Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Day of Reflection

Today was sunny and warm for November 7th here in Massachusetts.  Normally it is chilly out but today was a balmy 67F.  Hence I had the front door open where I sat on the carpet and read a trashy novel while basking in the sunshine.

The novel is set on Cape Cod where I spent my formative years.  The author's clear descriptions of Eastham and Provincetown brought all sorts of childhood memories flooding back.

While I didn't have an idyllic childhood due to poverty and an abusive alcoholic father, there was a lot to like about growing up on the Cape.  It was the happy memories that came back to me today, partly due to the book and partly due to sitting in the sun.


Riding my bicycle everywhere.  My favorite paths were unpaved sandy roads.  These were single car lanes with only a few houses on them.  They always had huge ruts in them and had to be navigated carefully to avoid skinned knees.  They inevitably had hedges right at the lane's edge and you had to be equally careful that you didn't get tangled up in thorns.

Sitting in the sun with my Mom of the steps of the breezeway.  I have never seen breezeways other than on Cape Cod.  They might exist elsewhere but I haven't seen them myself.  These are structures that connect traditional Cape Cod Saltbox house to the detached garage.  It has a poured cement base with a fully framed roof and wooden sides.  However instead of walls there are screens.  The breezeway is an odd form of screened porch.  If you have glass that can be swapped out for the screens then it can extend into a three season sitting area.

Anyway, I always remember my Mom sunbathing.  When we first moving to the US from the UK the neighbors thought she was nuts sunbathing outside in sixty degree weather.  This tradition continued after we moved down the Cape.  One of the clear memories I have down there with her is sitting on the steps of the breezeway in the sun enjoying the warm weather.  The little alcove the breezeway formed with the house sheltered us from the wind so we could sit out in the sun even on cooler days.  I remember watching the honeysuckle that I had planted against the house swaying in the gentle breeze.  I remember watching the neighbor's cat getting dive-bombed by a bluejay that was protecting its nest.  We would watch the various cars pass down the street and she would know which neighbor was coming or going.  I remember listening to the call of the chickadees.  And I remember watching the clouds and pitch pines.  I also spent a good deal of time staring at the sandy driveway and the tufts of grass that tried in vein to grow in to make a lawn.  One of our favorite activities to do when she visits me these days is to sit out in the sun together.

Taking swimming lessons first thing in the morning down at the Bass River Yacht Club.  The water was always freezing cold and I got tired of taking my time getting in.  I was the first one brave enough to just jump in off the dock into the water.  I passed my life guard test there.  I was an excellent open water swimmer.

Taking sailing lessons in a small wooden boat with gaff rig called a Beetlecat.  Tacking up and down Bass River.  Sinking the boats in the spring in order to get the wood to swell after winter storage dried them out.  This made them water tight.  Hitting a nun buoy during one of my lessons and leaving a red paint streak down the side of someone else's boat.  Getting stuck out at the mile marker buoy in the mouth of Bass River and needed to get towed back home.  My god those things are HUGE!  I remember it bouncing up and down in the waves.  I had never seen one close up before.

Knowing every town way to water up and down the river.  Jumping off every dock between Bass River Bridge and Smuggler's Beach.  Getting kicked off several of the docks (they were all private property).  Snorkeling so that I could watch the snails.  Getting stung by jellyfish.  Knowing the tides.  Knowing the lunar phase.  My favorite time to swim was on a turning high tide at 6pm.  This meant there was no current and the water had all day to warm up in the river.  It was like swimming in a bathtub.  Awesome!

The ting ting ting of rope slapping against a mast.  The roar of outboard/inboard motors.  The slap of waves against the shore.  Noisy seagulls.

But mostly I remember quiet and peace and sun.

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