Spot of Hope

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:00am
The sun is moving out of its winter home in the south. First light falls differently in different seasons and now it comes through the more southern of the east windows in the ell of my house, in the room where I sleep. It rises, visibly, from the ocean, at the edge of one of the places where the land falls enough that the horizon is a sharp line on mornings when the air is clear. 

It shone, the other day, a spot of hope which would have been obscured by leaves another time of year, but is bright now that the trees are bare and the foliage sparse. The sight-lines to the horizon are wider than they have been and will be in seasons of growth.

It is the same all over the island this time of year when vistas are the widest and houses we do not notice in summer stand out. There seem to be more in winter but overall that perception is a sort of trade-off for the long unbroken views of the ocean that come unexpectedly at a turn in a road not often travelled. 

Yes, I went to the West Side, a bit of an adventure to lighten a February day. These forays are so infrequent I had no idea the high red hay wagon is always on the broad shoulder of the road by the Tea Room Pond – although it should come as no surprise to someone having lived her whole life surrounded by this or that piece of farm equipment, always awaiting its season of work.

The West Side can be a world of memories and nearly forgotten facts, one house, and a second, both on the sites of others that burned, and the church that burned, was nearly rebuilt when leveled by a hurricane gale and — I think — later hit by lightning and burned again. A building that became its parsonage, a bit to the east, had been a district school; near it, down an almost hidden lane, is a secret garden of a cemetery. The West Side had its own Life Saving Station and fishermen set out in small boats from Dorry's Cove, yes, “Dorry's” and that by an Ordinance of the Town of New Shoreham enacted in 1933.

The late Elizabeth Dickens, Miss Dickens, the Bird Lady, related “A V'yage with Grandfather” at an Historical Society event in the 1940s. It was the day trip of a child from her home on the far Southwest not to the mainland, not even to the commercial district on the east shore we know today, but to the old Town Center. It was logical, the place where roads running north-south and east-west bisected. And where there was another school and church, more stores and a mill where great stones ground corn to meal for Johnny Cake.


My own V'yage to the West Side was the day before the storm, the strange blizzard that came suddenly last Thursday after a morning of intermittent rain, and felt to be fading, behind all the wind, even before the tide turned in the very early evening.

It sounded much worse on the mainland, it appeared on the radar to be much worse on the mainland. By morning the snow had settled to that thick cover that hangs on the brush waiting to fall, rather than the delicate coating that vanishes in the sun.

I had again taken a chance and not left my car up the Mansion Road, on the other side of the spot that always used to drift yet, amazingly, was able to drive out with no problem the next morning. On the Neck Road, unsettled snow was still trying to build in the expected places, carried on the the wind that has come and gone and returned with a vengeance all winter. 

The wind is our companion, and we hardly notice it until it demands attention, slamming in the night, or when it halts, opening up a world of sound that has to it a sort of wonder in its rarity.

Both have happened over the past few days. It snowed, then it rained and I was glad for the drying wind, as much as it undid the sun that might otherwise have tempered the chill. We fall into cycles of wild weather advisories, winds, gales, storms, and then, unexpectedly, there comes an end of day filled with the quiet of calm.

To even mention it seems begging the Fates to come swooping in with some catastrophic event but the repair of the breakwater is proceeding. This winter's activity has not had to it the frenetic nature that so captured my imagination two years ago but it has been steady, continuing even as waves have broken and showered the machinery with salt water. 

A big yellow machine, that looks a child's toy from the tower of the Harbor Church, works at at the end of the east wall of the Old Harbor. It glimmers in the late afternoon sun, its long arm picking up and replacing great boulders with an ease and dexterity that makes the scope of the task difficult to comprehend.

There was an occasional wall of white spray rising up on the seaward side of the wall, a surprise when the ocean appeared so blue and calm, then I remembered only the day previous had been one when the boat did not run, kept in port by high winds. 

It is winter, time of closed car windows shutting out sound, often of the wind being a noisy bully, but it was calm and the scrape of boulder against boulder, the creak of the machinery, the thud of placement, all floated up the hill to the parking lot behind the church. 

There are orphan ribbons of snow on the ground, March is yet to come, but the breakwater is progressing almost to the point of my asking, again, what of the return of the green light that should shine at its end.