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Settling Twice cover


Deborah Joy Corey probes the complex bonds between family, lovers, and neighbors that shaped her sense of identity: then, as a girl growing up in rural New Brunswick, and now as a wife and mother living on the coast of Maine in Settling Twice. Read the first chapter here.

Anne of Castine is being launched this morning. She is gracious on the boat trailer, with a sleek, upturned nose and low-slung wooden cabin, two generous square windows to stern, and two smaller square windows to bow. Even her waterless stance is elegant, yet solid in her sureness, her unassuming strength radiating from her belly like that of a middle-aged, but well-trained fighter.

On the trailer bed, Anne sits a dozen feet above the paved pier, which also serves as the town dock and public parking lot. The boatyard owner, Kenny Eaton, is standing near Anne, goading a man. “Go ahead, get up on her. Go up the side, you can get up there.” Kenny takes the man’s elbow, leading, jibing, and pushing him closer to Anne.

The man, whom I presume to be Anne’s new owner if only by his diffidence, shakes his head while hoisting up onto the trailer’s wheel, and then he goes up and over Anne’s side, still shaking his head as if he’s submitting to a schoolboy challenge. Maybe it is reminiscent of a similar scene when he was young and being pushed across the dance floor to ask a pretty girl to dance.

Once safely on deck, he disappears into the cabin below. I picture him giving the thumbs-up, maybe even doing a little jig to celebrate having ascended up Anne, although he will probably not remember it that way. He will no doubt remember it as cruising, a word used for both sea and land, and an activity that my father said could stop time and expand one’s understanding of things around them. Dad was an expert cruiser, not of water, but of woods, spending years of his life estimating the lumber potential of his own land and the forests of other landholders. He pronounced the word as it is spelled rather than transposing the sound of the s to z. Cruising: To travel at a steady or efficient speed.

It was a vocation that kept his body strong, his mind mathematical, a vocation where he found freedom while trekking through poplar and maple, pine and fir, a square compass hanging around his neck like a backstage pass to a mythical forest.

The air coming off the buoyant tidal Bagaduce River is somehow virginal, fresh and silky against my face and neck and décolletage, air that not only sweeps the skin, but penetrates like a thousand tiny stars landing and turning liquid, creating the desire to breathe deeply that washy aroma that smells slushy with a dash of sea salt. Its weight is less than nothing and it makes my brain buoyant, too, cleansing it with the redemptive qualities of nature. Is that what Melville meant when he wrote the lovely aromas in that enchanted air? Is that what he felt? My poodle Max lies on the dark-planked sail loft floor, a miniature apricot posed like a tiny Shakespearean lion in a bleaching splash of sunlight. Clearly, the air is affecting him, too, calming him, satiating him. His head is raised as if in worship, brown eyes sparkling, pink tongue hanging, panting softly. He is a faithful dog, never far from my side, not really a shadow, but a tethered friend. Always close. I ask him if he is happy and he blinks. Like me, he loves the sun. All winter long, we move from sun patch to sun patch, desperately trying to calm our damp-induced shivering. Once I read in a camping journal that Maine winters can be powerfully cold—that the whole humidity thing buggers keeping warm.

By March, it is impossible to remember how harsh winters melt into satisfying summers. By March, I’ll leave Max behind to take my daughters to the beaches of the Bahamas or Bermuda or California.

One particularly cold morning last winter, it registered 45 below zero with the windchill. Rushing from the airport parking lot to the terminal before the sun had risen, I turned to see my younger daughter trying her best to keep up, tears streaming down her face.

“What is it, sweetie?” I called.

“The wind, Mama. The wind is biting me.”

“Run. Soon, we’ll be some place warm.”

Run.

To me, beaches are the great equalizer. All my life, I have searched them out for warmth and healing. After my father’s death several years ago, I lay on a Bermuda beach and wept for days, the warmth coaxing tears the way sun coaxes water from the earth. There on the pink sand that gets its color from the waste of parrotfish, the realization of his death bore into me. Such was the power of his dying, as powerful and physical as the most hostile Maine winter. Who, without having experienced it, could ever imagine it? And who, without having known the death of a loved one, ever expects it to cut so deeply?

