Jonathan and I opened the cabin in Maine. We had to make repairs, especially the damage done by kids on Halloween. They threw a three-foot long, 6″ by 6″ beam through the nine-pane window in the back door. A nice neighbor boarded it up for us.
The glass door has been there, I imagine, since the cabin was built, just after the turn of the century. We’ve had the place for 26 of those years. We replaced the glass with one large piece of plexiglass. It’s not the same. Now the antique door is just another functional exit.
The place needed painting, so we scraped and painted. And we wove some fun time into our chores during our four-day stay. We played a lot of cribbage on the little screened-in porch that Jon and I built about 20 years ago.
We were glad to have time together, and glad to be near the ocean. When we left Westport it was 97 degrees. They said on the radio ‘it feels like 110.’ I’m not sure they know why it felt like 110, but we were glad to drive to Maine’s coast. It was 75 degrees at Old Orchard Beach when we arrived during a thunderstorm. The skies cleared and the air cooled.
Jon and I drove up to Maxwell’s farm on Cape Elizabeth to pick our own strawberries. It’s a moment to which we look forward each summer. We kneel in rows of fresh, ripe, delicious berries, savoring samples. If this isn’t a real communion meal I don’t know what is! You can look out over the Atlantic and feel the cool ocean breeze. I remember kneeling in those same rows 25 years ago, when Jon was 7, giving thanks for the berries and the boy. That day brought the same sense of appreciation, and more.
Before we made the journey back to Westport, we took a ride to Kennebunkport, just twenty or so miles south of Old Orchard. We decided to try to find some lobster bodies to take onto the rocks at our favorite ocean spot, stopping at one of the lobster pounds on the way.
The young man who waited on me didn’t know if they had any lobster bodies, and wasn’t at all sure why anyone would want them if they did. He asked his manager. They didn’t have any. As I was walking back to the car, where Jon was waiting, I noticed a small Mom and Pop vegetable stand that had a sign saying they also had lobster.
An older woman was tending the place, arranging small bunches of wild flowers, using a variety of glass containers-fruit juice jars and so forth. She greeted me warmly, saying, “Great day, isn’t it.” “Sure is,” I said. Then I asked, “Got any lobster bodies?” Another kind of smile flashed across her beautifully-lined face.
She said, “Well, ya know, Ella was just in here a short while ago and she asked me to put up a few bodies, but she forget to take ’em. So they’re here in a bag, all ready to go, and you know Ella can get bodies anytime she wants. She’s married to the man who owns the hardware store downtown, don’t ya know.”
She opened the walk-in cooler, got the bag, and another tray of bodies. “Well,” she said, “let’s see. Here’s five more. Will eight bodies do ya?”
“They sure will,” I said, taking my wallet out of the pocket of my new L. L. Bean shorts. She put her hand in front of my wallet, gesturing for me to put it back, saying, “Now I’m not gonna charge you for these bodies. I’m just so pleased they’re gonna get used, don’t ya know. I hate to throw them out. I hope you enjoy them.”
“Oh, I will,” I said, wishing I could tell her that she had given something else to me on that warm, sunny summer day. I paused, trying to find a way to tell her. I realized I couldn’t. Not unless I stood there and tried to explain about the broken window, an act of violent vandalism, somehow healed by her warmth and generous spirit
I got back into the car, smiling, and put the bag of bodies in back. Jonathan said, “Hey, great, you got some.”
When I told him about my encounter, using the Maine accent as I repeated the words of the woman who gave me the bodies, he said, “Oh, I wish I had come in with you. That’s so sweet.” Jon uses that phrase a lot, when referring to the gentle warmth of older people: that’s so sweet.
Yes, it was sweet. Like those delicious strawberries at Maxwell’s farm. And the lobster bodies which we picked apart and savored out on the Maine rocks as the waves washed in around us and the gulls dove for pieces we tossed their way. Sweet.
I don’t know much. I don’t know much about God, or the gods, about distant heavens with angels, and salvation, or resurrection. Those are distant, empty words. I don’t know why kids would want to destroy a delicate old door on a little cabin. But I know this much: there are moments in life that are so sweet that they can be savored for hours and days. And those moments matter. They give life a sweetness that stays, and they can take away the bad aftertaste of violence, hate and destruction.
Life is made of millions of tiny moments. Some are bitter, others are sweet. Our task is to taste them all, to avoid becoming bitter because we’ve tasted bitterness, and never to forget that the precious sweetness that is ours at any moment is a gift to be savored. Our task, too, is to do whatever we can to take away some hidden bitterness that’s in a person we encounter-or one with whom we live. That’s what the woman at the vegetable/lobster stand did for me, and I’ll do my best to pass it on to you.
I hope you are well. Stay out of the hot sun. And learn to dig out those tasty little morsels in the lobster body. They’re the best!