That magical place, Cuttyhunk.
I've been back for several days now, though part of me remains somewhere within that Elizabeth Island, the farthest west of a chain of several islands that extend southwest of Cape Cod, just north of Martha's Vineyard. For the past several years, Kim and I and my kids have joined my cousins there to stop time, celebrate each other, and bask in the simplicity, solitude, and peace that "Cutty" offers.
A step back in time, devoid of crowds, cars, noise, and schedules, little to do yet plenty to do. Sitting on the bluff at the Fishing Club, I gaze toward Gay Head, the pulse of waves rolling across Vineyard Sound soothing my soul, giving me space to think, to contemplate...to be. In the water off Church's Beach, freedom and possibility envelope me.
This...is Cuttyhunk Island.
PLS comes with me most places I go. If you've checked out my recent post, "Into the Water," you know where I can shed it. One of the benefits of having the disease is that I require an escort to get into and out of the water, since I can't take my cane or hiking poles with me. So not only did I look forward to being in the water, but I looked equally forward to my "escorts" into and out of the water. Xavier and Sam, George and Chris, Annabelle and Kim, Bill and Luke, Nan and Griff-- there were endless combinations of family and friends to help! Some days, we had over twenty people to help!
This is how it went down: I would ask to go into the water, and immediately I would have 2 people, and when I was ready to get out, I would give the slightest indication to do so and I would have 2 more. It didn't matter if they were deep in conversation or deep in a beach chair, mid-bite into one of Billy O's epicurean grilled hot dogs, sipping a glass of chardonnay, feasting on Oreos or (more likely 'and') Lay's potato chips, they were all there and ready to help. What an incredible feeling you all gave me.
One escort on each side, holding hands-- connecting in a way that is only possible through holding hands, like peeling back the onion to a deeper connection. When I was ready, our hands parted-- my escorts offering me to the ocean. I was at once alone, yet never alone. For someone was always keeping their eye on me to keep me safe, protecting me. I was always being cared for, loved, and supported.
We all held hands before dinner every night. We would gather in a circle, join hands, and someone would have picked a song for us to sing-- anything from 'America the Beautiful' to 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo (ok-- we might save Lizzo for later in the evening...). Then we all sang together, or hummed, and connected. Connected. We might be on the deck or on the public dock with a lot of people around, but we would always join hands and sing together. Together.
One morning, just after sunrise, Kim and I took the golf cart-- the luxuriant, preferred mode of transport if you are lucky enough to find one to rent-- down to Church's Beach for an early morning swim and hunt for sea glass. There is something about being at an empty beach in the early morning; there is something special about a lot of things that are possible on Cuttyhunk...
As the island began to wake, we made our way to the dock for coffee and one of the best breakfast sandwiches around.
The M/V CUTTYHUNK
a.k.a. The Ferry. Whether coming or going, the ferry voyage is always a highlight of my Cutty experience. Coming over-- the food and supplies are packed and loaded, logistics complete, and my anticipation to finally be together with family and friends is at its crescendo. The ocean welcomes us, and the slow, hypnotic rhythm of M/V CUTTYHUNK's engine coaxes our hearts to meet its tranquil beat...I search for any signs of sea life and gaze at the horizon as the faint image of a land mass appears, and becomes-- Cuttyhunk.
And the blow of leaving, while always bittersweet and a bit sad to me, is softened with a bit of live theatre. It is a tradition for friends and family of those leaving to jump off the pier as the ferry begins to depart. We left on the 8:00 p.m. ferry and were sent off by about 20 jumpers!
Inevitably, sadness ensued as the M/V CUTTYHUNK pushed its way through the narrow channel. I attempt to will it to slow down as the images of our loved ones fade, eventually disappearing into the vast, Cutty, evening sky.
I leave knowing I will return to Cuttyhunk next summer, and with thoughts of sneaking over for a day or two later this summer or this fall. That is the thing about my experience on Cutty; I leave thinking anything is possible. Like rich soil allowing its plants to flourish, our family's Cutty experience nurtures my soul. And as I told Bonnie Veeder, the caretaker of the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club, when we said good-bye, "I'll be back, Bonnie. You can take that to the bank!"
I leave feeling love, loved, and gratitude. To Allie, Annabelle, Bill, Brenda, Chris, Elizabeth, Francis, George, George Jr., Griff, Jacob, Jimbo, Kara, Kim, Luke, Maggie, Mary, Mary-Margaret, Matt, Michelle, Nan, Paul, Quinn, Sam, Sarah, Sawyer, Suzy, and Xavier:
Thank you to all of you-- for providing me with a foundation of love, support, and encouragement as I attempt to embrace my journey with grace and courage. I know we all have our mountains to climb; know that I support you in your journey, and am always here for each of you.
And a special thanks to Kim-- who, with love, grace, and an iron will, guides me every literal and figurative step of the way, always with an encouraging and supporting hand when I am determined to do something, including the stuff that's a bit...questionable shall we say!
I'll see you in Cutty.