The silence is loud. I have described this situation, this situation that started as self imposed isolation, as long distance off-shore sailing without the sailing part. My advice to others has been to think of this time as a voyage of undetermined length back to the known.
I’m wrong, at least for myself. It’s understandable I suppose. In broad brush there are many similarities, the isolation being the most obvious. The preparation for a voyage of uncertain length being another. The realization that the land I’m returning to will not be the same as the land I left. But it is the silence, the unchanging landscape outside my window, and the and the lack of the vast sweep of the ocean-scape keeping my head in perspective.
When I’m voyaging there is the physical challenge of matching myself against the scale and randomness of nature. It’s not a competition but more of a search for one’s place in the dramatic seascape. I often find “A Horse with No Name” playing softly at the back of my mind as it has over the decades during voyages over desert and sea. They are both places full of drama, and a true sense of scale.
Which brings me back to this loud silence where I’m my own jailer because the zombies out there are selective and invisible. All we see is how our leaders respond to something they can’t see.
All of this leaves me with time to consider, to go introvert on my introversion.
I’m the eldest of three, older brother to two accomplished and dynamic sisters. (Both of whom are denying the label as they read this. One is being modest, her leadership is near invisible much of the time but none the less powerful. The other talks about how much was left for her to do when fate changed the direction of her life. Both give more than they take. But I digress, as I so often do.)
The point in bringing my sisters up was to contrast the lives we have lived. Robin was born after we moved from the farm into the apartment over my father’s office. Roseanne came home to an expansive single nuclear family brick house several blocks away.
I came home to a different experience. Fitzwilliam is a tiny New Hampshire village that was founded in 1773. The expansive brick house overlooking the large fenced common dates from shortly before the founding of the town.
Steeplechase was the name of the property, 80 acres forming a blunt wedge with the narrow end containing the house. There was a side lawn large enough to hold a dog show. I imagined that you could have landed a small plane on that lawn, except for the sky-scraping flagpole in the center of it, a pole on which my grandfather proudly raised a large American flag. There was a small apple orchard, a flower garden mostly daffodil, and a larger vegetable garden that ran down alongside the expansive lawn.
Mostly I remember the inside of the house. It was a big, often noisy place ruled by my grandmother. There were dogs and puppies and people in various combinations. Stories to go with them too. It was my grandmother’s place. Both her sons lived there: the lawyer, my father; the horseman, my uncle. Each with his wife. My mother was named Peggy. Sadly, I can’t remember my aunt’s name. My uncle traded her in for a younger model but that was later. There was another couple, and their son, too. They helped my grandmother with the dogs. Grandmother, or Elimay as she was known, raised championship boxers.
And then there was the constant flow of people through the house. The men went to the smoking room, what we would call a man-cave today—except my father, who was always working. The women occupied the kitchen and a long sitting room with a beautiful south-facing bay window. Kids and dogs were welcome in the sitting room, less so in the kitchen, in the puppy room only by special invitation.
The sitting room was rich with history, memories of two world wars and those who never came home. The roaring twenties were talked about like they happened last month. The Great Depression, that happened last week. Much of this I’ve reconstructed from fragments of memory. Many of the words and concepts were well beyond a child of my age.
Then suddenly I was yanked from this rich and wonderful environment and placed in a room of my own in an apartment next to the county courthouse three towns away. Gone was the expansive lawn, the orchard, the dogs, the wonderful and attentive older women. The lawn was replaced by a concrete driveway walled off with an impossibly tall stockade fence. There were other children, and dogs, but there were on the other side of the fence. I could hear them and see them through a tiny gap in the fence. In time there was a sandbox and a basketball hoop but the gates at the end of the drive remained closed.
And that is how it feels now, being back there walled into a tiny existence with the sounds of life in the distance, fading.
And I know this will pass, but I miss the sun rising over the water and the boat turning on the tide . . .
Image from #atthebirdfeeder © 2020 david e bell