David and I are working hard. He’s in a week-long plein air painting class, I’m intent on completing a first draft of my island journal, a memoir I started five years ago, meant to be written only on islands. David’s gone from 9:00 until after 5:00 every day, and comes back to the cottage we’re renting with a painting or two, depleted from a day of concentrating on capturing the clouds or the ocean or a grove of trees in paint on canvas. I’m writing and walking the many miles of trails through woods and along ocean cliffs, and reading journals from years before, sinking back into the world I was inhabiting five years ago when I wrote the first of this book I’m trying to finish.
It was a difficult time in our lives, rich with new love and terrifying with the approach of another untimely death from fast-moving cancer. Adrienne was getting married, and our family was managing the reality that Eric wasn’t going to be at her wedding, a wedding he and I had been planning in our fantasies for her for years. I was trying to sort out how or if to respond to the best friend I’d lost in the previous year who was reaching out and trying to reconnect, in spite of the boundary violations that had led to us breaking up (and yes, you can break up with a best friend, it doesn’t have to be a lover) never having been resolved or completely understood by either of us.
Going back to that summer, to write about it, hasn’t been easy.
We met the painting group for a lobster dinner at the Fish House last night, a shack on Fish Beach that serves seafood across a wooden counter, with seating at sand-planted picnic tables overlooking the harbor. Which is a pocket of water created by the rise of Manana Island, a small but tall hump of land off the western side of Monhegan. Our first night here the harbor was full of fog.
Last night it was clear.
As the group talked about painting and writing and creative retreats, I was asked what my book is about. ”Love and death,” I said. Five years ago when I was first working on the book Sam asked me what it was about. ”Death,” I said then and he said, “Well, that’s a new subject for you, Mom.”
At least now love is in the equation.
After dinner we walked back to our cottage, watching the contrails of all the jets (red-eyes to Europe we decided, coming out of New York and Boston and headed up over Greenland on their way to London or Paris or Amsterdam) bleed off into feathered lines of cloud. The sun was reaching the water horizon, on the north side of Manana, and as we approached the Monhegan School House David mentioned that people had been talking about the good sunset views from behind it. There was already a knot of people there watching. One woman had binoculars, and after the sun was gone and we were all watching the after glow shift its pinks around the sky, she spotted a minke whale surfacing, out beyond a ledge of rocks. Every few minutes we could see a bit of black break the surface of the water, then disappear again.