***

In the warm enchanted air, a few men have gathered around Anne of Castine. Of course there is Kenny Eaton, and Ted who drives the huge boat-hauling truck, tall and regal enough to have been nicknamed Sir Ted by Kenny’s grown daughters. His presence in a car or half-ton would be overwhelming. Cartoonish.

Three other men loosely circle Anne, one I recognize as Brad Tenney, a realtor who has shown me a number of houses in town. Often, I wonder if he recognizes my restlessness, since I already have a suitable home on Court Street. Maybe my searching has something to do with a feeling that has followed me all my life, a feeling that no matter where I was, my true self existed somewhere else. Even as a child growing up in eastern Canada surrounded by those woods that my father knew so well, the poplar and maple, the pine and fir, I kept my eyes to the hills, drawn to what lay beyond. Surely that was where my real life was waiting to begin, or was maybe already taking place without me, and I was simply the cutout which remained.

Of course, a move a few streets away from Court Street would hardly be beyond the hills of Castine, but maybe the change would be enough to curb my restlessness while my two daughters are growing up, something new to temporarily inoculate me. No scratching or plucking them too soon from this village they so adore.

Brad Tenney is a golden Lab of a man, good-natured, and I suspect, loyal. He embodies the best of the village, soaked with as much history as any local and capable of imitating all of the present or long-gone inhabitants, making him popular with many. Still he has the ability to move through the elmlined streets light-footed and often invisible—an expert cruiser—his faded navy baseball cap, worn oxford shirt, and bleached khakis as good as any chameleon’s skin. When he passes on the opposite side of the street, I sometimes do a second take and even then, I may not be sure if it is really him. Another glance might reveal the sidewalk empty. A ghost of chance, a ghost of possibility. They say if you live on a remote coast long enough, you become acquainted with both.

This morning, Brad is taking the occasional picture of Anne while chatting with the two other men whom I don’t recognize—and that on this small peninsula is a sign of summer—strangers. Pen- is the word root for “almost” when forming compound words like penumbra and penultimate; insula is Latin for island. Peninsula is almost an island, and probably no word describes Castine better.

This small village sits at the end of Route 166, a two-lane road that stretches fourteen miles southeast of Route 1. Just before the village, 166 narrows, dipping between an inlet on the Bagaduce River and a grassy marsh, a section dug narrower by the English during the Revolution in order to keep their soldiers from deserting. I often imagine those soldiers hollowed out by war, feeling their lives were somewhere else, waiting to begin, or maybe already taking place without them. The cutouts of these soldiers still hover over the fields and forts and shores of Castine, their bodies now made of fog and mist, their lonely cries still echoed by the swaying bell buoy.

It is said that we bring two selves to this world, and two sorrows. The two selves are easy to imagine with a soldier. Surely one self exists where he originated, and the other exists where he defends. His two sorrows are often impossible to guess, though, for one must always know the man well to know his sorrows, and even then they may remain a mystery. So far the easiest sorrows for me to recognize have been my father’s. While he lay dying, they were as obvious as the green-blue of his eyes, as replete as the tears that would mourn him—one sorrow being that he was leaving his adored wife, and the other, that he was leaving us, his children. On his gravestone, we had engraved wonderful your love for us, words as simple as they were grand, just as he was. Standing at his burial, we saw our reflection in the black marble stone. A flock of grown children with their mother, weeping. Beloved. 

At times, the narrow part of Route 166—now aptly called the English Canal—floods, making the village temporarily an insula. For some, this is a dream come true. More than a few Castinians have expressed the wish for a drawbridge at the canal, a registrar of sorts, with a gatekeeper to keep a record of those who come and go.

