Cormorant bay, p.1
Cormorant Bay, p.1Anne Spackman
By Anne Spackman
Copyright 2014 by Anne Spackman
All rights reserved.
Long ago, in ancient Greece, Odysseus escaped from the island of Thrinacia, where his men had eaten the sacred livestock of Zeus and were punished by the gods as they fled the island—Zeus, king of the gods, sent a storm to destroy their ship and dash the men to their deaths. Odysseus alone escaped as his ship was cut to pieces, for he had been wise and had not eaten the sacred animals.
Odysseus survived on a fragment of the ship which passed for a raft, and drifted to the island of Ogygia, where the sea nymph Calypso lived. She rescued him and took care of him until he was ready to sail once more. Calypso then helped him to build another raft for him to journey home. As Odysseus was sailing away from Ogygia, another storm hit. A seagull came to Calypso with news of Odysseus, that he would surely drown in the storm that was raging over the sea.
Calypso was distraught. She then sent one of her brethren, a sea nymph who shape-shifted into a cormorant, a black sea bird. This cormorant found Odysseus and gave him a magic girdle to bind to his chest. The girdle allowed him to float above the water as he swam for the shore. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was looking after him. She sent a wind to carry him to safety, and at last Odysseus reached dry land. He bent down and kissed the shore and slept in relief.
* * * * *
It happened one winter, when she was twenty-five. Elaine remembered it vividly. She had recently decided to quit her job, and was ready to move to New York City for a new sort of life, when she decided to spend the winter at her Aunt’s house in Pennsylvania. She had been invited to stay for a few weeks, and was glad for a change of pace and scenery.
She arrived in eastern Pennsylvania via the Port Authority bus line from New York City. She was tired as she got off the bus into Easton, Pennsylvania, a lovely old town where her Aunt Cathy lived. Easton was home to Lafayette College. She had been promised a tour of the campus when she arrived.
Aunt Cathy met Elaine downtown with the car, and they headed to Aunt Cathy’s house. Elaine was excited to be coming to Aunt Cathy’s. Aunt Cathy and Uncle John both were kind-hearted and welcoming. Elaine had arrived just before dinner—which was delicious. And though she appreciated the company of her family, she was soon upstairs and asleep in no time.
A walk around Easton—the College Hill was lovely, with stately old houses dating back a hundred years at least. She enjoyed the porch at night with her Aunt and Uncle, just sitting listening to the crickets sing. The town had an interesting history and intriguing architecture. Elaine fell in love with it in no time. She took nightly walks with Aunt Cathy and soon felt that she was at home.
“We are going to a party—a dinner. You are welcome to join us,” her Uncle said one evening, surprising her.
It was a party that she would always remember. It was on Mixsell Street—and it was there that Elaine met the man whom she knew she would never forget.
He was twenty or more years older than she was, reclining on a couch across from her Uncle John, and in conversation with Uncle John. He was talking about something she didn’t understand as she approached the pair during a conversation about someone whom they knew—and in a moment, she knew she liked this man.
She felt a strange sensation, for it wasn’t love at first sight—but like at first sight, which meant far more to her. He was intelligent, and an intellectual, and she had never met anyone quite like him.
It was a strange thing, to like a strange man so much at first sight; she listened to him for a while, absorbing the sensations of his personality as they struck her, and she couldn’t help but wonder all kinds of things about him suddenly. She had no interest in him in any other regard other than as someone she instinctively liked and to whom she enjoyed listening; that is to say she didn’t think of him in an immediate romantic fashion, even though he was attractive. She guessed that he must be married, for he was well into his fifties, if she was any good at hazarding such guesses.
He was rather handsome, with a short bow-tie and a reserved manner. She knew nothing about him, but she was immediately conscious of her own attire, which was not really fine enough for the occasion.
She ended up going to the party table to get a glass of wine a little later, and turning around, ran into him. He asked about her and introduced himself, and they spoke briefly. She talked a little about philosophy, for it interested her, not thinking that for a moment he would respond to her with any enthusiasm, but he did and spoke a little about his own regard for philosophy, and then digressed to talking about the weather and the town.
There was no logical reason for it, but that conversation, and the presence of the strange man whom her uncle knew, haunted her for fifteen years.
After many years, Elaine had at last returned to her Aunt’s house for a brief visit. Time had wrought changes upon the community in Easton, and upon her Aunt and Uncle, who were now living in an apartment in their near-retirement years.
She felt the heart-ache of memory as it flooded back to her. She remembered days when she had been younger, walking with her Aunt, and how she had loved this town, and her family, and the memories of her dreams as they had been when she first arrived in Easton as a young woman.
Elaine was now thirty-nine years old, and though she had been proposed to and had dated several boyfriends, she remained unmarried. She had never quite found “the one”, though she had cared for different men she had known and dated. She supposed there was still time.
One day, her Aunt was telling her stories of the people who had moved away from Easton, and in passing, she discovered that the man from the party had moved up north after his retirement. She felt a trace of melancholy filter through her, and yet it was none of her business, and perhaps she should have been pleased for him to have retired, but she felt again only the familiar bittersweet moment pass into silence, a solemn silence.
She went on a walk that evening into the children’s park she had enjoyed walking to so many years ago, and exulted in the tall gorgeous trees, how she loved them. She loved forests and flowers and wild things growing everywhere and smelling strongly. There were blue hydrangeas and great lilac bushes—her favorites—as well as rhododendrons that swept out over the pavement. The trees had to be at least a hundred years old.
Elaine took a walk up Wayne Avenue and Pierce Street, and then returned home. It would be nice to pick up some lobster ravioli on the way, but it seemed the old Italian deli was no longer in business. She guessed it was about nine o’ clock—and she didn’t want to worry her Aunt.
She sighed, and skipped a little. She was lonely, but not too unhappy. It had been a lovely day. She felt lucky more than usual, just to be the sort of sentimental person she was who valued what she had. It felt good to appreciate her own life. And she looked up to the sky, to what few stars twinkled in the heavens through the clouds, and wished the man who haunted her happiness always.
She took a trip some time later up the coast, and came across a spot where the ocean birds were plenty—gobbling up fish that they had caught. She mentally dubbed it “Cormorant Bay” and she was feeling philosophical, so she let her mind wander. Driving along the East Coast was therapeutic, moreover enchanting.
She began to wonder how many other people were lonely, as she turned on the music to reach out to the human spirit—had to flip through a few stations before something appealed. It was an oldies channel. “Catch the Wind,” by Donovan, then some Rolling Stones. She listened as she drove past a lovely old lighthouse perched against the sea.
It took her a few days to reach Maine and Bar Harbor, where she got a nice hotel room and stayed to hike the local area. She loved the forests of
What do you want more than anything? She now chose to wonder to herself, as though testing her own morality, and found that she liked to be good, and to be as noble as was possible, but that God willing, she wanted a few good dreams to come true in her life—the ones that had been the most important to her.
She knew that when she returned to the city, that even if she never met the love of her life, the man of her dreams, or anyone who even remotely might qualify as such, she had known respect. It was a strange kind of sadness that came with the knowledge that some people are meant to be alone.
Elaine was tired, and woke early. The breakfast at the hotel was not delicious, nor particularly very good—a cherry cheese Danish and a blueberry muffin. She got on the road and headed back south. She felt a bit like Odysseus in his wanderings, metaphorically, for life had thrown its detours, twists, and turns in her path enough times that she was no longer resilient at meeting the unexpected “adventures”, mental and physical journeys besides. Still, she reminded herself that there was still plenty of life in this girl!
She had to remind herself,
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