The east side has the boat

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 5:15pm

The afternoon is crisp, the line of the horizon off to the east sharp and clean, a seam binding the deep blue of the ocean to the paler hue of the sky, the two stitched with tiny, perfect, invisible stitches. Overhead there are no clouds but out over the water there are layers of white and violet and gray, catching the sun lowering in the west.

Shadows lengthen quickly now; they have swallowed the two deer grazing in the old orchard lot behind the house in the few minutes since I sat down at the keyboard. The trees back there, scrub poplars grown around the edges, have been stripped of their leaves by time and by the battering winds we have been experiencing this November.

It is such a month of conflict, November, as the days grow shorter and the temperature starts to drop but the grass remains so green and the beach can be wide and inviting on a new moon tide, so much that a range of people across generations take advantage of the sunniest part of the day for one last plunge into the waves insisting it isn’t really THAT bad.

Now there are five deer out back while Autumn lies in the sunny front yard, my ever-vigilant sentry. Suddenly, they scatter, white tails flashing, but no golden dog in pursuit. It must be someone come to feed the horses and I go out to say hello.

It is colder then it was less than two hours ago when I was last outside, a breeze stirring from the north northwest more felt in the open pasture than closer to the house. The contours of the land, even those inexplicable patches where the grass has grown slightly faster than around it, are defined by the sun, differently, it seems, every day as it makes it way steadily to the southwest of the solstice, only a bit more than a month away.

In June, when the first light over that water to the east wakes I am less annoyed by that fact and more that I cannot store it, just that first hour, for opening as needed during December and January. I know I could ration it, or perhaps not even use it, but leave it in a tightly closed box, just for an emergency, next to the remainder of my prescription pain pills left from this slowly healing broken arm.

The far west side where the land runs down to the wild sea can be extraordinarily beautiful I was reminded on a wild days a couple of weeks ago when a friend took me for a ride down all those side roads, the places we went on excursions when we were children. It was so exotic I remember the first time taking that left/south turn at the end of Grace’s Cove Road, or veering off Dorry’s to visit an old place when my father was re-shingling a roof, places out of sight from the main road, even in those days when the land was so clear.

We remembered hayrides, side trips in the midst of caroling, in big trucks and wondered how was that possible where the road snaked though Dunn Town, like many old roads, between a house and a barn, or perhaps only a foundation by my memory.

As beautiful as it was — yes, the west side can be stunningly beautiful — I kept saying I wouldn’t want to live there open to that cold wind, the father of all the winds in Hiawatha, only to be reminded I live in a clear path from the damp east.

I came in from a few short minutes in the pasture, admiring the heavy winter coats of the Icelandic horses, feeling a chill that for all the sun brings to mind the glorious language of the opening of “Moby Dick” and that reference to a “damp, drizzly November in my soul” and wondering how that feeling would inspire anyone to take to the sea.

Then, I looked out and saw the boat sailing past, the big white boat catching the last of the day’s sun, a sort of rose gold vessel out there steadily steaming north.

The east side, or the east of the Neck, has the boat, year round, the sun hungry boat, a ghost ship in morning, throwing its wake on choppy blue water from the monument by the beach, a legend stirring specter in another age. Or this afternoon, out beyond the deer scattering and the geese huddling on the hillside, putting a last gasp shine on this quickly fading sunny November day.