I know those adjectives don’t usually go together, but I stand by it. The first Saturday of February, there were no holiday hordes. There was almost no one there but for a couple of the beaches where absolutely everyone was out walking their dogs. That was quite glorious. But we walked past great mud flats and rickety ruined piers stretched out above the mud and the waves through woods and out past sand bay full of windswept grass with black feathered heads beyond which stand mysterious islands shrouded in the distant mist and a great city shining white on the far banks of the Severn (Cardiff). Out to Sand Point, the tail end of the Mendips forming sweeping coves and secluded rocky beaches. A defense installation, pill boxes, old boats beached high. Neolithic mounds. Walls built by prisoners of the Napoleonic war. The sky was blue above us scattered with clouds — except when it was all cloud, but this is England after all.
Above all there was room to expand, to breathe even as the wind did its best to take your breath away.
I have a new coat that actually keeps me warm. It has changed my life.
Queequeg! Who could have guessed that he stayed — well, Amos Smalley, upon whom Melville based the character — in this very room (that top room, there at the sunlit end), in this very house where I first met Sam’s grandmother wearing a baseball cap backwards to dinner causing what I later realised was probably some level of disapproval. I stayed here the last time I came, when Queequeg’s room was Tas’s. Her family built this house long ago.
So exciting. Good to come back to a place that always feels a bit like home away from home, after Sam and me got ourselves through college commiserating over worries about our families, lack of funds, the love and loss of land, and missing wildness. We also both lived in in places inundated by seasonal tourists, though the ones on her island were of a slightly different sort. We would escape to the basement in Mary Lyons to drink tea in the evenings — escape everyone else — listen to music, talk about home and writing. We invented the happiness game. I wish we lived within at least a thousand miles of each other.
I love that it still feels wild here, and old. Surrounded by ocean:
Walking through woods full of lovely stone walls from when this place was once grazed flat by sheep:
Old iron wheels and the great tower from those (very semi)industrial times when this island once produced the bricks that helped build Boston’s Beacon Hill
The beginnings of spring (already in full daffodil flower here in Manchester, with crocuses being done), and the season of pinkletinks. I was invited to share the audible delights of peeper’s corner, and we sought them further here:
I am forgetting this pond’s name, black silver reflecting the last of the beech leaves before the new green begins. And now the pinkletink.
Imagine them so loud they can be heard for miles, through the glass car windows even. So loud that as you approach they hurt your ears. They remained invisible to us, escaping to obscurity and silence as we approached.
They are also reintroducing Cranberry bogs, amazing:
This island also has the best baked goods I have had in ages. But mostly, I loved the beauty of it. The emptiness of it. And I miss the whole of this family, who feel a bit like mine, except that they are always so very late. I was so sad to leave…yet I was leaving in the co-pilot’s seat of a tiny Cessna (look, it’s me!)
This made me feel like a flyer or a film star, and was an incredible view as we flew through crystal clear skies to Boston. I now know what some, not all, of those buttons, levers and gauges do.
It took the sting off, I confess. But I was still sad to go.
We got more sunsets the last time I was here, seven years ago now… hope it’s not another seven before I get back.
Just communities. Just cities. Just connections between country and city. Also, the weird and wonderful.