Beyond the canal the road curves up a gentle hill through a tunnel of maples and poplars, rising into a turn where a high and broad avenue opens, allowing one to drive through the sheared green fields of the golf course. The first street off this avenue is Main: a long broad street anchored by stately elms that shade the colonial homes and storefronts, all the way down to the place of gatherings and dockings and launchings, all the way to the town pier. Here, the terns and seagulls and pigeons patrol, fat and loud preachers, consummate gatekeepers of the sea, careening, screaming, screeching, scolding, and registering all who come and go. If the bottom of the sea is chaos, as scientists have said, then surely the life at its perimeter could be as well. Perhaps these birds are only echoing tremors from below, like faithful canaries in a mineshaft, trying to warn us of things to come.

I have not been around boatyards all my life, nor have I ever spent time in an old sail loft, as I am doing this summer, but during my years on this almost island, I have watched enough boat launchings to know the way men move when they are part of a launching. I say men not to exclude my gender, but because it is men who usually gather, and have since the Gulf of Maine became the highway of choice when settled in the early 1600s by the French and the English. Then Castine was a Times Square of fishing and shipping, a harbor cut so naturally deep that it could have become similar to Boston or New York City, but now this once busy coastal intersection languishes in a kind of gracious limbo, never too far from the past and certainly never too close to the future—a trait of many of its dwellers, as well—a trait that often reveals itself at launchings. Locals look, step back, wander, drift, all the while keeping watch, but they never get too close to the boat about to be launched nor do they move too far away. In fact, most will only touch her if she is in some sort of trouble, and even then, they will do this as hesitantly as the new owner ascended Anne. They will do it with some reservation, as if between them and the boat hangs a cloak that should not be touched unnecessarily.

Kenny Eaton waves men away if they become too anxious to help at a launching, especially if he is about to man the boat alone. It’s as if they are insulting this seasoned boat wrangler by assuming he needs some assistance, or maybe Kenny knows all too well the proper approach, fearing something may be lost once others needlessly touch her, their oily fingerprints staining the gossamer forever. I wonder if what they stand to lose is not something of the launching, but something of themselves. Maybe the ritual of approach is similar to the moves practiced by any person moving closer to a thing in which vigilant admiration has created love, be that a boat or a person, a village or a whale, a sail loft or an island. Maybe what we all stand to lose by touching things unnecessarily is simply the chance to be close. Who has not stepped too close to an admired thing, only to have it quickly disappear?

Kenny doesn’t say much if others offer to help. He simply moves ahead to get the job done, often never acknowledging their presence. The same way he and other locals might not acknowledge a stranger or a summer person arriving year after year, or even a declared new year-rounder, for that matter. No, the declared must earn their right to this village, which among other things seems to have something to do with toughing it out for several winters in a row. Even my short winter breaks to beaches keep me from the inner circle. A real Main’ah stays. Perhaps only then will I become acquainted with the ghosts. And only then will the locals nod at me with true recognition.

Once I was told by a man tilling my flower beds that some locals had taken bets on me the first winter I arrived. Yes s’ar, they didn’t think you’d last.

I found the comment both flattering and insulting. Flattered, that I had been noticed, but insulted with the conclusion in the comment. It was as if I’d been lumped with a series of unsuccessful settlers. And what about the ones who hadn’t made it? Had they left on their own accord as some of my Loyalist ancestors had, floating their houses on barges farther Down East to Canada, or had some been driven away? There is no shortage of stories of coastal expulsions, just as there is no shortage of people coming to rob and pillage the Maine coast. Perhaps even more threatening to a local now are those who come to change what they find, fancying themselves more sophisticated. No wonder we newcomers must earn our right to be here. No wonder locals don’t always speak, even though they have assessed our presence, as easily as they have breathed in the lush morning air.

