Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sea to Shining See

An island off the coast of Maine looms ever closer on the horizon of the Atlantic, while whales begin their migration for our viewing on the edge of the Pacific.

Many summers over 40 years, my family has settled on Swan’s Island for lovely vacations and celebrations. Isolated by a ferry ride and not much to do (the coffee shop closes for lunch and the grocery store has not been rebuilt after a fire 5 years ago), we come with books and games, no agenda but to be together.

When camping was allowed, we set up a fine home on a bluff looking inland. In later years with husbands, a wife, and grandchildren, several houses have been rented to create an island “compound”, my family roaming on foot, bikes and boats.

Unable to attend and participate in these years, I have heard the tales and seen the pictures of the gatherings with a wistful envy that my sisters could make the effort to honor and celebrate the growing family while I did not. In my life, precious time has been necessarily focused on my own unit and our privacy together.

So, for better or worse, this year my son and I will dash along the high road across three states and take the ferry into our own little oasis of laughter and folk songs, hugs, and stories of life on and off the island.

It will be strange, however, because even as it is his first time to explore the one road and several trails--the actual place that has been just so many paintings on our walls—it may likely be the last for my dad. Also for the first time, my mother is too far gone to come at all to the place and times she loved so intensely, nor even notice the extended duration between her husband’s visits to her bedside.

With only a few days in between, we then fly across country, his first trip out of our time zone, to visit his older sisters in the land of their birth and life. Again, focused on the present day, the tales of 10 years of my past have largely remained unspoken to my younger children, a shrouded mystery, except for a volcanic eruption (how could I not tell that story?!!) and the occasional sighting of whales.

They know little of the drama that brought me to settle on the side of a mountain that was revered by the natives as something strongly spiritual, a tale of fire and death, birth and rebirth. I have been uncomfortably quiet about the incredible beauty of a place of pounding surf, towering trees and frightening winds, of eagles, elk, sea lions, and whales regularly seen from my balcony, of plane crashes, ship wrecks, daring rescues, and buried treasure (seriously!) within a short walk of my door.

Our journeys, though so brief, will take us—father and son (I so wish my daughter could join us)—on an adventure of discovery and reconnection (it has been 19 years since I last was there). He will visit family in their element, hear music made new with old, dear friends, see nature in magnificent, awe-inspiring form, and live openly to tell about it.

The baggage comes out of storage.

Please share with your friends


Anonymous said...

And hopefully some fun! (P.S. Love the new name.)

Pauline said...

Have a marvelous time! The picture on your heading is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

i just finished reading your *whole* blog and what an entry to end on! baggage is a good thing sometimes too :) i wish my family had unpacked a wee bit more of ours. i'm so proud of your journey so far, kip, and can't wait to read the read the rest!

your chicago friend

Zannah said...

Man oh man I wish I was going to Swan's!!! Give hugs to everyone and play some games for me! But ! can't wait to see you guys out here!! Love you tons!


Anonymous said...

Great writing and storytelling, Kip. I keep mulling over your words earlier today "every brave act has a certain level of stupidity" and I smile and I find comfort. I was only seeing the "stupid". Thank you for adding the "brave"!! I'll miss you all this summer.

Ilene Raymond Rush said...

I have to ask if my Zen e-mail influenced the new title :) Have a great time...I

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the father/son time. I'm sure it'll be special. You get to show him places you are familiar with and he doesn't yet know.

Great writing Kip