Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Affair to Remember, Bartlett Pond, White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

I've been having an affair. It's been going on for years - there - I've said it. 

Folks don't normally confess to an affair - especially in writing in public.  Normally, the behavior is to deny, deny, deny.  I've done that for years and I'm through with it. 

It started out innocently enough.  I wasn't really looking for something in particular.  In fact, I had checked out quite a number of possibilities in a wide range. For a few years, I had my eyes open looking at countless prospects. And then, I found her - a jewel in the rough - beauty hiding in plain sight.  At that time, she was somewhat drab, rundown, and unkempt but - it was obvious that lurking just below the surface was an extraordinary treasure. She had such beauty and was so special that I was blinded to any shortcomings.

My wife has known all along - in fact, she was more the driving force in making it happen. Isn't that what they all say?

 Now, before you jump to conclusions, I should tell you that the target of my affection was an old cottage by a pond.  If you were expecting some lurid confessional tale of marital wrongdoing - sorry - this is not about that kind of affair. This is about an affair with a place.  At first the old dwelling really wasn't much to look at. But over time, she got better and better.

We could barely get to the water's edge due to the underbrush when we found her a dozen years ago. (Note: this image is a photo of a dozen year old paper photo - as are many from that time period that follow in this blog post ).

Although we found it during the late fall of 2000, the overgrowth had almost totally obscured the adjacent pond.

The tar paper roof and shingle siding leaked and had many critters living within. There were holes in the floor and walls that gave them carte blanche to come and go at will.

Brown was the operative color - brown wall paneling, brown trim, brown floor, brown woodwork, brown cupboards.

And later in that first spring, the wild growth blocked much of the view.  But she was worth investing the money and effort to fix her up.

When we moved to New England from Southern California in 1996, we liked many of the ideas of  the quintessential New England experience. Many folks up here have, for generations, spent their summers at some ramshackle "camp" (generally a crude cottage-like structure), many without heat, some without plumbing, electricity, or running water.  They were usually near or on a water body - mostly the thousands of small or large ponds and lakes throughout the northeast..  Their days were driven by the cycles of the sun. Swimming, boating, fishing, playing yard games, ball games, net games, or just lazing around at the beach or in the yard or watching the birds, dragonflies, and butterflies. Laughing and living life.

We bought the place when our son was nine years old.  He learned to swim here in a freshwater pond, he caught frogs bare-handed, and learned how to fish (back when we unwittingly did that sort of thing to a living creature), he learned to paddle a kayak, chase fireflies at dusk, and play flashlight tag far into the darkness. It is a place where osprey dive for fish and turtles clamber up on the lawn to lay eggs, where swans nest and raise their young. The endless cycles of life and death and the rhythms of nature play daily now and endlessly. 

We closed the deal one snowy day in December of 2000, proud new owners of this 800 square foot cottage.  That was back when the roof was white and my hair was brown.  Today, my hair is white and the roof is brown........

That first year we had to put in a completely new septic system.  We ended up with a new lawn after they had to dig up everything.

Big Mama turtle liked the soft, fresh, damp earth and she crawled up out of the pond and laid dozens of eggs in our/her yard.

There were lots of other kids in the neighborhood, too.......

........always ready to play and explore.

And every June, the galumping of frogs was almost deafening when trying to sleep at night.

We replaced the flat tarpaper roof with a new room with lots of glass - and no brown on the inside (nor uninvited critters).

Steadily we made (or paid others to make) small improvements.

The magnolia bloomed over the new room in 2003.

Every year come spring, my wife and son would move down for the summer months only to return home to Boston in the fall.  Life would continue apace - the slow and steady rhythms of summer unfolding in their New England glory.  Days were measured by tadpoles turning into frogs, cygnets blossoming into swans, the flora growing seemingly inches a day under the warm sunshine and regular rains, the flowers exploding in a riot of color.  Birds, bees, dragonflies, butterflies, rabbits, muskrats, and all manner of  living things either thriving or dying as players in the drama of life.  The noise of galumping frogs and the raucous cries of blackbirds defending nests are forever etched into our minds. 

She was located about an hour south of our home in Boston, I'd drive down on weekends and back to the city on Sunday night for the upcoming workweek - me and thousands of other working stiffs who were living a similar dream on the Massachusetts southeast shore or on Cape Cod.

A decade later, the magnolia has grown and blooms even more beautifully in spring (April 2012 photo).  

But now, our son is grown and mostly gone and our occasion to be here is less. Life moves on after all. Although we've improved it here and there, it's still basically a small cottage on a small plot of land. 

So, what to do? We had dreamed of and planned to tear it down someday and build a "real" house. Turns out it is too expensive for us to tear down and rebuild and make into a "real" home, but yet too valuable to ever part with. There's a lifetime of memories from which I could never walk away.  We've made the decision to not build.  Instead, to just patch it here and there and keep it as is - a funky old cottage full of memories - turns out it's already a "real" home.

I am so glad that's the decision. That decision allows us to not risk harming or killing the glorious magnolia tree that shelters the deck from the hot summer sun and explodes with beauty every spring, it allows the huge rhododendrons to remain and to also burst out every future spring,  it allows the natural beauty of the place to just be.  

There is welcome shade on a summer day thanks to the magnolia.

And the view on the pond is often punctuated by the splashing dive of an osprey, struggling back into the air with a squirming fish in its talons. (Sorry, not in this photo - just imagine it.....)

She's a different place than we found those many years ago. We are enriched by knowing her.

She has been a loyal and steadfast lover all these years.  I hope I have been worthy of the immeasurable wealth she has shared with me.

In the final analysis, it wasn't an affair after all - it was a deep and abiding friendship, wrought through years of growing and sharing together. I think we'll have to stay together a while longer........ I just can't give her up.


  1. What a great spot and wonderful album of memories.

    1. Joan, thanks for reading and your comment. I still enjoy reading your Charleston blog, too.