At launchings with eager newcomers and strangers milling about, you can almost see the ticker tape of language racing through Kenny Eaton’s head— city boy, cheapskate, asshole—language that sometimes sprays from him like the black exhaust from his rotting launch boat, Isabelle, with the yellow zigzag of lightning painted on her sides. But during an early-morning launch, one before six a.m., these fiery words have been rolled away as snugly as a man’s sorrows, as snugly as sea mist in tied sails, and Kenny appears unflappable. Later when the day is hotter and busier and Kenny is being crowded, things  may change, but if the launch is early, which seems to be the case for the most beloved boats, a calm is rendered. Within this placidity, men are free to do their dance of respect and admiration as long as they understand that triedand-true but never spoken rule of launchings: Do Not Touch Her Unnecessarily.

***

Beyond the deck, a cormorant is floating. When I first slid open the wide glass doors to the Bagaduce River twelve days ago, he was here, floating and keeping his back to me, but like the locals, I knew that he was fully aware of my presence, his head turning from side to side to catch me in his peripheral vision.

The double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is black with a greenish-purple sheen rendered from the oils that keep his wings from drying, and he is long-necked with an orange throat. No more than a sea crow, I find him exotic, and have given him the name Jinx. Sometimes I spy him flying beneath the clear water, darting from place to place in search of sculpins and gunnels, a speed demon appearing to fly much faster beneath the sea than above. Early in the mornings, we are often the only two present. In a recurring dream, I cling to him and fly, the oil from his feathers greasing my palms.

On the deck, I lie facedown on the weathered boards. The sun feels warm and silken. Shading my eyes, I look down through the cracks. Glossy emerald seaweed floats in the high tide like embellished wings over the rocks and wraps around the sail loft’s soggy pilings, which are rotting from the constant tides. The briny smell is both ancient and fresh, a primal past mixed with maiden hope. What smell do I like better than that of morning sea musk? Only the immaculate smell of my daughters’ faces.

Shaded beneath the sail loft is a world with sounds of wet lapping, laughing, giggling, and sometimes crazed cursing as wild as any seasoned boat wrangler’s. Despite the constant tides, a fairy house that my older daughter, Georgia, built between two pilings over a week ago still remains. No more than gathered moss and rocks and wood with blousy sea lettuce propped on thin twigs of driftwood to make a partial roof, it is easy to imagine the fairies frolicking about. Georgia says it is a home for sea nymphs, which are her favorite because they rescued Hephaestus, the son of Zeus and Hera. Famed for his artistry, Hephaestus crafted works of wonder, such as Achilles’ shield, embossed with dramatic scenes of life and death, joy and grief, peace and war, scenes similar to Castine’s rich history.

A circular grouping of pried-open blue mussel shells filled with dried sea grass represents the sea nymphs’ beds. If one should disappear or become damaged, Georgia will race over to the town dock and retrieve another from where they cling to the docks, just below the waterline. For some reason, the shade of the sail loft has protected this work of art—every bit as interesting to me as Achilles’ shield—but that is not always the case. Yesterday, I accidentally knocked a blue water goblet from the sill of an open window. It shattered and sprinkled on the wet rocks below, ringing like crystal. When I went down, there was nothing to be found, not even a shard of glass. The dank world had swallowed all the pieces.

Had the glass been consumed out of curiosity or resentment? Had I offended this damp world, or is it simply a soggy Venus flytrap? Would the glass be released someday? Might I find a piece of it while walking up along the shore, dull yet transformed? Over the years, I have found old bottles, broken jugs, pieces of pottery, and even a headless doll. Once I found a man’s worn black belt tied around a woman’s battered red flip-flop, creating such a vision of violence that I could not bring them home. Instead, I left them as I had found them, tangled with one another on the wet sand.

Jinx floats under the deck, but doesn’t look up, always the nonchalant lover. I suppose he’s waiting for the sardines I sometimes toss, but yesterday I gave what was left to a seagull that was sunning on the rooftop. Hesitating at first, thinking the seagull common, and although I hate to admit it now, unworthy of the sardines that I had reserved for the exotic one.

