Osprey Down

October 29, 2007

The last night of vacation started out calm enough. It had rained heavily for the previous 24 hours, so we were ahead of the game. Instead of doing a lot of running around, we had sat in The Osprey, the little cabin on the Maine coast where I’ve vacationed on and off for the past 14 years, and had packed up most of our belongings.

I won’t say exactly where it is, because the people in that little community have so far escaped the worst of the thronging Maine tourist trade, and want to keep it that way. It’s on a working harbor, where almost all the boats moored there belong to lobstermen, and it’s common to awaken briefly in the pre-dawn hours to hear diesel engines muttering out toward the open water.

I’ll call the owner of the place Leo. He’s a retired school teacher on the shady side of 90, but still active. He and the live-in manager at the cottages, all of which are named after sea- or shore-birds, have been clearing several acres of woods for the past few years. It’s starting to look like a park.

I have a photo of Leo building The Osprey in the spring of 1950, a month after I was born. It was the first of a double handful of cottages that he would build over the next decade or so, perched on a long slope from the farmhouse where he was born and still lives, down to the saltwater.

People come to Leo’s cabins like they come to family reunions. Some have been coming for decades. Some who bring their children have been coming since they themselves were kids. Every cabin has a composition book sitting on one of the plain pine shelves, and just about everybody who stays keeps a journal in them about their time at the harbor. Sometimes the entries are about things to do, where to eat, tips about this and that. But over the years, some of the entries become more personal.

The writers are from New York, Maryland, Florida, England, New Mexico, and Texas. The entries were as varied as the people who wrote them, in penmanship neat and tidy or fat and loopy. Kathy A. and her dog Simon spent a month at The Tern every year from 1981 until June of 1987, when Simon, she noted, turned 12 years old. Then she disappeared from the record.

Families from Hartford, Ct., bring their cats Signe and Moussey, and spend their vacation time seeking landmarks familiar to their ancestors: “Traveled to Acadia – 3 hrs. – and got seats on the mail boat from Northeast Harbor out to Baker island….to visit the lighthouse that was manned in the 1800s by our great grandfather. It was a thrill to be the first relatives in all that time to return to the remote island.”

In September of 1987, a New Jersey woman named Nora stayed four days at The Tern with her 14-month-old son: “We are here because we have just suffered an intense personal loss and I, at least, am seeking restoration in Maine. My son is oblivious to the unfairness of life.”

So, coming to The Osprey every year is a respite, but something that is a part of other lives, indirectly, yes, but a dance, of sorts, a shared ballet with strangers and the ragged coast of Maine. I once researched the address and phone number for several families who stayed in The Osprey and, before that, The Tern. But I never contacted any of them. It would be out of step, a break in the dance.

So, there we sat, the last Friday night of the trip. Everything but what we would need for the trip home was packed, zipped, tied, rubber-banded or otherwise tucked away. I would have already loaded the car, but the night was very dark and the grass slippery from the rain. I thought to would wait until first thing in the morning.

The stereo was packed, so there was no music but the soughing of the wind ‘round the corners of the cabin, and the faint slap of waves on the rocks below. Just about every light was on, because the night somehow wanted brightness.

In a bit, I thought, I would light a fire, read a bit before taking a shower, and then go to bed.

About 15 minutes later, the front door popped open. I started to get up to close it, and the whole house fell down.

No, really. The Osprey dropped about two feet on the harbor side and started sliding. I sat down – hard – in my chair, and clutched my bowl of ice cream tightly to my chest and waited, wondering if we would hit the water. All the furniture and luggage in the room slid toward us. Sue sat in hers, eyes the size of saucers. Lamps fell, flared, and went dark. Vases leapt from shelves, books and touristy gee-gaws followed. Then, everything was still except for Sue’s alarmed “Eek!”

I finished my ice cream, waiting to see if The Osprey was done fidgeting. I got up, and said: “Damn.”

The power was still on, though we could hear that a water pipe somewhere had broken. I was very happy that I had decided not to build a fire in the Franklin stove. I stepped to the front door. The porch lay at a crazy angle, and had come to rest several feet from the steps.

“Damn,” I said again, figuring if I couldn’t be useful, I would at least be consistent.

I climbed over the porch, and looked around. All the rain had so soaked the ground that the front piers had slipped out from under it. The Osprey had dropped between two and three feet, and then slid toward the harbor bank about three feet. This was a matter of great interest to me, because the edge of the bank was only about five feet away to begin with. It was quite a ride.

It took a couple of hours to get us set up in another cabin, for the night, and about as long the next morning to get the rest of our things out over the tilted, linoleum floor and busted porch.

Melinda, Leo’s daughter, told us the next day that the family was considering their options for what to do. The Osprey was actually in good shape….not even a window broken or a wall awry. But it was old, and at the bottom of a steep slope. One of the options, she said, was simply to do away with it.

That hit me later, halfway home, when I realized I still had the key to The Osprey. I emailed Melinda and told her I’d get it back to her. But inside, I knew there might not be any real reason to do that.

Whatever they do, I hope they remember the little stack of composition books somewhere on the floor of the old cabin. It would be a real shame to lose all those stories, all those steps in the long dance.

==============================.

© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

https://burger2go.wordpress.com/

http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

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2 Responses to “Osprey Down”

  1. I love this:
    I finished my ice cream, waiting to see if The Osprey was done fidgeting. I got up, and said: “Damn.”

    Is that the New England reserve of which I have heard?

  2. Brian said

    Maybe you shouldn’t have had the ice cream.

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