May Day

Soundings - - Underway - msouth@aim­me­dia.com By Mary South

On a damp, gray day in May, I trudged along a coun­try road lined by tow­er­ing horn­beams, across a short field and past the chicken coop. At the top of the slope be­hind my brother’s barn, I gave a strong tug on a short chain and propped back two mas­sive loft doors. It took my eyes a minute to ad­just to the cav­ernous dark but there she was — tucked in a far cor­ner, be­tween a stack of wicker fur­ni­ture and a painted pic­nic ta­ble. Coated in a thick blan­ket of hay dust, her fine lines were still ap­par­ent and more beau­ti­ful than I re­mem­bered.

Seven years ear­lier, on an­other damp day in May, my part­ner and I had gone to the Wood­enBoat School in Brook­lin, Maine, and in five and a half days, we had made a 17 ½-foot row­boat with our own hands. The North­east Dory looked com­plete, but she still needed a good week of work to be prop­erly fin­ished.

Back at my brother’s place in Con­necti­cut, the dory got more epoxy, plenty of sand­ing and sev­eral coats of paint but then … well, you know how this story goes. Life hap­pened; we never got around to fit­ting the thwarts or var­nish­ing and she’d been lan­guish­ing ever since.

Now I stood in the gloom of the silent barn, sur­rounded by plas­tic– draped an­tiques that had once fur­nished my grand­par­ents’ farm. My mood was low, gray, empty. I was in Con­necti­cut be­cause my mother had died af­ter many years of ill­ness. I didn’t know what to do, how to wade through the strange void her sud­den ab­sence cre­ated in a still-turn­ing world or how to bring my drowning fa­ther back to shore.

Later that af­ter­noon, Dad helped me silently carry the dory out, wipe her down and spray her off be­hind the barn. Her dark green lap­strake hull gleamed wetly and I felt a plan tak­ing shape. We would bring her back to life to­gether and set her free in the wa­ters off Ma­tini­cus Is­land in Maine, the place my mother most loved.

“So we beat on, boats against the cur­rent, borne back cease­lessly into the past.” — F. Scott Fitzger­ald

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