Along the shore where the highway makes a gentle s-curve as it dips and crosses the brook, there stood an imposing house with steeply pitched roof, gingerbread trim and wide shady veranda. It was the envy of all the farmhouses around, for none of them had such a grand polished maple staircase, or chandelier in the front parlour, or front door adorned with a ruby red and deep cobalt blue stained glass window.
This grand old house knew what it was to be a house. Its roof was strong and straight. It had plenty of windows with a view. The deep cellar could be filled with tons of potatoes, and its foundation of hand-hewn sandstone blocks never budged. A hand pump stood conveniently outside the back door, and across the yard at a suitable distance a huge hip-roofed barn completed the picture of prosperity. For more than a hundred years, through gales, torrential rains and gentle earthquakes, the old house stood straight and tall. Fearless.
Imagine, then, what happens to such a place when the owners are gone for good and no one notices the bits of asphalt shingles scattered on the lawn after a gale. Then a door blows open and uninvited guests (mice and squirrels) pay a call and decide to stay. How quickly and effortlessly nature retakes the places that humans so painstakingly created.
Year after year we have watched this proud old house grow tired and humble. Posts slipped and the veranda began to sag. The back porch—once full of boots and other trappings of farm life—fell away. Enterprising youths set fire to the kitchen. Someone removed the front door, stained glass window and all. Then sometime last summer, one fine day with nothing at all apparently going on, the foundation cracked and the house fell into the cellar. Just like that. It ceased being a proper house, and seeing it all tipped over felt something like finding a porpoise—or a thousand-pound turtle—washed up on shore: it wasn’t supposed to happen.
Things that aren’t supposed to happen do happen. Take that fierce storm in November when the wind roared across the Island like an out-of-control freight train. That wasn’t supposed to happen either. It was a shock being without electricity for so long—it was almost like seeing that old house tilted into its cellar.
But that storm did remind us of what it is to be human, and what we really need for survival: water, food, light, warmth—and company. Someone to keep an eye on us. Offer opinions. Lend a hand. Look up at the roof for missing shingles.
Fortunately we have plenty of neighbors who are always ready to do just that. As always, Christmas in the Cove has been filled with folks going out of their way to raise money for worthwhile causes, to feed and entertain one another, to keep things going. Our foundation holds! Long may it continue. Happy New Year!