Their reunion was everything Michael had hoped it would be. Dana thought it would be fun to explore the greater Boston area with him, so they took a road trip. Their first destination was Salem, MA.
Tall ships, anchored in Salem Harbor, caught Michael’s attention immediately. It was late afternoon and the harbor’s tourist office was closed for the day. They read a note taped to the inside of the door’s window. It said: small boat builder’s monthly meeting tonight. Auditorium. 7 pm.
At the end of the meeting Michael stood up and introduced himself to the boating enthusiasts. He asked if anyone there knew how to build Irish canoes called ‘currachs’. No one did, but then an old man said, “I know a man who built one. His name’s Ed and his workshop’s next to the lighthouse in Hull.”. Michael asked Dana, “Where’s Hull?’ She smiled and squeezed his hand. This was his first lead.
Michael drove to Hull early on a dark and rainy Saturday morning and found Ed. He introduced himself and asked him if he knew how to build Irish currachs. Ed said he’d show him the boats he built after finishing his Saturday morning English long boat rowing lessons. He asked Michael if he wanted to row with the group. Michael agreed, even though he had absolutely no interest in English long boats.
Three hours later, while drying off in the workshop, Michael listened as Ed explained how he had found the plans for a currach in Wooden Boat magazine. He told Michael that if he could find the magazine he ought to be able to build one also. Michael had never built a wooden boat before. He didn’t know how to read boat building plans either. He wanted to learn to build a traditional currach from a master boat builder. He thanked Ed for his time.
As he was leaving the workshop Ed said, “I know of a man, named Mike, who knows a currach builder from Ireland named Johnny. They used to work together at the Boston Globe. I don’t think he builds currachs anymore though. He must be quite old now. Here’s Mike’s telephone number. You’ll have to talk with Mike first to talk with Johnny. Good luck.”
A thin ray of hope brightened Michael’s spirit. He had to return to Pennsylvania the next day for work. And he wanted to visit Dana again, as soon as possible.
Jonathan was fourteen years old the day he, his uncle Mike and dog, Tipper, visited the Arrow Cave. It was late summer, the time of year when the hardwood trees begin to seed the forest floor with next year’s promise of new growth. They stood close together, facing the cave’s jagged mouth. Tipper sniffed at the cool, dank air and stepped cautiously into it’s maw.
Jonathan wanted nothing to do with cave exploring that day so he reached down, picked something up off the ground and said “Hey uncle Mike, do you know how to do this?” He brought both fists to his mouth and made one of the loudest, high-pitched whistles his uncle had ever heard.
Wild turkeys flew into the tree tops. Deer bounded down the hillside, with Tipper in hot pursuit. Jonathan grinned at his uncle, who was looking at him with eyes full of wonder. Uncle Mike whistled for Tipper, using his fingers. When she returned he turned to Jonathan and said “How did you do that?” Jonathan held an acorn cap in his upturned palm. “Want to learn?” he asked his uncle. “You bet I do” he replied.
Jonathan felt proud to be able to teach his uncle Mike something new. His uncle had taken he and his sister on many camping, canoeing, river rafting, rock climbing and other outdoor adventures, since coming to live with them a couple of years ago. He thought his uncle knew just about everything there was to know about the outdoors.
A friend had shown Jonathan how to whistle with an acorn cap just the day before. The friend’s father had taught his son two days earlier. The father had learned it from a buddy during the Vietnam War. The skill has been passed from person to person, down through the ages, until Jonathan taught his uncle Mike how to do it. This simple gift of knowledge began a series of events destined to alter the history of Music.
Sometimes chance encounters and random events change our lives in unforeseen ways. I often feel like an actor without a script. The twists and turns my life takes sometime feel like they’ve been choreographed, ahead of time, by an invisible playwright. For instance:
Have you ever been thinking about a choice, let’s say to stay put or move on to a new place? Suddenly you notice the licence plate on a random car in front of you, at a stop light. It is from ‘that place’ you’ve been dreaming about. Is that an accident or a coincident? I guess the answer depends on what you’ve discovered about the nature of the Universe.
