Saturday, October 25, 2014

Season's turning...

As of yet, the violet morning glories still cling to the front porch lattice and to summer, although we have come officially to the end of the season.

The weather has been unseasonably warm at the summer house for late October, but we know as native New Englanders that a sudden frost and freezing temperatures are imminent.

During the past few weeks we have winterized the summer house.

First we emptied the kitchen and laundry room cabinets, filling the trunk with enough groceries to suspend trips to the supermarket for a while.

Then I vacuumed all the rooms, sucking out a pail of sand hidden within carpet fibers.

Next I lifted the window screens and dropped in all the storm windows.

Finally, we emptied the refrigerator – a  freezer-full of hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, and tubs of ice cream, as well as half-filled bottles of mustard, relish, ketchup, salad dressings, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and pickles.

Looking around, the place was clean and neat and sad.

What is a summer house without friends and family sprawled on the sofa, sleeping dogs curled at your feet, the sounds of football and baseball games blaring on the TV, the smells of clamboils bubbling on the stove and smoky barbecues wafting through the windows?

All that will remain is for my husband and his friend to drain the pipes. Unable to emit heat or light, the summer house will sit in cold and darkness, waiting in silence for our return next spring.

One of my favorite short stories is “The Country of the Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett, who tells the tale of a lone woman visitor to a small coastal town in nineteenth-century Maine, where she bonds with the inhabitants and leaves regrettably at the end of the season.

Every year I feel her pain and sense of loss as we lock the door behind us.

“When I went in again, the little house had suddenly grown lonely, and my room looked empty as it had the day I came,” wrote Jewett. “I and all my belongings had died out of it … So we die before our own eyes; so we see some chapters of our lives come to their natural end.

“As I came away on the little coastwise steamer, there was an old sea running which made the surf leap high on all the rocky shores… Presently the wind began to blow, and we struck out… and when I looked back again, the islands and the headland had run together… and all its coasts were lost to sight.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

The rhythm of life

Living by the sea, we can always expect a constant influx of family and friends at the summer house. So it is rare when I walk this stretch of beach alone.

A simply beautiful day in early October with brilliant blue skies overhead and gentle sea breezes, this day was made for a romp along the seashore.

It is low tide, and I am captivated by the frothy surf sliding toward me. But then I watch it change its mind, heading back to sea and unveiling a treasure trove of jewels: iridescent shells, rounded stones and sea glass gleaming in the sunshine.

“I like to spend my sacred hour sitting on a quiet beach, listening to the waves roll in and out,” writes Matthew Kelly in “The Rhythm of Life.” “The rhythm of the waves has a calming, soothing quality. There is a sacred connection between God and nature.”

I stop at the giant boulders that form a natural barrier, marking the midpoint of my journey. Seagulls congregate nearby, floating gracefully on calm seas.

After sitting a spell, I feel pulled in another direction. Sinking in deep sand, I climb the small incline into the Fogland Nature Preserve, a field of sea grasses bending in the wind, bunches of bushes of beach roses, and a new fall addition, clumps of bright yellow goldenrod.

Beyond lies the salt marsh where the magic happens: freshwater transforms to brackish water to saltwater, the perfect chemistry that produces an abundance of life.

Scanning the panorama before me, I see patches of farmland on rolling hills, and the blue waters of the estuary reflecting the sky.

I spent so much of my childhood at the mouth of this estuary, fishing, clamming and crabbing alongside my brother, as well as looking for wildlife in the preserve. Today a fisherman wades through the salt marsh continuously casting his line in the pulsating current and hoping for a nibble.

Whenever I am here, I ache to return to my younger self – on my hands and knees, digging with a quahog shell, searching for the prize, the plumpest clams I have seen anywhere. A few could make a pot of chowder; a half pail would provide the makings of a clam boil for family and guests.

Back in the present, I try to retrace my steps; but time has erased them as the tide sends the surf up the beach face and forces me to seek another trail.