I’m returning from a trip to Seattle and staying at my grandparents in Naples for the first time this year.

There is a photo of my father, a great photo of him in his pilot uniform on a jetway, that nobody knew existed until he died.

Captain Barry D. McLellan

We all have copies of it on the wall now. It hangs in my fathers bedroom here. I settle down and thumb through his bible.

I never thought about my father having a bible until they asked if I wanted it.

As I’ve been collecting oral history from my grandfather Wilbur, I’ve been thinking about my physical being in the same place as my ancestors. As I wander from project to project with him I get little stories about my father, pointing out the support they had built over the bulldozer for working on it.

I can’t picture my father working on a bulldozer. I never saw that. M used to give me a hard time about ending up like my father, which was selfish, harsh and unreasonable in retrospect. But ironic now, as I see how much I am like a father that I never knew.

I don’t mean as much as tragedy, really. Most probably never know their parents that way except maybe through stories by their friends.

In the morning I sit upstairs at the familiar table looking out over the lake. I remember sitting here silently with my father on similar mornings.

I always felt and believed that was our connection, we could occupy space together with an ease that felt perfect.

My Dads friend and roommate Stan had tried to get me to move back in once, before Seattle. It wouldn’t have been right. We were living different lives. Still, that was when we were perfecting this ability to be.

I was one of the reference birthdays in this family. Great Grammie Mae would have been 100 this year, Grampie Bud is 80, Dad would have been 60, I am 30, and my cousin AJ is 20.

2012 is mostly definitely a new year. I have lived so long waiting for life to start. Looking at my gray hair in the mirror in Seattle I was thinking about my health and how I’ve lived. I’ve lived so much in this last decade.

Now, with Kate, I think we are ready.

time and traveling

When I got off the plane in Seattle, I put on my headphones and played Radiohead’s The Bends. I walked through the crowd sorting both the emotions of stepping back in Seattle and having recently moved on from a life, and the memories of doing the same in airports years before I moved to Seattle.

I can’t remember specifically where I was traveling to. I made a few trips with Matthew, but almost always flying by myself and meeting him somewhere. One or two trips were made for vacation with a friend. I was a teenager when I started going to

Mom and I try to recall my travels to Defcon in Las Vegas. I think I went in 1999, 2002, and 2005. The last time I flew with Matt H., Jason, Brett and Heidi. The first three I was trying to run a consulting business with; Heidi I was dating. Before that Matt B., Jason and I drove my USPS truck. The first time I flew out alone. Was it really 1999? I thought Panax had paid for the hotel. Was I really barely 17 and getting someone to pay for me to attend a hacker conference?

I rounded out my resume for those years, ending up with working at Panax 1/2000 – 12/2002 and Crow 1/2003 – 8/2005. But that leaves out LN Networks the mash of working part time doing everything I could.

I was thinking the other night about the possibility of a trip up to the James Bay in Canada sometime. The James Bay Road is in the same class as the Dalton and Dempster highways in terms of service area free remoteness. I mentioned it to Kate and while she’s interested in a motorcycle trip, she wants to go somewhere that is special for a reason other than its remoteness. Trips are definitely a rare opportunity for me to stop, which I rarely do.


I stopped by the grandparents house this morning on my way into my office. I drank a cup of coffee while chatting with my grandfather. He mentioned Fort Eustis, where he was stationed during the Korean War for most of his two years and how he ended up there teaching in the Transportation School there. At one point he mentioned his race car and ran off to get photographs. He came back with a book of photographs from around 1955, a few of which were of a car he had raced in NASCAR at the time. He had stories to tell about that as well.


growing up

A week ago it was over 80 degrees outside, and now there are a couple of inches of snow on the ground. I wondered the other day how this will affect plants over the next twenty years, in a post-apocalyptical way. No, I’m sure like The Lorax, capitalism will find a way to make money then.

I’ve had dreams about my father lately.

