Tuesday, May 17, 2016

'It's so good to be back'

Tightly furled leaves long to burst.

Every summer I reread “The Country of the Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett. The first chapter, “The Return,” best explains what it means to return to a much-loved place after an absence. She writes:

“There was something about the coast town … which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages … Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore … and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges… These houses made the most of the seaward view … the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore … When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.”

It is the beginning of the long-awaited season at Fogland; and like other summer residents, my pulse quickens as I come home again. The shimmering Sakonnet, the well-kept cottages, and the sleeping summer house – all welcome us. Over and over again, we say to each other, “It’s so good to be back.”

Yet, there is much work to do. The summer house has been in a state of hibernation for nearly six months, and it is time for it to be reawakened.

We call in the plumber who climbs inside the well house and installs a new pump, and like the rhythmic beating of a heart circulating blood through veins, it sends the water coursing through the pipes. One frigid year the pipes burst, and the rooms were flooded. Consequently, we hold our breath until we learn that the old piping has survived another year.

Throughout the winter, we worried about the roof. We remembered what had happened some years ago when the ceiling had fallen into the living room, and we had to hire a carpenter to fix the roof, as well as put up a new ceiling. But this year, outside of some cobwebs, the summer house is intact.

Inside the sticking front door, it feels cold and lifeless. We pull up the shades and open the windows, and let the clean sea breeze stir the dead air. Sunlight bounces off the walls and illuminates the dust. We turn on the hot water and plug in the fridge.

My mother puts fresh linens on the beds, while my father carries in a trunk-full of food.

Outside, my husband mows the knee-high lawn, which always grows fast in this fertile, coastal soil.

Before long the summer house will be filled with shrieks of laughter.

“It’s so good to be back.”