Saturday, April 24, 2010


You know those days when everythings seems to fall apart, when beloved memories burn to ashes and all you have left is an empty storefront? I recently had one of those, literally. After saying goodbye one morning to a family who was moving back to the mainland, I was wandering around a certain outdoor shopping center. Starving, almost broke, carrying someone else's baby around on my hip, I trod circles in the cement as I waited for the baby's kayaking parents to come home and take their baby back. It was hot too. The kid had already spit pulverised squash on my formerly white shirt. I became so hungry that I splurged and bought myself a seven-dollar smoothie. Let's just say chocolate-and-banana is almost worth that much. The baby got water - clear and stainless. To top it all off, my favorite store (besides Borders, that is) was closed. And not just closed, it was empty, abandoned, dark - a black hole in the wall.

Weeks later, I had somewhat recovered my sense of loss when I was once again wandering around a different street shopping for a birthday gift. Tired, still broke, and out of birthday gift ideas, I happened upon what seemed a miracle (dramatic, I know, but hey that's what it felt like). There, with those familiar letters inscribed at the door, was my dream of a store reincarnated. I walked by bashful as I am, but forced myself to go back and intrude on the empty store. The ship paintings, the glass case of scrimshaw, the oil lantern - it was all there, waiting for me. Sure, the store space was much smaller than before, but still, something inside me lept up in joy.

(photo courtesy Jlahorn via Wikipedia Commons)

The lady who kept shop was talking under her breath on the phone when I entered. She hung up and politely offered her help. Her sad eyes roved the wall as we looked for my favorite painting. As we talked, she told me of the death in the family that closed the other store, the pain that was all too close. Here we were, two strangers, talking of the tragedy that had brought us together for ten minutes in an obscure little shop. Something wide and unspoken, something loved and lost, something human and lacking. To be a friend to a stranger... I had only a moment. I don't know if perhaps I bridged the gap for her on an aching afternoon... probably not. I do know, that the moment for me was real. It was a moment of human reality. Two strangers, one tragedy, and a room full of hopeful dying words.

My favorite painting wasn't found. It was a seascape, dotted with icebergs off the coast of Cape Horn, I believe. A ship solitary in the frigid wasteland struggled against the surging sea. The ship was the HMS Resolution. Someone bought it, took it home, and hung it on their wall. Someone else. I think I can forgive someone else... and maybe someday my painting will find its way back to me.

(the Resolution, but not the painting)


  1. Rose, I had no idea that there was such an old salt in that young ladies facade of yours!! I, too, am an old salt, growing up sailing on old wooden boats. (My first time sailing was in a 75 foot schooner in a race called The Ancient Mariner's Race out of Long Beach. I was 6 or 7.) My dad used to drag me into those little shops that sold scrimshaw and such. I even used to have a scrimshaw pendant, but my foolish adolescent hands lost it somewhere, many, many years ago. I could go on and on about my days of youth and sailing and marinas and learning to tie knots and.......I won't bore you!!

    I would really love to see this painting that so captured your imagination!

  2. Hi Marmee, yes, believe it or not, I should've been a sailor... I love boats and ships and sailing around on the open sea! Sounds like you had a wonderful time growing up. You've sparked my imagination. I would love to hear more - you should blog about it :) I have a small piece of scrimshaw too - it's a tiny treasure that keeps the sea near to my heart.

  3. Glad you found me too...and glad I found another island lover!

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  5. Rose...

    I'm speechless. Everytime I read *anything* you write, I feel breathless. You capture moments, beautiful and poignant. I feel privileged to be able to read your work.

  6. James, thank you for your compliments :) I always enjoy your work as well.

  7. So vivid and timeless. I was transported to your thoughts for a moment and it was delightful.


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