Sunday, January 18, 2009


This is a picture of an old house on Gwynn’s Island I’ve been meaning to photograph for some time. Below is the story of how this picture came about.

Warning! This post is exceedingly long even though it can be summarized in one brief, succinct sentence.

For those of you in a hurry, here’s the bottom line: Chesapeake Bay Woman finally got caught trespassing, but things turned out OK. The End.

For those of you who are looking for a sedative or sleep aid, below is the version that stretches from here to Costa Rica. You will find yourself nodding off by about the third paragraph, but don’t worry. I’ll wake you up when it is over.

On Friday, the coldest day of the year, the day it was so cold you were wishing you were in Siberia because it would be warmer, I got caught trespassing. We all knew it was just a matter of time. But this happened when I least expected it.

I received an e-mail from a fellow Mathews blogger indicating that the ice over on Gwynn’s Island was photo-worthy and that I should head on over. Looking for any excuse to avoid laundry, dirty dishes, clutter or anything resembling household maintenance or domestic duties, I raced to the door, tripping over dirty laundry on the way out, and drove over there.

Although there was a bit of ice here and there, I wasn’t inspired enough to pull over and shoot. Or rather, those places that I would have shot required delicate planning and an overall strategy that I was not capable of concocting on such short notice. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, however, I decided to go further onto the island to take a picture of an old house I’ve admired ever since I was 4 years old and lived two doors down.

As I said, it was the coldest day we’ve had here, so I was all bundled up in an outfit just as fitting for the weather as it was a covert mission: gloves, ski cap, sunglasses, bulky coat and huge scarf. I was a little nervous, because this particular house is right on the main drag headed to the Gwynn Post Office, and there are lots of houses in close proximity. Also? There’s really no place to park. Normally I would have stopped in the middle of the road and shot the pictures, but there was someone behind me, so I confidently pulled right on up into the yard. Oh yes, I did.

I was feeling confident because if anyone was upset about me being there, they’d not bother dealing with it because of the frigid weather. Plus, I had my camera out and it was obvious what I was doing. Bottom line? No worries, and Chesapeake Bay Woman starts snapping away.

Then, I heard a car approach and slow down. I remained confident because surely they could see what I was doing, i.e. taking pictures to plaster all over the internet. I kept my back to the car and snapped away.

Oh no. Please. No. I turned around and saw a brown Buick pulling in on two wheels. This person meant business.

Trying to simultaneously keep from fainting and yet craft a polite explanation in my head, I walked over to the lady, who already had the window rolled down—on this, the coldest day of the year and all, when people are not supposed to be out in cars with their windows down checking on an * innocent * person trying to photograph a house on someone else’s property so that she can post it on the internet for the world to see. For instance.

The lady immediately went on the offensive. “May I ask what you’re doing?” she said with just the slightest hint of attitude, a quasi-scolding tone, one I am all too familiar with but have not heard since I was a teenager, when it was usually accompanied by a flyswatter-wielding Mother and some whining younger sister who had filed a grievance against me with said weapon-wielding Mother.

My instinct said to run, but the heart attack I was having would not allow my feet or legs to move. I have never fainted before, but I now know what it feels like because I was building up to a full-on faint very quickly.

I managed to move a few steps towards her car and smiled as I spent the last few seconds trying to concoct a response. One way or the other, I was going to win this one, because I would throw out, “This house is so beautiful,” and “I’ve loved this place ever since I was 4 years old and lived right over there,” and “I’m just an amateur photographer, but I know art when I see it.” My last resort would be, “Can you dial 911? I am in the midst of a cardiac event that requires immediate medical attention.” So, I had my game plan. I’d make her forget the fact that I was doing anything improper, and all would be fine.

She stared me down and waited for my response, with that window rolled down as the Arctic air whipped around us. I launched into my speech head first, feeling like a bungee jumper just free falling and praying that death was not imminent. Or rather, if it were in fact imminent that it would be swift and painless.

The first words out of my mouth were, “I’m a photographer and....” At this moment, I had come close enough to the car to be able to see the driver. I froze. I could not believe my eyes. With all that adrenaline rushing through my veins, I snatched my sunglasses off and said, “Hi, Pookie, it’s me, CBW!”

Yes, it was Mrs. Pookie of exploding hamburger fame, mother of commenter and blog contributor, Mathews Mountain Man. Lo and behold the place I was shooting was her grandfather’s old house. She told me its history and went on and on about the inside--where the staircase was; where the kitchen was (originally out back); and how the 3rd floor was where she used to sleep as a child.

We talked for about 10 minutes in spite of the excruciatingly cold Arctic blast encompassing us and my heart attack, which was already in progress but was starting to revert to more of a mild panic attack.

Yes, Mrs. Pookie scared the bajeebus out of me, but by golly if I’m going to get caught trespassing, I’m sure glad it was by her, someone I know. We had a nice, long visit while I mopped the sweat off my brow on this, the coldest day of the year.

Now, excuse me while I check myself into cardiac rehab.
CLAP-CLAP-CLAP! Time to wake up, now! Your Sunday nap is now over. Thank you for napping here, it's been a pleasure to serve you and meet your sleeping needs.

- Chesapeake Bay Trespasser


Unknown said...

