Ford took up a position at the dock at Robins Ave. He intended to take photos. Meanwhile I drifted into bayberry bushes hanging over an old bulkhead. I had to push off with the paddle. I could not make any headway. I drifted into a canal on the West Islip side. I lowered the sail for the third time. I never had control of the boat. The deck on the bow was covered with dead bayberry branches. Finally, out in the middle of the creek, with sail up, the boat turned in a complete circle. I had traveled ¼ mile. At this point, I declared retreat. The wind pushed my back into the slip in about a minute.

.Darrel told me that he saw a sail rise and fall several times. I never made it to the dock. I limped back to the dock totally disappointed. I called Roger and arranged to have the boat hauled out as soon as possible. Next season, I will have a small outboard motor and I hope this will never happen again! I don’t have to check the weather report for wind any more.

Tom Stock                                                  November 9, 2017

Irish Whiskey – An Unhurried Journey


A couple from Dublin, Ireland stayed with us for three days.

As a thank your gift, they gave us a bottle of Irish Whiskey in a beautiful red box.

I’ve only had a few brief occasions when I tasted Ireland in a shot glass.

The bottle stood in a corner of the kitchen counter for almost a week. Finally, I cracked the cap, poured a small amount into a well-chosen glass, and took a sniff. Then, I lifted the glass to my lips, tilted my head, tilted the glass and sipped. I didn’t swallow. I let the stimulation linger. The first impression was not only the taste, it is the atmosphere of those tiny aerosol Irish droplets flowing to every part of my mouth. When I inhaled, I felt the full effect as liquid whisky evaporated to a gas. This enhanced the whole experience. I was back in Ireland.

I don’t swig liquid like this. I take very small sips to make it last. I want just enough to wet the tongue. The first contact with the whole tongue, front, middle sides, and back, the whole experience. The taste lasted ten seconds, my cheeks flush slightly, and I feel warmth. Then my brain kicked in. in a single word…euphoria!

It is temptation to have a second shot, a third, and finish the whole bottle. I had to use all my will power to refrain from a second helping.

Here’s what the label says:

Triple distilled; aged in hand-selected sherry butts; rich ruby read hue; 46% ABV; non chill filtered; seasoned with the finest Oloroso sherry;

TASTE: nutty Oloroso, spicy raisins and creamy oak. FINISH: long and wonderfully complex with a flourish of orange. An unhurried  journey. Produced by Walsh Whisky Distillery Ltd. Carlow, Ireland

I cried with Irish happiness.


Tom Stock                                                       November 7, 2017

My Favorite Shirts

Many unworn shirts hang in my closet. This is because I have two favorite shirts that hog the show. These two shirts are the go to ones. I am wearing them out because I wear them almost all the time.

Shirt #1:

A long sleeved, buttoned, gray, very strong material, some elbow wear, IT was made in Sri Lanka, size large, Craft & Barrow label. The shirt is warm and it fits. Nancy, wife #2, bought it at a garage sale for .50. As soon as I tried it on, I knew I might as well discard the shirts in the closet. It is an excellent travel shirt because it’s all I need.

Shirt #2:

A forest green sweat shirt. It was a gift from Ted as a thank you for helping him. It is warm and comfortable. I wear it inside out. Recently I discovered  a picture and words on the front:


Look both ways before you cross the road.

Be a good listener.

Know when to lay low.

Tread lightly on the earth.

Take time out to browse.

Leap over obstacles.

Don’t pass the buck!

I resonate with “Know when to lay low.” Deer are not the type animal that thrives on the paparazzi. Their fur blends in so that they seem to dissolve before your eyes when they leap into the woods. The fawns have white botches to match dapple’s light in the forest. Deer spend the day resting and chewing the night’s worth of vegetation. They speak to me saying: “Tom, chill out, lay low once in a while. You’re too high profile. Take a back seat once in a while. Don’t hog the spotlight.”

”Leap over obstacles’ also gets my attention. Go at them head on. Don’t let them stop you.  Be proactive. The high arc of leaping deer is a sight to behold. For a brief moment, the animal seems suspended in air. This ability allows them to bypass heavy brush.

All animals are teachers. When I’m in Ms. Deer’s class, I sit in the front. I don’t to miss a single thing. She tells us how deer signal danger. Lift your tail. How simple is that? I don’t have a tail. How shall apply this to my life. Ah ha. I have it. I’ll shout at the top of my lungs. HELP DANGER WATCH OUT, DUCK. Deer as so much smarter than us.



Tom Stock                                               October 30, 2017

Hunters Garden Association – Report

Twice a year, on the third Thursday in May and October, men gather for lunch. They have met for the past 184 years, On my 78th birthday, I decided to attend their biannual clam and eel chowder lunch.It took place deep in the Pine Barrens of Southampton north of route 51. A long dirt road leads to a clearing. There is no running water nor are there bathrooms and therefore, no women. The association has a truck which holds boards for tables and seats. A small group of men set up the cooking area. A railroad rail holds five cast iron cauldrons. The lead chef directs the cooking. Two kettles are used for the clam chowder and three for the eel chowder. A garbage can propped over a fire was used for coffee.