To me, sardines are as satisfying as any caviar. My father and I often shared a tin while my mother attended prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. She despised their smell and would not permit them to be opened in her kitchen. Dad and I ate them straight from the can, savoring their salty sweetness as they crumbled like sea cakes in our mouths. If our calico cat Sailor lingered nearby, we’d feed him one, too. After, we’d bag the oily can in plastic and stuff it in the bottom of the garbage pail in the shed. Back in the kitchen, we soaped and rinsed our hands thoroughly, as if the smell were a sin that needed to be wiped away before Mom returned. Still, she always knew. No matter what we did, she smelled their oily ghosts, and the scent annoyed her until it dissipated, a smell similar to the one on my hands when I wake from dreams of clinging to Jinx.

Yesterday, after listening to the seagull’s desperate nasal caw, I lined several sardines across the deck floor, and then stepped back inside to watch him descend upon them. Within seconds, other seagulls flapped about, their white wings so powerful that the papers on my desk fluttered. Long I gazed at the prodigy of plumage. Watching, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been captivated by a bird in a very long time. The thought opened like a dark and ravaged stage. Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts and the scenery is falling apart.

Watching Jinx’s shiny black head and breathing in his ancientness with the sea musk, I wonder when I lost my ability to see this world of living creatures. When did I stop seeing? When did I stop looking? My mother said that when I was three I could identify and imitate all the songbirds in our yard. The white-throated sparrow was my favorite. It sang, Oh, sweet Canada. Second to the sparrow was the ruby-throated hummingbird. I loved it not for its buzzing, clicking sound, but because Mom had once revived one chilled by frost. As a child, I ran the hummingbird’s resurrection over and over in my head. Now I barely recognized nor noticed one bird from another. What dark stage was I standing on? Henry Beston declared in The Outermost House that nature is a part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery, man ceases to be man. Had I ceased to be woman? And had a glorious black crow come to restore my senses?

***

For twelve days, I had tried to coax Jinx closer. At low tide I sometimes sat under the sail loft on a rock, camouflaged with wet bubbled seaweed and tossing sardines one by one, but he had retrieved them all without looking at me. Why was his presence not enough? Why did I need to be acknowledged?

Snorkeling in the Bahamas, I once came across a barracuda. It suddenly appeared within arm’s reach, metal gray and floating sideways. About three feet long, he was shaped like a small shark with a frowning, disapproving mouth. My husband had warned me if I saw a barracuda to pop it on its nose with my diving stick, but I could not. How could I move when I could not breathe? The clear greenish eye held me spellbound as if within it lay a work of wonder and all I needed to witness it was to be present. The barracuda and I stayed eye to eye for what seemed like a very long time. When he turned to scoot away, the sea carried his whisper, Know me.

Back in the beach house, I pored over the section on barracudas in Fish of the Atlantic—a fierce fish with a narrow muscular body, a long cruel mouth with undershot jaw, and yellowish-green eyes. Barracudas will strike at most moving objects. Swimmers have been fatally bitten by them. How exhilarating to know that I’d come so close and not been bitten. I had my own survival story to tell. And I’d concluded that it was my stillness that had saved me—not a diving stick, but being held spellbound.

I told the barracuda story over and over. So often, that on another trip to the Bahamas, my husband visited a local goldsmith and had a small gold barracuda necklace made for me. That was long ago. When I think how few times I have been held spellbound by nature in the last twenty years, I feel ashamed. But in the memory of the barracuda, I find something else shameful. The telling and retelling of my story had diluted the experience somehow, worn it out from too much touching, like the feet of Saint Peter at the Vatican’s door. Now, I only remember my story and not the intoxicating feeling of being present with the barracuda.

As if to reassure me, Max comes closer, his toenails clicking on the deck. He stands still, looking down through the cracks, too. Maybe he feels the innate possibility of Jinx’s power over me, or maybe he just wants to be with me. Present. “Oh, Max, isn’t Jinx lovely?”

And you are too, my love, my penultimate, you are lovely, too.

***

Kenny hollers for his partner Ted and they walk around the boat trailer that cradles Anne, checking lines while the seagulls careen.

