Fredda and Leslie were both unpacking their things from a beat up Rav 4 when we arrived at the Deer Isle Hostel. Fredda didn’t say much when Dennis, the owner of the hostel, introduced us all, and after an awkward handshake and a silent understanding that we’d probably be spending a lot of time together in close quarters during the next day, I went off with Kalen on a hike before the sun went down and dinner was to be served.
When we got back from the hike, we washed up, had a few beers, played half a game of Scrabble and walked a few hundred feet from the hostel over to Dennis’ cabin. We brought a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread from Blue Hill, ME and one of many small jars of jalapeño jelly that Kalen had bought for me at Reny’s the previous day.
Leslie was standing at the wood stove, heating up a half-opened can of sardines in tomato sauce and cooking a mess of greens from Dennis’ garden. Dennis and Fredda sat at the kitchen table smiling and quietly laughing. When I plopped the bread and jelly on the table, Fredda’s face lit up. “AH! JALAPENOS! YUP!”
I sat in between Kalen and Fredda, and before we ate the massive spread of food that had been waiting for us, we all joined hands and sat in silence. When Dennis finally spoke and told us to eat, I made a comment about how much I enjoyed a canned sardine and Fredda whispered and chuckled through a long story about his life as a sardine fisherman in the 60s. We finished dinner, ate a disgusting homemade cream puff that someone had given Leslie for their drive down to Deer Isle from the reservation, did the dishes and read in bed until we passed out.
The following morning, I woke up around 5 am to the rooster crowing outside my window, walked downstairs and saw Fredda sitting at the table, looking out the window, cane in hand. We made coffee together, talked about his life on the reservation, the smell of sweet annie at Common Grounds, my life in Brooklyn and how he had won several habenero pepper eating contests. (“I like spicy things. Like the jelly. YUP!”) We walked down to the trees so he could smoke a cigarette, a habit that he claimed his wife didn’t know about. He told me the names of plants in Dennis’ garden and which ones you could eat and which ones made the kids on the reservation sneeze. Fredda and Leslie had driven to Deer Isle to give a seminar on native medicinal plants at the hostel that day, so after a few hours of talking and walking, we went back to the house so he could start setting up.
At 7 a.m., Dennis woke up and took me down to the beach and taught me how to dig for clams. An hour or two later, we walked back to the hostel with two big buckets full of the slimy creatures, packed our stuff and started our descent back down to the coast.
Visit Fredda and Leslie’s website and order some red willow bark, that when smoked, helps a man get some sleep.
(I’m pretty sure this is one of the first pictures of myself I’ve ever posted in these parts, so enjoy it.)