North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland – Toys in boots, lighthouses and widow’s watches

North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland – Toys in boots, lighthouses and widow’s watches

It’s taken me the longest to write about the part of the trip that was the most like real travelling again – seeing new places, quiet contemplation in picturesque spots, catching buses and trains. All the worrying I’d done about travel on public transport was ridiculous. Trains and buses are what we are used to back home. And Lucy would much rather be on a subway train than in a private car – people to smile at versus being strapped down in a car seat looking at the back of the driver’s head. What would YOU rather do?

So, back to where I left off, in Maine, late December 2005 (from my notes made at the time)…

I went to put on Nana’s wellies for a wander outside, and found a pink teacup in a boot. Lucy was entering the bag lady phase. She put olive oil, vinegar, and her puzzle pieces all in a paper bag. And toys in boots.

I sat down under a tree by the water’s edge, surrounded by pinecones the size of Cadbury’s Mini eggs. Beneath me the there was a sharp drop, 3 or 4 meters, to the shoreline, where sticks and logs were caught in tiny laps of water. Conifers tilted above, great-grandparents of mini-trees below. A cenotaph paid tribute to a passed loved one; it was not a grave marker, for the body was not here. Gulls squeaked and then glided through the still air.

The silence here had a sound. I can’t describe it. A peaceful sound. Calming, yet not a sound, not like Baby Tallulah’s wave machine in Massachusetts – but this silence-sound had the same soothing effect.

Sitting here took me back 10 years, to the many moments of solitude on the big bike trip. Yet this time there was even more peace, knowing my husband and baby were in Nana’s house, cosy and warm and loving. 10 years ago I strived for inner peace while chasing a silly romance; I fell flat on my face, picked up the pieces and then fell truly in love that same year. I couldn’t be happier than I am now. We struggle and there are bad times as well as good, but overall it’s a beautiful and blessed life.

2 ducks flew past inches above the water. A lone motorboat, like a sad airplane, it’s engine the sound of a bygone age. A distant dog barked. Little birds chirped. And silent water, rippled gently. Photos did not do this place anywhere near justice. The water swallows you in serenity. The prefect bay, comfortable, surrounded by trees. Not a giant ocean that can be as intimidating as it is soothing, but a place with the perfect amount of everything – trees, water, sky, silence, small sounds. This was the best moment of this trip, here in nature. ‘the new best moment becomes the best moment ever…” Charley once said. Well, I had a lot of great Lucy moments. But it has been far too long since I’d had a ME moment. I could sit here forever. But my bum was getting numb on pine needles and tree roots.

On New Year’s Eve Nana and I told ghost stories while Nana chopped apples, both the stories and the chopping invading Sexton’s dreams. He woke up at 11:30 to see in 2006.

At midnight we turned on the TV just to see the ball drop, so we’d know when to say “Happy New Year”. We looked at all those people in Times Square, then turned the TV off, glad to be here in South Thomaston where there were no whoops and hollers, no fireworks, nothing.

I went out and sat in my spot. The only light was from Nana’s snowflakes illuminating the shore like a campfire. “For the fisherman” she said, her latest excuse for tacky Christmas lights. Without the lights it would be pitch black here. Very far across the bay there were tiny lights in sparsely placed houses.

At night there was no sound here. No gulls, no dogs, no birds, no faraway sad motorboats. Silent water. The ducks were asleep, blissfully unaware of the changing year. I don’t think I could ever just sleep through it myself; I have too many memories of being a child and counting down to midnight with my grandmother; a homely tradition I think I’ll continue long after wild parties fade.

I enjoyed “my spot” at night just as much as daytime. But then I was spooked; not by Stephen Kings’ ghosts or the cenotaph, but a sudden chill ran through me. “My spot” –a dead friend had a place he called his “spot”, where he would watch the sun set from the cliffs of Dorset, sitting quietly as I did now.

On January 1st, Lucy and I again braved mom’s van and we took a lighthouse tour. At Owl’s Head Lighthouse, Lucy climbed up 50 steps all by herself, showing the same determination (or madness?) of her predecessors: her mother, grandmother, and even great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents who crossed the Atlantic in wooden boats. When Lucy got to the top the wind was so harsh her poor apple cheeks froze and she went back to being a baby, crying in the stinging cold. I carried her down, and we headed back to the car.

Lucy’s step climbing had taken so long, that by the time we reached the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, it was getting dark. The lighthouse is out about a kilometre in the water. Giant rock slabs create a path out to the house – but only during low tide. At high tide it is surrounded by water.
Despite back pain I was determined to walk all the way out. Much as triathelete Nana doesn’t like to admit, I’m still younger and more agile. I bounded from rock to rock, leaving my mother behind (she’d done this walk many times already). Dusk fell slowly as the wind whipped across the sea. As long as I was not the last person to come back I was safe. And there was a still man out there at the lighthouse.

I made it, and even walked around the strange house, imagining living there, on the water, with waves crashing on rocks day and night. It was not calm there like the bay in South Thomaston.

As I walked back, the other crazy person who’d been out at the lighthouse caught up with me. He was from California, and told me that his family was moving to Colorado next. He said that environment determined where he took his family, and Maine was way too polluted. I was surprised to hear that. But the man said that all the country’s pollution works its way out through Maine. The beautiful clean, clear air was in fact more toxic than the smog of LA. Coal, mercury, and heavy metals all had a high presence in the air and water.

My mom of course was worried sick, clutching her camera when the man and I got back to shore in near pitch darkness. There was nothing like walking on water in wet wind and very little visibility. (By the way, at this point we had dropped Lucy back with her Dad; walking on wet slabs of granite in the dark is definitely NOT for babies).

On the way to the bus station the next day, Nana, always more interested in tour guiding than driving, told us about the small windows at the tops of the old local houses. “’Widow’s Watches’ were little square rooms at the tops of houses, which were probably built in the 1800s; they were called that because the wives would go up there & look out to sea to see the fishing boats would come in/or NOT come in; it’s the same idea as the movie, ‘The Perfect Storm’ about the Gloucestermen (Mass. – 10,000 lost since the 1600s), but I don’t know if there were those ‘Watches’ down there. Interesting to note that now, they decorate them with drippy lights at Christmas.”

Sexton, Lucy and I boarded the bus back to Boston, a journey that went without a hitch. The subway and then train out to the village where our friends’ lived went just as smoothly. The entire Boston public transport network is wheel chair (and baby stroller) accessible, a real plus for people in our situation.

Category : North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland , Uncategorized