Sunday Morning~ Beach Island
August 13, 2017
I was married to someone who loved the ocean and loved to sail. I loved the mountains and lakes but wanted to love the ocean for his sake. Joe (my ex) had a dream of sailing around the world. I had a dream of living in Africa. When we were planning our life together we breathlessly agreed to do both. Not in any position to own a boat, we started with Africa. We were young and Peace Corps offered everything we wanted. And they paid our way! We had eternity to sail around the world when we grew up. Our first son was born in Malawi and was ten months old when we left. We spent two months traveling through Sudan, Egypt, Greece, Rome, England, Scotland, and Ireland, arriving home for his first birthday. (This is the child who doesn’t like to travel ironically.) We saw incredible sights, but aside from the forbidding cliffs in Ireland, there was no ocean involved.
Joe’s parents loved the beach. When he was growing up he’d go to Cape Cod for summer vacation. They didn’t “summer” at the cape––– they weren’t in that class, but they’d get a cottage for a week or two and go to the beach every day. His mother’s dream was to have her grandchildren there and for several summers she’d take our kids while we either traveled or worked. I wanted to love it for their sake. I wanted to have that sense of ecstasy when landing on the sandy shore. But my memories of the beach were of sand in my eyes, gritty peaches, hot car rides home, carrying in wet towels, and later, cranky kids. I could not figure out why anyone liked this. I never experienced living in that carefree summer place where either the help or some other responsible adult swept the sand out of the kitchen and did the laundry. The utopia–– where rainy days were spent playing board games (something else I dislike) with healthy, well educated, tanned cousins–– eluded me.
I really wanted to love the ocean, because well, everyone did. In 1990, in pursuit of that quest, Joe and I moved the five kids to Samoa to work for two years. There we thought we’d get involved in the yachting community and get a sense of this sail-around-the-world thing. It was a place where people who did that spent hurricane season. We got an education, for sure, but it did nothing to convince me that it would be a fun experience. Still, I was committed to doing it for Joe’s sake and started reading yachting magazines to psyche myself up. There were great stories of family cruises that sounded romantic. I thought I could get into it. I could home school the kids. I told myself this. Then we’d meet people actually doing it and I found very few who seemed to be enjoying it. To me it looked like all they ever did was fix their boat. And worry about their boat. And wait for parts for their boat. Those were the ones with really nice boats. The ones with just plain old we-can-afford-this boats were in the bar looking like they’d been washed up on shore. So living in Samoa did not make me love boats, but it did give me a healthy respect for the power and beauty of the ocean and the people who consider it a continuation of their land (I learned this little fun fact from watching Moana a few times this week with the grands).
I am staying in the house of someone with a long history of summering on an idyllic island. Summering makes all the difference in the magic. Growing up year round on an island in Maine, there is another sense of the land. It’s a working place where winters are hard and dark and summer is spent making enough money to get through it. I feel like an outsider in a lifestyle to which I don’t belong; a bit like an intruder. I’m not an imposter; I’m not trying to pretend, and I am invited, but it’s someone else’s sphere and that is painfully obvious. I don’t know the drill. I never played pounce. I have no need of seven cheese graters and don’t even like boats. Having to rely on them makes me uncomfortable and a little nervous. But I want to love it for his sake. The house is inhabited by many ghosts and I imagine they’ll continue to haunt George for awhile. At first I found them merely annoying but after a week here I find them sad. There’s so much attachment to Stuff. Capital S. I’m more comfortable outside picking raspberries with the kids or at the beach throwing stones. Amelia and James make it a happy place for me and I hope their little spirits linger after they leave tomorrow. I love watching Amelia run down the path with her hair flying behind her. I love watching how she relates to George and feels safe with him. I love that she wants to visit his brother. I love watching James throw stones in the water. I love when they excitedly point to a boat going by or the moon coming up. I love that they sleep so soundly here. I’m grateful to have the chance to experience this knowing it’s transient and I am a visitor.
We went off the island overnight so I could give a talk in Bar Harbor. We got back yesterday afternoon and Amelia told me she likes this house and was happy to be back. I asked her why? She said, “It’s not scary here.”
Love to all,