Sunday, March 20, 2016

An Easter reminiscence: Rescue at sea

At this holiest time of year, it is natural to be drawn to the seashore. Many of the Gospel passages place Jesus Christ’s whereabouts near the sea. I am a believer, and I feel His presence here. This is holy ground.

After the Resurrection, St. John writes, “Later, at the sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed himself to the disciples… Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore, though none of the disciples knew it was Jesus… Then the disciple Jesus loved cried out to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

In another passage in the Gospel of St. Mark, he writes that “when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and (Jesus) was alone on the land. And He saw that they were distressed in rowing, for the wind was against them… He came to them, walking on the sea… He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear.’ And He got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.’”

Two thousand years later, I walk along the water’s edge and remember the many times I cried out to the Lord from this very place.

A young newlywed, I recall the night my new husband and brother went fishing and did not return. I still remember the anguish, countless prayers and call to the Coast Guard. They were towed in by the Tiverton Harbor Patrol around midnight, after being entangled in the ropes of a lobster pot near Nannaquaket.

Thirteen years ago, I drove to the summer house on a glorious sunny summer’s day. When I arrived, I was told that my father and brother had taken my youngest son out on the sailboat. But out of the blue, there was a violent lightning storm.

We immediately drove down to the ramp, but they were nowhere in sight. We followed the Sakonnet River by car all the way to Nannaquaket, but all in vain. At this point, my mother, my daughter and I began crying hysterically. I prayed incessantly, pleading for God’s help.

We called the Coast Guard who had great difficulty understanding our plight because we were crying so hard. I called my husband back at home who raced to Tiverton.

After what seemed like hours, the Coast Guard called to say that the Tiverton Harbor Patrol had found them. The sun was shining when they were towed in.

The following fall, my 12-year-old son told the story of his rescue at sea in a school composition:

“My uncle and I and my grandfather were planning to use our sailboat. We watched the Weather Channel to see the weather forecast and the water currents. It said it was going to be fine weather to go sailing. We went to the docks at 9:30. The sun was shining, and the water was choppy. It was very good weather to go sailing. We had a small, 14-foot sailboat. We put it into the water, and my grandfather brought the car to the parking lot. My uncle and I got in the sailboat and waited for my grandfather. He came and our adventure started. Once we got out there, the wind picked up and we were having a good time. Then it started to pour. We were out on the bay, and we could not see anything. We had no idea where we were going. Then it started lightning, and we needed to get out of the water. We had an 18-foot aluminum sail. It was just like a lightning rod. We came upon an island, and we waited. An hour passed, then another. We were so cold and wet. We decided to go even though it was still lightning really badly. We were on our way back. Lightning hit the water right next to us. The wind died, and we were stranded in the middle of the ocean. My grandfather was soaked. We needed to get him warm. After a while, the Tiverton Harbor Patrol found us. So they gave us a rope, and I tied it to the front of the boat. It took them a half an hour to tow us in. We finally made it to shore. My mother was crying because she didn’t know if we would make it back. Everyone was so happy when we made it. After this, I will never believe the Weather Channel again. I don’t know if I will go on the sailboat ever again.”

Sometimes, the Lord walks on water and calms the sea, as well as our fears. Other times, He sends his angels, the Tiverton Harbor Patrol, to rescue us.

On this Easter Sunday and every day of my life, I know He lives.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bunny in a bookstore and other animal encounters

See the turkeys in the trees in our back yard.

These days turkeys outnumber the dogs and cats in our country neighborhood. They sleep in the 100-foot pine trees in our back yard, and flocks stop traffic as they congregate in the street. One brazen fellow recently ambled up the brick path to our front stairs, and I was waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Likewise, at the summer place, we have always been surrounded by a bevy of animals, seabirds and marine life. We took our pets with us, and guests brought theirs along. Families walked Fogland Beach accompanied by prancing dogs, and cats curled up on sunny cottage windowsills. A pesky skunk took up residence under a nearby shed. Seagulls soared overhead while sandpipers danced near the water’s edge. A giant sea turtle washed ashore. 

And the Lord God made them all.

But the most memorable creature was a rabbit.
I used to pass a bookstore on the way to the summer house, and many times I delayed the journey to browse the bookshelves of this delightful, old-fashioned store. A half-hour later, I emerged from the shop with another book tucked under my arm and yet another opportunity to while away the hours at the beach.

In 1983, the old Nonquit Grange in Tiverton was converted to the Mill Pond Shops, an eclectic grouping of five businesses on three levels, including a furniture shop, toy store, pottery workshop, women’s clothing store and my favorite stop, Books From 4 Corners. Weathered shingles and simple wooden signs beckoned the shopper inside.

A frequent customer, I wandered into Books From 4 Corners and was greeted by the gracious lady proprietor, who had retired from a teaching post a few years earlier. Stepping gingerly on the polished wide-plank floorboards, I admired the old cast iron wood stove and antique desk that decorated her shop. The woman told me that she filled the shelves with only those titles that intrigued her, a selection of very different and unusual books.

One sleepy Sunday afternoon I found myself once more searching the shelves of Books From 4 Corners. As usual, it didn’t take long to find a book I longed to read. 

While waiting in line, I felt a furry animal jump on my bare legs. At first I thought it was a white dog, but then I noticed it had big floppy ears. I tried to ignore the excited rabbit, but he really seemed to like me. It was then that I noticed an empty cage on the other side of the room with its door ajar.

As I handed the proprietor a bill, I felt the rabbit’s teeth dig into my flesh. He had bitten me on the back of my leg. The lady was shocked. 

“Eliot’s so gentle,” she told me. “It must be a love nip.”

Dropping my change on the counter, the lady chased the hopping rabbit into a corner, lifted him into her arms like a baby and locked him in the cage. 

She then opened a bottle of peroxide; and with the efficiency of a school nurse, she ordered me to hold still while she lightly dabbed the two bloody teeth marks in my skin. By this time the area surrounding the gashes had turned blue.

I left the store with the sound of her profound apologies ringing in my ears and an unusual throbbing in my leg. I no longer felt like lying on the beach with a good book – I just wanted to lie down.

Back at the summer house I limped over to the nearest chair and surveyed the damage. Swollen and bruised, I bore the imprint of Eliot’s romantic interlude.

Early the next morning before work, I reported to my doctor’s office for a tetanus shot. I explained to the nurse the source of my affliction.

“I know this is silly,” I told her, “but I was bitten by a huge rabbit that hopped on the back of my leg.” 

She howled with laughter. 

“It must be mating season,” I said. 

I returned to the office wearing two Band-aids, one on my arm from the shot and the other covering the bite on my leg.

Many years ago Books From 4 Corners closed its doors forever, and since then an assortment of diverse business ventures have claimed the space. I miss the joy I used to feel when entering the extraordinary little bookstore, the warmth of the knowledgeable proprietor, the strange and wonderful books that I found there – but I don’t miss Eliot. I still get hopping mad when I think about his last embrace.