Saturday, August 25, 2012

The calm after the storm

Rising at the crack of dawn, my husband kisses me goodbye before heading out the door to go fishing. I awake hours later with sunshine streaming through the windows.

It is the last weekend at the summer house before the unofficial end of summer, and it is blissful.

I have a long list of things to do: walk the beach slowly, look for sea glass, sit on a boulder, draw in the sand, watch the tidal flush in the estuary, read under the maple tree, stop and smell the flowers …

What a difference a year makes.

This morning Tropical Storm Isaac swept across Haiti and a hurricane warning is in effect for the west coast of Florida.

We know what they are going through.

A year ago on the day before the arrival of Hurricane Irene, my husband and I drove to Rhode Island with heavy hearts. We anchored our boat to the summer house, flipped the picnic table, and secured all my parents’ belongings. My mother left the place in tears.

Some of our neighbors had boarded up their windows, and most of the residents had evacuated.

When we drove away, we understood the very real possibility that upon our return everything might be gone: the beach house destroyed and our yard underwater.

Back at our Massachusetts’ home in the deep woods, we had other worries. Our house sits across from a pond and is surrounded by 100-foot pine trees.

My husband and I went to church on that Sunday morning while the wind whistled and the rain splattered the stained-glass windows.

Hurricane Irene was barreling up our coastline. God help us.

Back at home, we heard the sounds of the wind ripping through the woods, felling limbs and tossing them everywhere.

It wasn’t long before we learned that a tree had fallen on our next-door neighbor’s home shattering their skylight. A short way up the street, a massive tree had toppled taking with it all the power, cable and telephone lines.

I called my parents. The apple tree that had graced their front yard ever since they bought the property in 1947 had just split in half.

As soon as the tropical storm passed, my son drove to Tiverton. Unbelievably, the summer house had survived intact.

A year later, Irene’s fury is a distant memory. The Sakonnet River lightly taps the shore while gentle winds blow.

I look at my list – so much to do, so little time.








Saturday, August 18, 2012

Musings on sweet August

It is the best of times – it is the worst of times.

August is at its glorious apex, but we are in the waning days of summer.

Every year at this time, I drag my feet in Fogland sand, trying to hold onto summer before it slips away.

Nineteenth-century New England Poet Celia Thaxter described the season best: “The jeweled sea and the deeps of the air, / All heaven and earth are good and fair, / Ferns at my feet and the mullein’s spike, / And the soaring gull I love alike; / With the schooner’s grace as she leans to the tide, / The soul within me is satisfied.”

I buy blueberries on Pond Bridge Road and bake up a batch of muffins studded with blue orbs, nurtured in Fogland soil and ripened in salty air.

My husband cannot fish enough. When he is not at work, he is pushing his boat off the trailer into the Sakonnet, cranking the engine and puttering over to the sweet spot. He anchors, baits the hook and is happy, whether the fish are biting or not.

Last week he caught a large flounder, a rare catch in these waters. Flounder were as plentiful as scup when I was a little girl.

I remember the day Grandfather took us, his five grandchildren, to the coastline near Railroad Bridge where we had a fishing contest, the girls against the boys. There were two buckets, and Grandfather could hardly keep up – taking fish off the line and baiting hooks. In no time, the pails were filled with flounder.

I cannot remember the winners, but I guess we all were. My mother fileted them, her favorite fish, and we feasted on them.

Walking toward the salt marsh, I marvel at the reddish-orange rose hips, the fruit clinging to the beach rose plants. They are especially beautiful this year, the color reminiscent of a Fogland sunset.

Rose hips begin to form in spring but ripen now in late summer. Resembling a small crab apple, they provide sustenance to all sorts of creatures.

I grab a handful of sand and let it slowly trickle through my fingers.

I wonder how these grains can support the bushes that produce luscious hot pink flowers and an abundance of edible fruit.

The wind picks up and the Fogland Marsh Preserve mimics the sea, a rolling wave of green with red dots.