Michael met Dana many years ago in a large city out west. She just happened to be living in the same boarding house he rented a room in, for work related reasons. They slowly got to know one another during the nine months he lived there. Although she was considerably younger than him, they found much in common.
They both liked to play the piano, explore the city/country, cook, drink good coffee, laugh and they had mutual friends. Many of the twelve or so boarders in the house developed friendships and would do things together. They respected each other’s space and privacy and generally found great pleasure living together, like brothers and sisters. Well almost.
Michael fell in love with Dana. She didn’t feel the same about him however. He moved to the east coast, for personal reasons, and they lost touch for many years. But he did write down his feelings for her and he mailed her a few letters soon after departing. He felt it best to act mature and forget her, reasoning that it wasn’t meant to be, despite what his heart whispered to him during quiet moments.
He worked and lived with his sister, niece and nephew in a small Western Pennsylvania town on the Ohio River named Sewickley. This is where Dana found Michael and this is where another event began to unfold that was to change his life forever.
Michael’s sister, Betsy, yelled out the back door, “There’s someone on the phone for you!” He was playing soccer with her corgi mix dog, Tipper. She liked playing goalie position best and was very good at blocking shots and dribbling the ball back to his feet. They enjoyed playing together and Michael indulged her often.
He grabbed the telephone receiver off the counter, feeling slightly annoyed by the interruption.
“Hi Michael. It’s Dana.”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Oh MY GOD! DANA!! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’m living in a small town outside of Boston”, she replied.
“OH MY GOD!! Dana, I was just told to go to Boston yesterday by a man from Ireland. This is very strange.”
“Was he a leprechaun?” she giggled.
“Very funny. Nah, he’s a boat builder. He said I ought to be able to find a boat builder in Boston willing to teach me how to build an Irish canoe. I didn’t know anyone in Boston.”
“Now you do.”
“This is really amazing! Can I come for a visit?”
“Next week. I have to make arrangements for time off from work first.”
“Dana, how did you find me?”
“I used the computer and directory assistance. You know there are a lot of Michael Ryan’s in western Pennsylvania?”
“I didn’t know.”
“It took me quite awhile.”
“I’m glad you want to visit me.”
“I’m glad you found me after all these years.”
“See you next week. I’ll send you the directions. What’s your email address?”
They exchanged email addresses, said goodbye and he hung up the phone.
He gave Tipper a playful tussle on the top of her head and a broad smile began to split his face, from ear to ear.
Terebra Turriitella is a very common species of vegetarian marine snail inhabiting the shallow areas of the world’s oceans. It’s shell can grow up to seven inches long in the warm and tropical waters of the Philippines. The cooler water of sub-tropical and temperate regions limit Terebra Turritella’s shell growth to less than a few inches.
The word ‘Terebra’ is Latin and refers to ‘a screw shaped device used by ancient Romans for starting a breach in a fortified wall’. ‘Turritella’ comes from the Latin word ‘turritus’ meaning ‘turreted’ or’ towered’. The common English names for the Terebra Turritella Shell are: Auger Shell, Tower Shell, Turret Shell, Unicorn Shell, Screw Shell, Common Screw Shell and Great Screw Shell. I’m sure there are many others.
Most people are attracted to a particular shell because of it’s exterior size, shape, color, texture and, in some cases, smell. Some shells are coveted because they are rare or unusual in some way. This isn’t the case concerning the outward appearance of the Common Screw Shells. They’re just different shades of beige or brown and are generally dismissed by serious shell collectors as ‘beneath their notice’.
Michael found this attitude amusing. He had discovered that the air inside many different species of small shells can be resonated using an ancient and obscure technique used to make whistle sounds with acorn caps. (The ‘acorn cap whistle skill’ is believed to have originated somewhere in the temperate regions of the world, sometime after the end of the last ice age, but no one knows for certain.)
He also discovered that the Great Screw Shell can be played as a flute, capable of releasing an octave and a half of perfect diatonic and chromatic musical notes, after pitch holes are introduced into the shell’s body of whorls. The sounds produced by this new wind instrument closely resemble the sounds produced by Native American Flutes, pan pipes, ocarinas and recorders.