Tuesday, August 08, 2006


It's in the bones somewhere. I cannot picture my forbears in any but urban circumstances; still...

I can picture some greatgrandfather in Cork, hand hammered hobnails gently scraping the cobbles, reading the paper with a pot of tea on the table in front of him. I can dream up the vision of his continental counterpart, kid boots on the pietra dure underfoot, sipping espresso and packing his pipe. They are not farmers. They are not fishermen. But...

There are few of my relatives anywhere I can name that live anywhere flat and dry. The blue thing or the green thing is always at the end of the street. I don't know why, exactly.

I am not a born sailor. The ocean seems like a foe, more or less. It's full of things that wish to sting me or eat me or annoy me. I rarely swim in it. And yet...

I can't swim properly. I learned with all my compatriots, as a child, at the town pool. Old dour Mrs. Metcalf's booming voice still rings in my ears: "Roll over and KICK!" I learned like I learned differential equations. It was required. In some tight spot it might be useful. I couldn't picture the topic coming up all that much.

There is a restaurant across the street from the scene pictured above. It is very old, though it has changed hands many times in just the last fifteen years. They screened in the front porch, and you can idle an hour or two with a Black and Tan and a companion there. The crisp breeze off the afternoon water mixes with the variegated scents of the windowboxes and the benignant aromas of the kitchen roll forward to mix with them. The ocean only whispers at 150 yards.

If by some miracle you could bring my great great grandparents -- or their great grandparents --back from their blessed oblivion, and plunk them down within ten miles of the spot pictured above, and told them in their own foreign tongues that their descendant was around here somewhere, I guarantee you they would show up at that table and say:

I knew I'd find you here.

1 comment:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I had a similar connected feeling when I travelled in Germany. It was like I could fully inflate my lungs and breathe for the first time. The trains ran on time. People were respectful. The language didn't sound gutteral to me...there was a beauty to it. I felt home there, as were my ancestors of generations past.