I want to live nearer the sea. I am my father’s daughter and his bliss was sitting on the deck of his parent’s clapboard shingled summer home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the hamlet of Weekapaug, Rhode Island.
Long after his parents were gone and I was grown, on summer evenings he would sit in wait on that porch and announce the last ferry of the day headed out of Block Island.
Sometime around 9, when the house had quieted, he would sit in solitude with a martini and cigar, awaiting the far off lights of the ship and announce to all, or no one at all, that the last ferry was headed home to Galilee. My father did not sail, or fish, nor did he spend more time in the sand than it took to get one swim in the ocean each day. Yet he was a man who loved the sea. And so it is with me.
My father will be gone seven years in January. He taught me the simplicity of loving the sea and it informed my life in ways he will never know. Just today, that lesson helped give space to my most muddled mind.
I walked the beach early this morning in Harwich, Massachusetts. My visit here a gift from a gem of a new friend. She is a “Codder” whose home invites you to stay for a while.
Maggie is, at 72, intimately familiar with the loneliness that can accompany your middle years. She sniffed out my desperate need for escape from everyday and I did what it is I do in response to generosity. I pushed back at the invitation for “a coupla days at the Cape” armed with excuses, pathetically pitiful reasons it can’t happen: work, Uncle Bobby, daughter and dog. Naturally, verbalizing those excuses only fed my feeling of confinement, and exacerbated the necessity of escape. I fought against my recent habit of self-denial.
Two days I can carve out. Surely, two days and my world at home will not crumble.
And so I drive to the place where the air taunts you to roll down your window and take in the unmistakable smell of salt and seawater, mingled with sundrenched sand, that has no chance to reach my home in Western Connecticut.
I arrive mid-afternoon and the world at home quickly melts away. We talk of writing and love. The former we share, the latter lost for me and newly found for her. We shop for foods we should not eat and find the perfect restaurant that “codder’s” go to; rustic and simple with fresh seafood dominating the menu.
In that moment when the perfect cup of clam chowder and accompanying oyster crackers are set before me, my entire body relaxes in realized respite. Clam chowder tastes best when you need it the most. Fish and Chips are my test of authenticity and I am not disappointed; lightly battered cod that falls away to just the suggested poke of my fork. A crisp Sam Adams Octoberfest and I surrender to this seaside restaurant which overlooks the Harwich Harbor.
It’s been sometime since I have slept so soundly.
There is no question as to my morning priority. While Maggie sleeps, I steel away to the beach just blocks from her home. It is a crisp fall morning, and where the parking lot meets the sand, I impatiently unlace my sneakers and peel away my socks.
The cold sand between my toes has been a longing for over a year now. The sun is just above the horizon and and the wind is firm enough to make a mockery of my hair, but I do not care. I feel my calf muscles respond with every uneven stride in the sand. On this chilly October morning there are but a few of us enjoying the peaceful sound of lapping waves, wind whipped flagpoles, and the gentle beat of a flock of terns darting effortlessly just above the shallow waters. I do not want this morning to ever end.
How my dad would love this day, happily trading Block Island for Nantucket, the perch on his deck for a walk near the waves. Ocean as elixir and inspiration; a gift understood to the soul by a father and daughter.