You had me scared for a minute. I was waiting for you to either collapse, or get arrested. You and Rita think alike...she would hold her chest and breathe heavily.
The house is adorable. Did you know Pookie when you lived a few houses away?

Val said...

I just LOVE your stories and would never take the shortcut version! you always make me chuckle and i can see myself in the same shoes...haha...not Mrs Pookie of exploding hamburger fame!!! hope she doesnt carry any in her bag incase of tresspassers??
the clapping at the end nearly gave me a hearty i was so engrossed in the story :-)

Ann Marie said...

Phooey.. how did I miss that one.
I posted some of the icy shots on fb today.. might get a blog post out of one of them.. I don't have the patience to wait until a post for each so I dumped them :) fyi... no one caught me yesterday.. I had a good get away driver, even if he did have to come back and get me a time or two. Seems he was more worried about HIM getting away than me.

Mental P Mama said...

Too funny. And Costa Rica? You just had to rub it in. Didn't you?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

GJ - I didn't know Pookie when I was 4, but later in life I proclaimed her to be my adopted grandmother because I love her to death. That house is really incredible, plus in this photo just to the left you'll see part of a bush...that is the biggest azalea bush I have ever seen in my entire life. I am sure it is some record-breaker, there just cannot be many azaleas that big.

Val - Thank you for tolerating my long-winded posts. You're a fabulous writer...I have a lot to learn from you and your stories.

Ann Marie - You're fortunate to have a co-conspirator..I mean co-pilot. It's very difficult to do on your own, this business of covert photography missions. That's why I am so thrilled with having permission from breezeway to go on that property. I don't have to worry about the escape or taking pictures in a hurry before a car comes along....

MPM - I can't get over the fact that your kids are in Costa Rica and you're sitting up there shoveling snow. There's something terribly wrong with that picture....But yes, I did select Costa Rica just for you. I was contemplating someplace in Canada originally but C.R. sounded better.

Anonymous said...

Too funny!

I'm going to take a nap now. Be sure to wake me for your next post!


Anonymous said...

CBW has characterized Pookie quite well. Someday, soon perhaps, I will share the contents of "Trespassing" with her. She will enjoy it, I'm certain.


Anonymous said...

My niece and I were running amuck on the Island on Friday morning as well. Until my camera batteries died.
Since when did Scrooch's (sp?) market become a strip joint?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

RC - I am pretty sure using the words "awake" and "a CBW post" cannot be used legally in the same sentence. A typical CBW post is always going to include some nodding off either before, during or after the experience.

MMM - I told her I was sorry for trespassing, and she said, "You weren't trespassing...there's no sign out here." (Bless her heart.)And a reminder, Daddy Jim goes up tomorrow (or tonight at midnight).

Phyl - Nothing more aggravating than dead camera batteries--unless it is something relating to housework--which is why I always travel with a spare pack of batteries, and why I avoid housework altogether. I hadn't heard about Scrooch' tell.

Anonymous said...

take a look at the sign above the door. I didn't go in for goodness sake! I was over there attending a funeral, what would people say?

I think someone might have gone in on Saturday to check it out, she had a get away driver.

Bayman said...

Thanks for the heads up on Scrooch's. I will turn my head when I go to the Post Office.

Anonymous said...

When are you and MPM & I supposed to leave for Costa Rica?? Was I in charge of the barbecue?

Ann Marie said...

It ain't a strip club.. even though that is why I think the Get Away Driver got out of the truck.

It seems the name Roz.. with a half naked painting of a mermaid (at least that is what I think it was.. it wasn't a pretty mermaid.. she looked in pain) and the odd lights in the windows lead some people to think that it is strip clubish. It is a nick nackers dream though.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Bayman-This explains why Uncle Tim and Mr. McQueen spend so much time in that market.

BHE - I'm ready whenever you are, although I need to get a passport first. You bring the BBQ, I'll bring the appetite.

AM - I never thought of it that way, but you do have a point about the lights and the sign. That store is like a parallel universe...I could sit on the bench out front and write about the characters walking in and out forever. There is a book waiting to be written about that place, even now (nevermind what could be written about it back in the day). I'd love to be able to spend a month or two sitting out front doing my "research," but somehow I don't see that paying the bills, and also I don't believe the paying job would take too kindly to me taking off time to sit outside a store.

Have a great week, everybody.

Country Girl said...

Sometimes long stories can be very interesting, and this was such a time.
I've been here every so often because I love your little stories and your proximity to the water.
You do understand, don't you, how many photographers would consider what you did brave? It takes guts sometimes to capture the photo you want. And to describe it like you did to someone who clearly made you afraid took grace.

Just so's you know, k?

Anonymous said...

For those of us who haven't made it onto the Island in a while, what's the deal with Scrooch's? You can't just say something like that and not explain!!!

foolery said...

Maybe you have addressed it before (could you point me to the post, if so?) but how on earth could there be even ONE abandoned house in your area, which is clearly The Most Beautiful Place In The World? I live in a rather plain agricultural community, and I can't think of ONE abandoned house, seriously.

How is it possible that people don't remodel or rebuild or sell to a Come Here?

I will be Stumbling this post, by the way -- it's wonderful. : )