Life Saving | CAI

Life Saving

Apr 21, 2020

Three geese flew overhead as I walked down Nobadeer Road. I heard them first, the sound of their wings, almost electric. A pair, wingtips almost close enough to touch, and a third lagging behind. Hard not to think of family of some kind. Hard not to think of trinities. Everyone is looking for deeper meaning at a moment like this. 

 


I waved to every car I saw, every runner or dog walker. This isn’t the kind of place where people wave. We are New England polite, a sharp nod of the head in your general direction, or perhaps a quick ‘lo, as we hustle along, hardly a word. The people in cars wave back. The others on the path walk in the road. Or I walk in the road. We aren’t sure how much space the other should cede. 

 

Down at the end of Western Ave is the old lifesaving station, now a youth hostel in summer. One of only a handful of Victorians we have left on the island. People thought the design too gaudy back then, if anybody had any money to build with. People forget how many times this island has seen fortunes lost and gained. The lifesaving station was built in the 1870s, and all the way out here on the edge of the island there was nobody to complain. 

 

I’ve been thinking about that word, about life saving. I lay down on the grass in front of the old building, double barn doors big enough to store a surfboat. Everything is shuttered now. This is the time of year when the island is supposed to be waking up. The surfmen who were stationed here would walk their part of the coast of the island, back and forth and back and forth all night long. They’d sweep the sand, in search of sailors wrecked on the bars. They once rescued a cat who lived another ten years or so. 

 

Now the station’s once-expansive view of the low dunes is blocked. A new house sprouted there last winter, after an old cottage was torn down. Construction was suspended island-wide at the end of the third week in March. The new shingles look raw as a wound.

 

I follow a footpath down to the beach near Auriga Street. Oversand vehicles used to be allowed down this way. Long summer days once started here--mothers packed sandwiches and potato chips and ice pops in plastic sleeves and one of the neighbor dads always had a beer cracked as soon as the car started. It was the job of the kids to let the air out of the tires, the slow hissssss of air escaping and the crackle of the Red Sox game on the radio or music on an oldies station. 

 

It could be quiet out here for longer than any of us would like.

 

The tide is low and the beach is pockmarked with footprints from people who have walked here before me. Paw prints, too, from some playful dogs. We are walking this same beach, separated by time. In my normal life, I walk alone because I want to. But to walk alone because you have to is an entirely different thing altogether.

 

I head back towards home again as the sun dips the wind kicks up. They say it could snow tonight, I think I heard. The daffodils are starting to come up. The world is still turning.  The same three geese, at least I think they must be the same, fly over me low enough that I can hear their wings. I wonder where they are going.