“Brings back memories,” one of the witnesses says, as if to no one and as if to all.

“Oh yeah.”

“Nice one.”

Even though I am only a short distance from these men, I cannot tell which sentence belongs to whom. No, these voices are communal in their intimacy with Anne of Castine, as communal and indistinguishable as voices singing while countless hands pull on a rope to raise a sail. Hooray, and up she rises, Early in the morning . . .

If this time transcends everyday life as some occasions do, these men may look at their palms later and see marks from their communal moment. A Salinger character said, “I have scars on my hands from touching certain people.” If nature is part of our humanity, then maybe we are capable of being marked by it as well. And if this is possible, then maybe we can also be marked by the inanimate things that we love, by boats and sail lofts, by islands and villages.

When a dear friend reminded me of the Salinger line not long ago, I asked her what it meant. Not that I didn’t understand, but for a moment the beauty of it was overwhelming, a statement immense enough to make me stop in its penumbra, as powerful and pretty as vast sails being raised above. Immediately I looked at my palms, studying the lines that some believe to be our past and future, but may simply be scars from touching certain people, or from having been present with the things that we adore. 

I rub my palm lines, claiming the longest ones for my now-deceased mother and father. Always with me. With me still. I give three connected lines shaped like a perfect sail to my husband and our two daughters, and six deeply cut ones to my siblings and their children. Several I reserve for aunts and uncles and cousins and dear friends, and a few curving lines I name after my favorite beaches: Horse Shoe and White Sand and Big Sur. A circular line I give to my childhood swimming hole, one to a beloved pony, one for my first cat, the calico named Sailor, and one for a dog named Duchess, and then I claim a series of small X-shaped marks for all the songbirds that I once knew.

Perhaps some of the men gathered around Anne of Castine have been scarred by her. Maybe some have owned her or simply cruised aboard her once or twice, or maybe only watched her and collected photos as Brad Tenney is doing now, photos that will no doubt jog his memory in the years to come, memories of salty sea spray and sun and of crisp sails, and of words woven with his past.

Nice one, nice one, nice one.

The Nice one chant is encouraging enough to bring Anne’s possibly stilldancing yet reticent owner up from her cabin and back on deck. No matter what he has left below, he comes to gather their praises, and no matter what he has felt in his lifetime, it is clear that he is beginning to relax aboard Anne, clear that he has breathed in her enticing musk. For the first time, I notice that he has a beard as wild and bushy as any seafaring captain’s ever was. I hadn’t noticed earlier, yet it seems so obvious now, so much a part of his sudden-easy stance. Maybe he is tired from dancing below, or perhaps it is the stance of having arrived or of standing on a long-awaited precipice. Maybe his past has been momentarily washed away or slightly altered, and is now pure in memory, making way for his future. A character in an Arthur Miller play remarked, The past is holy. Later, an essayist studying the play asked, Why? Why is the past holy?

Not merely because the present contains the past, but because a moral world depends on an acceptance of the notion of causality, on an acknowledgment that we are responsible for, and a product of, our actions.

In other words, there are no accidents. The scars we carry, if any, are not coincidental. We choose them, and then we leave this world, with or without them.

Are these scarred palms our redemption?

Were not the scarred palms of Jesus capable of redeeming the entire world?

Anne’s owner grins as he listens to the others, gradually taking in something of his good fortune, being aboard her. It shows in his relaxed hips, his chin lifted, looking outward instead of downward. He is standing near the tiller, but not touching it, not unless the need be. Unlike earlier when he clung so climbing aboard Anne, he is clearly more comfortable now—the gossamer all but visible and swaying between them—vigilant familiarity becoming love. Maybe she is the accumulation of all his longings: his school-dance crushes, his longing to be comfortable, his search for redemptive, cleansing air. I don’t know if he has scarred palms from touching certain people or from having been touched by nature, but if not, Anne may unclench his fists, just as the beseeching seagull on the rooftop unclenched mine. Maybe his redemption has never been closer or further away. I only see that now he is easy in his deck shoes and in this morning, and he appears to not be of it—in it, but not of it—cupped in the womb of Anne’s apparent strength, encircled but not confined, her lines tossed loosely, and even though she is still fastened to the trailer, high and dry, it is clear that things are shifting before they even christen the shore.

