"Air & Water", 8x8", oil on panel, 1993
Years ago the sea was my world. Images were born from me of light on water,
the rhythm of waves and thick, ocean fog. In my work, I imagined myself far
offshore, navigating the changing sea, searching - on a journey to home. Now,
amidst the sweeping branches of the hemlocks, I can feel that immense blueness
in the center of my soul, for once you are a water person, you remain one always.
We set out on our family's last voyage on the Nobska Lady, the boat that has
carried us on ocean adventures for more than thirty years. The clouds grew out
of the shore like towering trees, a light wind blew and the sky promised afternoon clearing.
Since I was a child, I was spirited away on voyages long and short, sometimes
jealous that my older sister could stay at home if she chose. I now know that
wild adventures on the sea stitches folks together with the strength of waxed
linen, and if there should be a tear, the splicing tool is close at hand.
I'm not sure I always understood the intensity of many situations we found ourselves
in, but I learned unwavering trust in my father's skill as a navigator and captain.
I remember many a journey through pea soup fog, sitting on the bow, blowing
the horn. A deeply etched memory is the time when we found ourselves in the
midst of a naval convoy, huge gray hulls emerging like silent monsters from the fog. Stationed as I was on the bow, blowing my little horn, I was in charge of spotting
them and alerting the captain. On a boat when calm sailing turns stormy or foggy or mysterious - as it did when dark hull after dark hull emerged in our path - its all
hands on deck no matter the age.
On that same cruise, I saw my first, enormous shark. It was off in the distance,
basking in the sun close to the surface. When we approached, it slowly sank beneath
the boat and emerged on the other side. I was transfixed, leaning over the side to
get a better look, my mother grabbing my belt loops, holding tight a shrieking a bit.
This last overnight was to Hadley Harbor on the small island on Naushon. Hadley
holds stories from my life from as long as I can remember. On the way there, we
passed by Woods Hole, where I spent most of my childhood. If you follow the link
and click on the photo, you will see a long, low roof of the house my grandfather
built next to the light house.
Many a day was spent climbing around on the rip wrapping below the
lighthouse, resulting in an almost daily stubbed and re-stubbed toe.
We anchored in the outer harbor, the day having shifted to warm and sunny,
but with wonderful clouds still clinging to the shore.
Mom on lunch duty....
You might think that dinner on a boat would be a simple thing, but not on the
Nobska Lady. Not only is my father a popular crew to invite on long overnight
journeys to Maine for his navigation skills and willingness to stay up all night,
but also cause he's an amazing chef. Luckily today the seagulls let us eat our
steak. Once or twice over the years, while grilling off the stern, dinner was
lost to a clever, swooping bird.
Glistening, late afternoon light melted into night,
and a candle was lit to light the deck.
Tucked into our bunks in the cabin, I read aloud from "The Secret Garden",
by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book, read aloud over several of our voyages,
twines around our memories of this boat like a flowering vine. Our story of this
story is one of my favorites...
One evening on the Nobska Lady, just before bedtime, the Captain
and his wife were readying their sleeping bags. It was the time when
the Captain's wife usually read aloud. On the last voyage, she had been
reading "The Secret Garden", especially for the youngest member of
the crew. As it was a somewhat longish book, the Captain's wife hadn't
finished and had stowed the book away for the next time the youngest
mate was aboard. The young mate had not signed on this voyage, so it
was just the Captain and his wife. Once the beds were prepared, the Captain's
wife climbed in and began to read her adult book by the soft glow of lantern
light. In his bunk, tucked under the navigation station, the Captain seemed restless,
and finally asked his wife if she might read the next chapter of "The Secret Garden".
She replied that the young mate was not aboard, so she didn't think she should.
The Captain reasoned that she could always read the chapter again, the next
time the whole crew was aboard. So the Captain's wife put down her book,
and read another installment of "The Secret Garden", just for the two of them.
(He WAS the Captain, after all)
The journey back offered a stiff wind and respectable waves, and I, the youngest
member of the crew, was in my element - happy, too, to see my father pass
this well-loved boat on to friends of mine who are just beginning their life of
sailing, and, who my father aptly said of them - "they are water people now".