Sunday, August 11, 2013

Down East

My 93 year old mom and I leave our cabin in Maine tomorrow early to beat the traffic.  We have been here about two weeks.  She has come Down East every summer for the last 89 years.  Things have changed on the coast but there are constants. It is the constants that are note worthy.

My mom gave up rowing her little boat the Amiable Comfort this year. She said that she probably could row but getting in and out of the boat would be dodgy. That said she goes to the dock in the morning with her tea cup, inspects all the various boats, knots, sea birds and who is or not in the cove. She goes down to watch the tennis matches with the three or four other people in their 90's.  They have outlived practically everybody; in her case,  two husbands, a daughter in law, a son in law and a step son.  Still she takes an enormous interest in the harbor, the comings and going of boats and people. She is deaf but still engaged in what ever part of the conversation she can hear.  For many people old and young alike she is a constant.

For me the constants are in images such as the lovely old friendship sloop ghosting along wing and wing out the bay to the sea. The seals  screwing around splashing by the rocks  and the Ospreys who have the enviable skill of soaring above the sea and hurtling toward the surface to snatch lunch.  It would be lovely to have such a wing span.  There are other constants, boats coming in the harbor. Some skippered by people who have no idea what they are doing and others in older boats, gear everywhere but clearly expert.  The latter take great amusement and delight in the antics of the former. 

There are traditions that are  anchored in the sea and the granite of the coastline. One is the remembrance of the dead.  Our  small club, founded in 1901,  always reads the names of the those who have died  during  the year. It is the opening of the annual meeting.  The names are spoken aloud and there is a full minute of silence.  You can tell the widows and the widowers as they are the ones looking at the floor.  They read Tom's name this year. It seemed so strange but comforting to have it spoken aloud by strangers much the way those who are lost at sea are remembered.  The irony of the maritime tradition for a farmer was not lost on any of us.

So the summer winds down. Labor day is just around the corner and most of these little cottages will be put to bed. The days are a bit shorter and the nights are cool. I put a fire in the stove just yesterday. Kids go  back to school.  Then rather miraculously it will be summer again on the coast of Maine a whole year will have passed but there will be constants - a most comforting thought

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