It occurs to me that Anne is quite ordinary, almost simple in her design. That she, like the old sail loft that I plan to use as my writing studio this summer, is bare in the most beautiful way. Touched by so many, yet hardly changed. Worn, yet still strong, although her pilings are rotting. They say the sweetest of wines are immeasurably enriched by a mold that rots the grapes before they are pressed. The winemakers call the mold noble rot. And noble seems the perfect word for Anne, and for the sail loft, too. Even though they are ordinary, almost simple, they exhibit innately superior qualities. Qualities that are palpable.

Repeatedly, a deep breath taken and smelling of sodden timbers feels as if it is sending me into the past, and at the same time, guiding me toward the future. If the odds are ninety-nine percent that any given breath taken holds at least one molecule of air that was breathed by Caesar and Christ, then no doubt anything is possible. How could one help but contemplate redemption?

Jinx begins flapping and drying his wings, and then pulls out from under the deck. With his beak held high, he looks insulted at having to share my attention with the launching, or maybe he’s annoyed that I haven’t dropped any sardines. He flaps his plated wings that resemble armor and lifts off, rising over the Bagaduce toward the islands, his long neck showing a slight crook, his orange gullet gleaming. No one really knows a bird until they have seen it in flight, Beston declared. In Jinx’s departing and then disappearing, he too seems to be saying Know me—the same words whispered by the barracuda’s departure so long ago. I scoot back against the front of the sail loft and shade my eyes. He is and then he isn’t. Just sky.

Anne’s admirers are now communally quiet. They step back, giving her a wide berth. She and her captain are clearly partnered now. She, part of his future and surely even his past, her story placed with what he may remember as holy. Although they both appear middle-aged, there is something fresh in their union. In the beaming sun, Anne’s golden wood shimmers like syrup and the captain’s gray beard is shimmering, too. Together they appear as a wish, a promising couple.

A therapist once suggested to me that every serious partnership begins with a wish that each partner harbors, a wish of what they each expect to gain from their union. She said often the partners are not even aware of the wish within themselves, and more often than not, the wish is not the same for each of them. She had suggested that my husband and I revisit our launching in order to reveal our initial secret wish to ourselves, and then to one another. At first, I couldn’t imagine I had a wish, but all I needed to do was pop my shell and find it lying there, as shiny as a pearl. I wish for you to take me beyond these hills.

I wonder if beginning with a wish is true of men and their adored boats. And if so, does the wish exist at the launching as it does with lovers? Or is it instilled by the preparation and polishing and maintaining, or could it be that it will be born at sea, while waves toss them about and winds howl? I wish for you to save me. Or might the sailor’s wish surface on the most beautiful of days? I wish for you to free me. I wish for you to calm me. I wish for you to take me beyond these hills. And could these be the wishes that we all harbor at one time or another, be it for Lord or lover, child or mother, boat or island?

Slowly crossing the deck from the scuttle, Ahab leaned over the side and watched how his shadow in the water sank and sank to his gaze, the more and more that he strove to pierce the profundity; but the lovely aromas in that enchanted air did at least seem to dispel, for a moment, the cantankerous thing in his soul.

And if once in a while we are to visit the wish for our intimate relationships, then perhaps once in a while we should visit the original wish for ourselves, finding that which is tucked away deep within our shell. Feeling the warm sun beam down on my face and neck, on my bare legs and feet, listening to the lapping water and breathing the clear musky air, I realize I want to know what my original wish was for myself. Know I must, because although the air is rich enough to make me feel cleansed, my soul is often cantankerous too. Beneath the silky heat, I am empty without my sense of wonder. Even the cormorant will not look at me. Even he flies away and turns to sky