I recall feeling like I knew and respected how he lived and I that I was one of his defenders. That feels like ages ago now.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Kate about organizing my history into three lives; growing up, Seattle, and returning home. I was thinking about the great chasm of instability in these transitions and recognizing that I’m still adjusting to this most recent change. Moving to Seattle, I recall feeling like M was giving up less than was. In retrospect, true or not, I did not have the wherewithal to judge such things at the time. Now I can recognize and measure the change much better. Less important is how different my life was a year ago, more how I thought about it differently. At the time, settling down and having children was something I planned for in the foggy “someday.” I have lacked a ten year plan most of my life and had no desire for one. Now there are, as Kate says, a smaller number of infinite possibilities.

The big reason for moving home was to spend time with my Grandparents. This is one of the most fulfilling decisions I’ve ever made. I realize the other night that once Grampie and Grammie McLellan return for the summer I’ll be visiting them on weekends without Kate as she’ll be deep in farming activity. Still, this is important.

We started watching Due South recently. I laughed at vast canyon between the shows I used to like and what is on network television today. The main character’s father works for the RCMP, as did his father. After his father is murdered, he begins realizing how much they had in common despite being mostly separated.

I have no memories of my father driving a tractor. Maybe the Case Loader/Backhoe. I can faintly remember him splitting wood at the field near the Maggie Camp. Often my grandfather tells me about spending time with my father laying hardwood floors, or working on the bulldozer. I didn’t know that person. He had grown much older than his age by the time I was in my twenties.

We burned a cord of wood this winter. Not that we needed to, the oil boiler works fine and I make plenty of money to pay for the oil. Part of it is probably nostalgia, that comes heavy when you grow up in a house with a cookstove. While interviewing my grandfather yesterday as part of an oral history project, I asked him about how often he used to go to town when he was young. He said they would go to the village, about eight miles away, a few times a week. But they very rarely went to Ellsworth, which I call the city. It was a different time, one where the village had a half dozen stores to its two now, one of which I believe opened new last year. When I was working from home I found myself a little stir-crazy if I hadn’t left the house all day, but I think that I don’t mind if I don’t leave Surry all day. I love the woods behind our house and I treasure our family heritage here.

A new life

Biking with DoraWhat is life now? I have a partner, who I love and with whom I make lists about the future. I have a dog now, Dora, who very much holds the spirit of Kiska inside her. I have a house (and new garage) with all of its firm, settled, solid qualities. Tori arrives in less than a month. I work from the office in the city because the office in my house has too many windows looking out into the woods, where I would much rather be. How long until I give up technology to work the fields and woods with Kate?

As I tread the grounds of my father and spend time with my grandfather, I hear many stories about the things they used to do together. I hear about how they had taken apart most of the John Deere bull-dozer together, about using the propane heater that is now in my garage to unfreeze the tracks on said bull-dozer deep in the woods one winter while cutting firewood. I hear about the last time my father fixed the points on the Ford 8N tractor. When did any of this happen? Before me? When I wasn’t looking? I don’t think I ever turned a wrench with my father, but we’ve certainly both done our fair share.

It’s nice to know now and then that L is still alive. Perhaps because of my love, she is a person I want to exist in the world, very much like the last scene of Zero Effect.

I haven’t reconnected with any friends here beside Matthew. I’ve been trying with Jason and Maria, but I suspect their interests are narrow and do not align with the possibilities given in a rural area. I suppose I understand why they’re here, and it isn’t because they want to be. I ran into Trevor in town the other day though and pondered a little thereafter about Kates worry about finding more active friends our age, since the majority of the people we interact with fit into the aging population of the area.

I’m working at home today because EBS delivered hardwood floor for the upstairs of the house. I was happy to purchase Maine cut and milled wood. Despite the unseasonable warm rain outside, as usual I would rather be out there. I think I need an office without windows in the basement.


Sitting at Boston Logan airport watching the light snow swirl around a Saab 340 that I intend to ride back to Bar Harbor shortly. I’ve just completed another annual Shmoocon and I couldn’t help but remember having a flu and sleep deprivation induced anxiety attack and calling L.

Another, “holy shit what a year” post? Perhaps. It does make a point of measurement.

Kate asked recently about what relationships really are and mean to me, why I am so disinterested in understanding people and don’t often ask them about themselves, especially when I am not romantically interested in them.

I was thinking this weekend about enjoying listening to L talk. I wonder how that would have lasted qnd changed had not our time been so very brief. It was rare, even among the select few.