A Basket of Finds

Mark Harrington gave me a basket full of nature objects that he  collected. I’d never received such a gift before. I rummaged through it and left it until I decided to write this post.

I don’t have my collection of nature things in a basket. They are here and there. A turkey skeleton and sea robin head on my nick knack shelf, bottles or garnet and magnetite sand in the garage and scattered here and there.

Of the 45 items, one of these was Florida shells. I could only remember the scientific name, Fossor donax. A google search produced the AH Ha…Coquina. These tiny shells accumulate by the millions in Florida and become combined by lime which glues them together. They have reached the Long Island shores.

Notes on my 78th Birthday; October 19, 1939 – Present

I’ve seen lots of water go over the dam this past year. Projects come and go. Some actually reach completion. There have been droughts, deluges, and cracks in the dam. I am holding up, maintaining sanity, enthusiasm, and outlandish pranks.

I am still very much focused on the natural world. I recently found a huge patch o Honeysuckle vines which I collected for my basket making class at the Gallery North Community Art Studio where I am on the faculty. I found beautiful little fruits on the Honeysuckle, collected some, sketched them, and will try to germinate them (new project)

Visit To Robert Moses State Park: October 2, 2017

Four birdwatchers perch on an elevated platform observing and counting migrating hawks. The air is clean and cool. A gentle sea breeze lazes north. Balmy full afternoon sunshine – a fine early fall day.

The bay is flat; the ocean casts 12 inch breakers on the sand. The sand is glistening light tan and fine. Robert Moses is one of the finest beaches in the world.

Second NANCAT Sail: September, 2017

I raised my wind meter while standing on Cindy and Paul’s dock. The white Styrofoam ball hovered between 8 to 9 MPH. Not sure if I should cast off. There was a nice ripple on the water, but the situation is difference down stream where the creek  widens. Wind out of the north means an easy trip to the bay, but not so easy returning. Tacking in the narrow section of the creek is difficult. I decided not to sail on the weather report that said wind shifting to the east in the afternoon.

I left the dock in the early afternoon for another trip up and down the creek. I raised the sail and was underway immediately. I soon learned that I I forgot to lower the centerboard. The boat glided off course.

I encountered stronger wind when I entered a wider section. The boom is too low and as I changed sides, I had to duck every time I came about. To change direction, I have to do three things simultaneously. Shift from port to starboard or the opposite side, duck, tighten the sheet, and turn the tiller. This is the point where my boat is out of my control. I have to hurry to maintain control. The tiller is long. As I shift , my life jacket catches the sheet and tiller and I struggle to untangle.

Wind is always variable. Gusts luff the sail. I drifted and banged into pilings and bulkheads when the wind died. I fumbled, pushed off with the paddle I struggled, shifting back and forth, ducking, adjusting sheet and tiller. I thought sailing was supposed to be fun

I came about at the Babylon Public Dock and proceeded fast, slow, backwards, and becalmed. I still have not mastered my sailing skills. I managed to reach the narrows after many tacks. I finally decided to lower the sail and row to the slip.

I felt like had just finished an intensive gym workout. Dry land and safety at last. I experienced “nosing up” several times. This happens when I don’t have enough momentum and try to come about. I turn hard and the boat doesn’t respond. The bow keeps going in the unintended direction. I am turning away from the way I want to go.. Then, holding my breath, slowly, the bow turns to way I want. I find a place where I can get more speed. As I sail, I think about a coming hurricane, and three huge boats coming my way.


Art From Art: Ekphrastic Poetry Writing – an example


Jazz with the motor running; EMS van flashes past, loud beeping, and siren blasting warning drivers to the side/ this is emergency/ first responders have the right of way/ we are coming through/ move aside/ you block our passage/ life or death!


I crouch before yellow flowers of Goats Beard plants, relatives of dandelions, looking for insects / I catch tiny native bees in sunlight / their flights jerk and jump /  left / right / up / down /  hover – like me, manic/ impulsive/ darting like a half back who clutches a football down field / dodging in cubistic starts and stops/ fake left / fake right/ break a tackle/ charge through an opening into a clear field.

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The Four Women in Picasso’s studio:

Left to right:

Number one – bare breasted all fashionable, stares at the painter, posing    for the master who sees her form, color posture

Number two – she is reflected in a mirror – checks her hair and makeup,      competes with woman number one
Number three – charges stage right, angry,

Number four – lounging, exhausted, distraught,


Lakeland County Park

In order for visitors to experience Lakeland County Park, a series of boardwalks are necessary. This is because most of the park has a wetlands habitat. Elevated four feet above the ground, visitors have a grand opportunity to look down to see vegetation that required wet soil.

The maze of boardwalks is extensive. There are straight-aways, zig zags, and alcoves where one can sit. Touch-me-not or jewelweed is in full bloom in September. Dense stands of this plant are easy to spot. The orange blossom stands out against its green leaves.

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