It could be a church. It could be a lighthouse. Sanctuaries, both, where the lost are welcomed, the forlorn found. It is a simple, stark and quiet place where solace resides in one’s own thoughts, where comfort fills the still spaces and where the moment before and the one immediately following matter not. It is a place to hide and heal where no notice is paid or polite inquiry sought. Polite, I say, because the calm of it is unmistakable, inviting no harm, rancor, or ill will.
There is something quietly heroic in the straightness of its lines, the sturdiness of its weathered planks and the heavenward tilt of its prow. Its vantage, from the walk famously known for fretful wives fated to don the garb of widows, takes in what must seem like the whole of the world in one sweeping gaze. It’s spare and modestly ordered, and if one were to look through the panes of its windows, might glimpse long even rows of hand tooled wood pews cradling the huddled forms of simple folk in solemn contemplation or in another fanciful stab of reverie, eye a salt-worn attendant versed in the ways of the sea, hunched over a desk strewn with logs, maps and coastal charts, intent in his duties to stave off calamity.
What we do know is this. It is a photograph taken by Paul Strand from a book entitled Time in New England. Strand sought to evoke a sense of past and present through images of artifact and nature distilling each in immortality. One of the fabled tales to emerge from the north east coast talks of the long since dormant “silent quarries” of a Scandinavian community settled off Cape Ann in the late eighteen hundreds. History tells of a time when the quarries thrived, the designated workplace for the common man, Finnish and Swedish immigrants who toiled in honest dignity, grateful for the chance. It’s a fitting narrative for this stunningly stark place connoting a remembrance of things past and a foretelling of times to come with wishes placed, fears soothed, promises pledged, and on occasion, prayers answered.
It is all of what we will be feeling this day of thanks when we sit, kneel, genuflect or hold hands. Whether the thresholds you cross this day be grand or sparse, walk them with honor, grace and humble gratitude, content in your lot, your place, your fellow man and your time spent here on this noble earth.
Thanksgiving, 26 November 2009