I met a former Expressjet pilot at Shmoocon Labs this time. I wonder if he ever met my father.

I’m anxious to get home. So much to do.


IH 3616I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been reading. It is, in fact, hard for me to measure that I’ve completely changed my life. But I did.

A recent xkcd reminded me of L. It is exactly what she would say to me, probably word for word. I suppose that’s what drew me here, but there is nothing really else to say about that.

I have been working on a tractor. I bought it off ebay, some assembly required. Getting it here from Massachusetts required a convey of two trucks and trailers, and still didn’t get everything. I may go back for the cab if he still has it. Matthew, my grandfather and I spent Saturday carefully attaching the two-ton backhoe to the nearly four-ton loader, then draining all the fluids and identifying the filters for replacement. At one point my aunt and uncle from down the road were up, my uncle from Winterport was over, both my grandparents and Matthew and I, all standing around “The Turk” as my grandfather calls it. Sunday I was replacing the fluids while my uncle used the chainsaw mill nearby and my grandfather winterized one of his lawn tractors, and I was quite pleased with my situation. I’m definitely where I want to be.

Sunday night I was restless. I told Kate if I was in Seattle I would have gone to the 9lb for a drink. Instead, we watched Star Wars and drank together. It’s different. Contra dancing instead of house parties. Community history projects instead of urban farming. But Kate and I are homesteading, and it’s great.

Yesterday morning, Kate and I drove up the hill to get the waste oils and take them to the dump. We found my grandfather looking over the tractor and Kate commented on how happy he was. This morning I finally got back to working on the brakes on his 1951 Chevy 6400 series 2-ton dump truck. Kate and I bleed the brakes again after I finally got good fittings and washers everywhere. Still, they weren’t as good as I wanted so I rebuilt the master brake cylinder using the rebuild kit I had bought just in case. It went fairly smooth and was fun having my grandfather around as well as he had done the same a few decades ago.

death and rebirth

I still think often of the moment when my father died. It is not so heavy any longer. Such a stark change, sudden lifelessness. Despite how long it may have been coming, it was a shock.

My grandfather rode with me on an errand to Belfast today. Until today, I hadn’t made the connection between Belfast, Maine and Belfast, Ireland. Wikipedia says, from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning “rivermouth of the sandbars.” I had to take the Ford into the dealership so they could eyeball the fuel tank straps as part of a recall. Since the tank fell out a few months ago, I have new straps so there wasn’t much to look at. Back later when Ford engineers some fancy new ones, I’m told.

Great stories were told. I’m so happy to be around my grandparents. As we drove, my grandfather pointed out the hill he chased his suitcase when the handle broke on a cold February day trying to return home from school in Portland. He talked of how his mother, from Deer Isle, would take the boat to Searsport for groceries. He told me about one day returning from Augusta in a state car in the winter and finding a lost dog in the road, about how he stayed and watched the dog for an hour while someone else went off to find someone in the neighborhood to take it in.

Stories about the sawmill! Oh the sawmill. Swoon.

“Not to keep talking about your father,” he says, “but we used to do a lot together. I really liked him.” He told me about putting hardwood floors down in the camp with my father in the dead of winter, eating beans, farting, and laying floor; keeping warm by the stove.

settling in

A few leaves in the backyard are starting to change color. The wind rustles up the rest of them as a light rain falls. As I walk to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I look out all sides of the house; surrounded by trees. A stark change from living in the shadow of Boeing Field in Seattle, pausing conversations between the roar of passing jet aircraft. I consider hugging the house, but realize it is far too large for me to do so.


Yesterday was rough.

I think I finally caught up on sleep from the BRC/jet-lag, so it started out alright albeit late. Meeting day at work, which the kids call sprint planning, is dreadful. Mostly I screwed around with Skype trying to get a good idea of why the audio was stuttering. Burnt at the end of the day, I headed out of the house.

I stopped at the cemetery where my father is buried to sit and watch the sunset and have a cup of coffee. The neighbors dog barked at me the entire time.

Dinner with Kate and her parents was a welcome distraction.

Sleep was rough, and more wires got crossed in dreams than I could sort out. Eventually, wide awake, I told Kate stories of growing up here for an hour. It always starts small.