This morning I sit on a rock at high tide, watching the pyrotechnic dance of the sun’s rays on the water.Looking out the Western Way, between the Manset shore and Great Cranberry Island, I watch lobster boats glide soundlessly in the distance and wonder at the ability of gulls to float sideways in the air.
Soon I will pack my car and leave this place. It’s time. Solitude begets, at least in me, the need for the energy of city life. That, in time, will produce again the need for the quiet place I’m leaving, and I’ll return. Perhaps a congenital discontent has bred this errant life, but I think it’s simply the natural pull between action and reflection, between immersion and refuge, between the search for adventure and the desire to be safe.
“In a world inclined toward chaos,” wrote Kenneth Lockridge of 17th-century Dedham, Massachusetts, “the most men could hope for was a stable life in a small community.” But one man’s chaos is another’s opportunity, and the ensuing 400 years of American history can be read as the tension between our two most powerful myths: the quest for community, where neighbors watch over each other; and the pull of an individualism that calls us to flee the suffocating conformity of those places and “light out for the territory ahead of the rest.”
“And the end of all our exploring,” wrote T.S. Eliot, “will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”