I walk away reluctantly, as each footfall sinks in the sand.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Child's play

John Anthony, 6, walks along the shore. (Photo by John D'Arpino)

I opened the email with the subject line "Fun at Fogland," and there were photographs of two beautiful children playing at the beach.

“You know how grandparents are … my 2 youngest,” wrote John D'Arpino, a Tiverton resident and follower of this blog.

Consequently, the pictures triggered memories of me and my little brother. As children, we lived here in our own little world by the sea.

These days it is difficult to recapture the utter joy and timelessness of childhood and eradicate the noise and obligations of the adult world. But I try.

Yet, sometimes when I invite someone to visit our summer house for the first time, I am able to see the world again through child’s eyes.

This week I spent a day at the beach with Beth, a dear friend and colleague.

Even after all these years, I am still drawn to the simple beauty of this town, the white country church, the winding stone walls, the first glimpse of the sparkling Sakonnet surrounded by farmland as you make the hairpin turn on Fogland Road.

So I understood perfectly when Beth got lost, passing by Four Corners Grille where we were to meet for lunch, because she was captivated by the scenery.

Isabella, 8 (John D'Arpino)
Arriving at the beach house, we parked on the front lawn and slowly ambled along the little streets. We sat on the bench overlooking the Sakonnet, offering a panoramic view of the seacoast of four towns, Tiverton, Little Compton, Middletown and Newport.

Then we walked the seashore, and I took her back in time to my childhood days of endless sunny summer hours – swimming and jumping the waves, netting crabs in the salt marsh, climbing in the boat at the crack of dawn, fishing for flounder, digging for clams in muddy waters at low tide, reading under a shady tree and sometimes doing nothing at all.

In the company of seagulls and sandpipers, we sat on a boulder, where we seemed sadly out of place.

The world we inhabit together is not at all like this; it is noisy and hyperactive.

In the Newsroom, we are bombarded with the sounds of scanners, TVs, striking keyboards, ringing phones and a barrage of voices conducting interviews.

Moreover, there are the deadlines to contend with, which motivate us to work faster and faster.

We sit near each other and rarely have time to talk.

But here at the seashore, we lose track of time as we converse; and there are pleasant spaces of silence, where we are content to just listen to the crash and fall of the waves.

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older,” wrote British playwright Tom Stoppard.  

Perhaps one of the special gifts the sea offers is this freedom to be our younger selves, free of entanglements and open to possibilities like a child at play.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Psalm of the Sea

I believe that the call of the sea is spiritual in nature.

Akin to a great cathedral, the seashore is a portal to the divine, offering exquisite beauty and a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Come inside. The doors of this holy shrine are opened wide.

Our God dwells here.

Dip your fingers in the font of living water and bless yourself.

Kneel on a patch of sand, cushioning your fall from grace. Ponder your transgressions and rise.

All is forgiven.

The Builder framed the ceiling with Heaven and carpeted the floor with minerals. The walls are waves.

Sit on a pew of solid granite, hewn by ice and warmed by sun.

The congregation gathers. Sandpipers dance near the water’s edge. Families come pushing baby carriages. Dogs drag their owners. Lovers walk hand in hand.  

Sing a psalm of the sea accompanied by the laughter of children, the soaring soprano of seagulls, the putter of powerboats and the pounding surf.

A joyful noise will be carried on the wind.

Pray without ceasing. Commune with the Creator and bare your soul. Like fog rising to the heavens, your thoughts touch the mind of God.

Immerse yourself in silence and meditate, drowning out the voices of this world.

Sense His presence.

Feel joy, the deep-down awareness of living in love.

Cast your nets upon the waters. Five fishes are miraculously multiplied.

A table is spread for all to eat – the ocean brimming with sustenance for our bodies, as well as our souls.

All will be fed.

Gaze at a single stalk of sea grass bending in the wind, the perfection of pink petals on a beach rose, the intricate patterns etched on a quahog shell, the luminescence of a sun-drenched sea as it coruscates, radiating blinding light.

Illuminated, make your life a pilgrimage.

You will never walk alone.