Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shooting Stars

The ferry ride to an island is like passing through a door into another world.

We get out of the car. Chains clank, the diesel roars. The dock slips away so suddenly, so mysteriously that for an instant, in the sudden stillness of our journey, it feels the pylons and the shoreline are really what is falling away, until the movement of the boat is apparent, shuddering under our feet.

At the bow, we stand braced against the wind, legs a little bent and loose to absorb the waves' slap and break. Today the clouds are dark and swirling with threats of rain, the shoreline grey with mist, lobster boats roaring in fits from one buoy to the next.

Time is suspended, waiting to set feet on land again. With nowhere to go, nothing to do, we chat with strangers, as if friends, about their connections to the island. Beyond, the sea stretches, vast and unknowable, inviting us to trespass to a future promise and danger.

Back on land, my son immediately recognizes houses and docks that have been just paintings to him forever on our walls. Each turn reveals vistas of shorelines and possible adventures, both of us with 14 year old imaginations the first times we each have come here. Over the hills, we discover the harbor with sailboats at rest, and clusters of houses leading up from shore like an old village in a whaling story.

In these modern times, still in the tradition of island life, hands on the steering wheel raise in greeting to every passing car. Only a few roads, there are plenty of walkers and bikers, all waving in union, sharing this precious piece of land surrounded by the infinite sea.

We help my father step ever so slowly and carefully, painfully, from rock to rock out toward the water’s edge. He sits in the wheelchair, wrapped against the wind, nearly blind and deaf and at the end of his life, absorbing this memory. We take turns reading to him, or describing the patterns of surf spray or menacing clouds approaching from the mainland. His grandchildren and one great grandchild explore the tide pools around us as we had done 40 years ago while he painted on those very same rocks the paintings that still hang on so many of our walls

A picture of my mother sits on the end of the counter at one of the houses (we have rented three), reminding us of her unforgettable presence, even as she is so far away and drifting further from all of this that she has created and loved so deeply.

And tonight, overhead, the quantity of stars, the Milky Way heralding the Universe even further beyond the sea, inspires like the greatest of sermons, shooting stars punctuating. Humbled and tired, I let the warm laughter of family blanket my aching soul. Against my wishes to listen and participate, my eyes close with exhaustion, all the hard work of these past months coming to rest in the long embraces of sisters and father and so much more.

Time moves on, lives end. The generations replace themselves. Yet life on an island is something set apart, a suspension of the battle, the eerie calm in the center of the storm.

With God’s blessing, we rest, visit, and rejuvenate.

Please share with your friends


Zannah said...

I wish more than anything I was there with you!!! Enjoy the sunsets for me!! Hug everyone!

Pauline said...

This writing is, in itself, a blessing - it's personal and all-inclusive at once, a particular story for a general audience. Thanks for sharing...

Debra said...

Oh Kip. Beautiful words. Just beautiful.

Kip de Moll said...

you know you are here with us at every meal, on every walk, in every laugh, just as much as Grammy.

Pauline and Debra, your kind words are magnified in my heart to confirm just how much I love to write and share our humanity

Jaime said...

I love this post. I love the way you describe the ferry. And island life is so very sweet.
Because I live on an island, I have come to love the ferries. When I am returning from a trip, as soon as I set foot on that boat, I feel as though I am home. It's very comforting. One day I would like to move to an even smaller island. To see the stars so clearly, to be a part of a tight community. Somehow, island communities seem to be quite unique. People take care of each other and respect the land deeply.
Lovely post.