It is Sunday, September 1st. It is early morning. The lobstermen are not fishing. The summer people have left. The fog is thick. The air is heavy. It is hours before the local church bells ring. The locally-ground 44 North Sumatra coffee is dripping. The quietude is total.
The pleasures of not commuting
It is the first day of the second quarter of my Gap Year. I have summered in Maine. I have not traveled to and from DC attempting to steal a weekend here or a fortnight there. I have not suffered the indignities of the TSA or the vagaries of East Coast weather and associated flight delays.
Rather, I have basked in my time here. I have not tried to cram a sail or a motorboat cruise or a golf game or a bike ride into limited available hours. I have let the time roll over me and the activities happen. It has been blissful and now it is quiet.
Admittedly, the days have blurred together. This is in part the result of better-than-average weather so that good stretches are not defined by bad stretches. It’s also because there is danger in the luxury of time. The best times are not separated and highlighted by downtime. The special activities segue from one to another and in doing so lose a bit of what makes them special.
I have felt that. I have not felt the stress of travel. I have enjoyed myself being self-indulgent. I have started some new projects. I am ready for more commitment.
End of summer signals absence
But this morning it is quiet. The roads are empty. The exercise walkers are absent. Only the locals are about. I expect to see Doug, my neighbor, and his rescue dog, Rosie, cut across my yard and then the yard of the Catholic church adjacent to our house. It is a shortcut from his house to the road. The shortcut predates our arrival here in Stonington. It is understood that the shortcut belongs to the locals.
The challenges of the next quarter of GYA60 loom. We must start our French studies before leaving for Paris in November. I must resume my short book project. [Ed. note: Sam hasn’t shared it with me. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has written. – Debbie]
Making new plans
We must cement our travel plans to Europe to benefit from early booking. We must deal with fewer options for entertainment along with fewer friends, family and recreational activities. We must embrace the bigger spaces between diversions. We must include time for household maintenance, more home cooking, more self-improvement, more meditation and more exercise. We must organize our time better.
We must cope with being alone, together. I am ready to try this. [Good to hear. Me too. – Debbie]
Will quiet mean lonely?
It is so quiet now. Is it just the physical absence of people? Is it loneliness setting in after one day? Is it because so many people who treasure this place during the summer do not want to try to make a life here during the winter? Do I feel down because they are rejecting what I want?
Obviously, the practicalities of a life elsewhere draw them back, just as Debbie and I returned to Washington for three decades to work and to educate our children. The reason I am seriously pondering a move to a small town on the coast of Maine is because I have fewer, if any, obligations to pull me elsewhere.
What is the draw of our old neighborhood?
Why do people want to live in DC’s upscale Georgetown? Why is it so crowded? Why does it seem exciting? Is it because of the quaint architecture and brick sidewalks? Is it because of the faint smell of history? No, not really. It is because of desire.
It is exciting because it is crowded. It is crowded because people want to see and be seen. Those who can afford to, want to live there so that they can feel rewarded by the sense of superiority associated with living in a place that others desire. Radix malorum cupiditas est.
[Ed. note: I’m leaving the Latin in because Sam will protest if I take it out. But I don’t think “feeling superior” is the reason I love Georgetown. It has many charms. – Debbie]
For me, I have been there and done that. I expect the only thing I will miss in Georgetown is my local tavern with its “heavy pour” and its clubby bar clientele. [Ed. note: And a few special friends – Debbie] I do not know for sure whether I can leave all this behind. I have to try it. I have to try life with less desire and less external stimulation.
[Ed. intrusion: and I want to try a life where there is less stimulation to “buy.” So far, I spend much less money in Stonington. More about money later. – Debbie]
We are embracing serendipity
One Gap Year lesson I have stumbled on is to embrace serendipity. We have not over-planned or over-scheduled, we have only roughed out blocks of time and ideas. We had the luxury of three months of self-indulgence to start with. During that time much has occurred by serendipity.
I met a state politician with whom I might work on health care policy and reform. Socially, we met a resident of Paris who manages a professional language school and who will connect us with the right tutors and guides. We met a friend of a friend who has a non-profit educational program in Uganda and who will sign us up to work there next winter. We also met a friend of a friend who has traveled to Madagascar and will help with reliable contacts to plan a trip.
All this simply by talking and chatting and letting our contacts extend themselves. People really want to help people change, grow, shed the commonplace and divest themselves of their former routine.
Share your dream and people will help. Serendipity happens.
Next week we return to DC for some business meetings, doctors’ appointments, housekeeping chores and some catching up. The trip will test our resolve to return to Stonington for a quieter life. I hope I will remain true to my new refrain, “Away happens.”
Right now the only sound is the drip of fog from the trees.
[Ed. note: “away happens” means the undesirable necessity of leaving Stonington and Deer Isle for mainland resources such as healthcare. – Debbie]
Photo credit: Debbie snapped with her iPhone.
This resonates in my belly – thank you Dr. Sam.
Tim Schwartz will be in Uganda this winter too! You should meet up.
You write beautifully. Such a pleasure…and perhaps an indicator of yr next career…Atwul Gawande would have a serious competitor!
Thank you, AÀ. I do enjoy writing this and I do enjoy Debbie’s edits. I appreciate your input. More rants to come. Yours in Berkeley. Sam
Sent from iPhone. Please excuse abbrvs and typoz (aged thumbs). SPH