One thing I must tell you is that loons played a big part in our lives. A pair of loons came to our lake in Maine every summer, the same ones each year, for loons stake out a territory in the north and return to it to breed. They arrived moments after ice out, as if they had been hiding in an alternate universe, waiting for the moment when the world began to flow again. In the summer, they nested behind the little island that we viewed from our screened porch. In the summer, Rosemary and I, in our kayaks, would sign to each other when we noticed them nearby, then drift quietly beside them until they dove deep beneath the dark surface of the lake. They left before Thanksgiving, under gray skies, when they headed for warmer waters, and we sometimes spotted them when we went to Cape Cod in winter months. Loons are more quiet in these other locations, though, their eerie yodels and crazy wails saved for the more social summers, I suppose. Loons were a part of our lives, and they are woven into the chapters of my book. In my house, loons are embroidered on my towel, comprise a section of my library, and sit on several shelves – little wooden ones scattered among the stones and shells that decorate desks, dressers, and windowsills.
Rosemary collected stones and shells. She kept them in glass jars and in beautiful bowls, on her desk at work, on her nightstand at home, strewn in front of her favorite books on her bookcase. When we walked on the beach, which we often did, she would come to me, hands held out, open, toward me, holding a beautiful shell or a stone in the shape of a heart, pleased with her find. Sometimes she gave me one to keep.
Some months before she died, on a cold Memorial Day, when her cancer had returned and we were selling our Old Saybrook condo so that we could stay in the City closer to her medical treatment, Rosemary asked me to drive her to a nearby beach. Rosemary brought her shells and threw them back into the ocean one by one, whispering words I could not hear.
After her death, I often walked on the beach that was minutes from my new condo further down the Connecticut shoreline, wondering if perhaps a familiar-looking shell at this beach had miraculously found its way here from that Old Lyme beach, where it had been thrown back into the sea, four years earlier and further east.
Here, also, I looked for stones in the shape of hearts, imagining them as little gifts Rosemary had placed in my way, reminders of her love. Some days were richer than others in heart stones on the beach; but on each walk I found at least one. I took them home and painted them, placing them in my courtyard garden.
One day on the beach, I was feeling very lonely and angry that Rosemary was not with me. It was a gray, windy day toward the end of November, and I yelled up the empty beach, “I do not want any stones from you! No matter if I find the perfect heart, I will not believe that you have put it in my path! Worse, it will only remind me that you are not here; keep your hearts to yourself! They are useless, just me amusing myself, trying to fill some void with nonsense.” And, never looking down, I ranted all the way down the beach to the point where I could see Burying Hill Beach across the inlet.
I walked back on the path rather than on the beach, becoming even more vexed and impatient by the setting sun in my eyes. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and depressed. As I got out of the car, I felt something heavy in my pocket. Two heart stones! I must have picked them up on the beach without thinking, lost in my pique. I laughed and put them on the shelf in the garage with the others, all waiting to be painted.
Days went by and I walked again on the beach. I had on my knit cap, my winter coat with its hood, and my new black, suede boots. The bright, December sun left splashes of gold on the waves. When I reach the shore’s edge, I looked down. It was as if someone had spilled a whole basket of heart stones! More and more appeared as I walked. I filled my pockets; I packed them into my arms. It was magical, but as to whether it was Rosemary responding to the threats and pleas of the last visit, or a change in my mood that allowed me to see what had been there all along, I didn’t know.
As I unloaded my heart stone wealth into the back floor of the car, I had the idea that I should write a blog about them. I leaned against the side of the car and turned this over in my mind for a while, arranging the thoughts in preparation for committing them to writing. “I will need a photo for the blog!” I thought, and locked the car and walked back to the beach to capture the moment. I crossed the edge of the dune, looking for the optimal angle. There right in front of me, in the water, by the long, empty beach, were two loons — a confirmation, surely, that she knew about the heart stones.
Lovely, Brynna. I’ve long thought that we don’t collect stone; they collect us.
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Thanks for your writing and thoughts – here’s to Rosemary, the loons and things from the sea!
Lovely. Thank you — so moving.
This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece.
Gerri tells me you and Shannon are now happily ensconced in one of the Palm Beaches. Yay! Hope that means your ribs are healing. What a wonderful change from dreary northeast weather.
Want to say I loved both of your blog posts. I don’t know how you do it, but I feel part of your story when I read them. Keep ‘em coming!
Things are calm here. My task for the morning is to figure out how to register for the Peace Corps Iran conference in Chicago the end of May. Just love doing this stuff online@?!