You can't go wrong when . . .

Thu, 04/14/2011 - 1:30pm

You head for the steeple.

Sage advice, it was, from my cousin the mariner, he still so belonging to the world of deepwater he will not park close to the supermarket door. He acknowledges only that his wife has gently questioned the rationale of this “anchoring out” hold-over from his sea-faring days.

We were returning from Essex, Connecticut and a Service in Memory of one of the people who made the North Light shine for us, his labor of love turning to a gift for us all last fall when the lamp shone brightly as the cool fall settled upon us. I had hitched a ride back after driving down with a friend who was not returning to the Island that afternoon. She and I were unfamiliar with the town, following the directions on the navigational system so many people who drive anywhere today have in their vehicles.  We missed a turn, we both knew it as soon as it happened, and when I looked up from the dashboard there was what had to be our destination, a building high and white, on a hill overlooking much of the town.

It was the “final good-bye,” from a beautiful church with old fashioned windows, of clear glass and multi-paned, twenty-four panes over twenty four, still clad in winter’s plastic, an indignity of age and the sparse funding generally due such places. It was crowded that day, the white pews with red seat cushions filled by the time we made our way to the narthex. There were seats in a room to the side, we were told, or, possibly, upstairs, in the balcony

That “perch” is often a good choice, and it was that day, filling but not yet full and we could see easily down to pulpit and before it red flowers flanking the neatly folded veteran’s flag, the running photo montage of a life well lived, the trumpeter playing "Amazing Grace" and the organist, leaning into her work, making soar the songs sad and sacred that have come to be a part of so many remembrance services for men who have loved the sea, especially “Eternal Father strong to save, whose arm doth guide the restless wave . . .”

There is a bit of a lighthouse in these old churches, built high and visible even when the GPS is ignored. I like to believe that would have pleased Gil Plumb. That and the gathering following at the tavern I knew only from a bumper sticker on his funky little truck, the one he insisted would make it to the North Light and back without getting stuck, and if it did he’d just let the air out of the tires. By the grace of the God who looks after men determined to do good deeds, one hopes after fools and drunks, all was well.

The grass is greening but the usually have opened are tightly budded against the cold, the ocean is blue but touched with white, chop kicked up by too much wind.

This is the twentieth spring I have been writing about this season that comes so slowly, only to race to a finish.

It began when submittal of a piece of which I was quite proud and which, despite promises, was not run. Finally, there came the admission it had been lost. I got mad and sent in several musings with the declaration “if you can print the $&^ so-and-so writes . . .” Managing Editor Cynthia Hammett decided it should be a column and there I was, in a place I’d never expected, above the fold on page three.

Then, I used the typewriter still on the closet floor, and quite literally cut and pasted paragraphs put on a page with the imprint of a ribbon cut by individual keys. A black correctable ribbon was quite a miracle — and the beginning of the end of my never especially good typing skills. Backspace, correct, and the error vanished without white-out or, worse, eraser shreds falling into the mechanism.

Type, cut, paste — or tape — and copy, produced the appearance of a clean sheet of text to be taken to the BI Times office. Next, came the word processor which made unimportant that the typewriter had been borrowed and returned without a cord, a necessity for an electric machine. I thought, at the time, it would some day matter; it hasn’t. My words went onto a hard disc called a floppy, which were, again, hand carried to the office.

Always living a decade or two behind the rest of the world (why bother with Blu-Ray, it’s just going to be replaced with something else; wait long enough it’s possible to skip whole trends in technology) I resisted electronic communications. My introduction to e-mail came with the death of my beloved Uncle Cash. When his family brought his ashes home to be buried they brought his web tv (I still have the little television that came with the box, it still works, sort of, given that I refuse to pay for television and that little converter box does very little). It put me on the internet, opened the World Wide Web, but provided no capacity for writing. I thought about a computer, I looked at them, I thought some more as the increasingly outdated and obsolete word processor sputtered and threatened to shut down but I did nothing until it went dark.

Even with the computer, internet, writing tools, everything in one place, transmitting documents electronically seemed such a cheat; it was too easy, but, eventually, the lure of writing even later into the night won me over and I began e-mailing my words.

Now the Block Island Times has gone to a different system which doesn’t, in truth, sound all that different. Just more complicated all the time they tell me how much easier it is.

I do not want to go back to cut and paste — I’d need a typewriter, or at least a cord — and neither do I want to do back to the discs they tell me no one uses anymore.

Despite the ease the electronic word affords, sometimes I’d rather just head for the steeple.