Monday, July 25, 2011

And another thing

... Where was I? Ah, yes. Boatbuilding. Fools and optimists set schedules for building boats; realists know better. All summer long the boat skeleton swelters in the garage, swarmed with cave crickets and sawdust. I peek through the window and say goodbye every morning on my way to work, humidity fogging the trees and a chorus of late-summer cicadas already swelling the air.

But unless you measure progress by "thinking," there's been little progress.

This weekend I rode past a salt marsh, that almost electric jolt of green grass and blue water that always feel like coming home. The oily, musky, fecund stink of the mud, ospreys soaring, cattails drooping in the heat. How nice it will be to drift past those grass-whiskered shores someday.

(One learns that one does not plan to "sail" on the Chesapeake in July except by some divine intrusion on the natural order of things. It happens, but like miracles, it's best not to count on it.)

I rode past the lost ruins of a house that was built over 350 years ago, by a man who likely cursed the calms and reveled in the seasonal gales just as I do; who skated his vessel over oyster beds and sandbars; and who perhaps looked at the far grey line of the horizon and thought: there.

Lambert Wickes, born where I road, grew to be a naval captain of the very young United States of America. He harried British ships, carried Benjamin Franklin to France, and had all manner of heroic exploits before his vessel, the 16-gun Reprisal, was lost in an autumn storm off the Grand Banks.

Eastern Neck is silent now; but under the marshes and thick trees lie the remains of a that old house from so many years ago.

1 comment:

Babs said...

Sailing in the Chesapeake is best done when the heat index drops below 110. Great description of Wickes. One can only imagine what life must have been like in small towns dotted along the Chesapeake 350 yrs. ago--were they growing tobacco then, trading with the Indians, bringing precious blue and white dishes in big casks filled with sawdust in large ships that set sail from England? Great history in this area.