Once upon a time, in a land, yes, so very far away, there was a little house upon a bit of a hill.
Upon a rise.
Upon a sliver of land, surrounded front to back by water. It was called Wynacht’s Point, the sliver of land. To the front of the house was the gravel lane, and on the other side of the lane was broad water.
Water which was landing sloop to crooning loons and solid ground to little shacks which sprung up early in the season for the fishing of eels.
Down the slope to the back of the little house there was more water and a flurry of rocks. This water was narrow, and across the way one could hear boys, always, putting heart to wood, fashioning their sloops.
And every night we would walk Uncle Ben [a tubby, slothful sweetheart of a tabby, named so he could be pronounced, appropriately, “Bean”] and Ms. Jemima [she of the ebony color and white apron tuft] down to the rocks. After dinner, after coffee, in the endless winter night, we would walk them down to the rocks and listen to the narrow slice of water.
Jemima would, as women will, engage the local minks who lay claim to the rocks. She begged to differ. And despite their greater number and their ruthless, savage nature, she almost always emerged unscathed.
The house was very small.
I painted it, to claim it.
And there was a fine Christmas dinner once upon a time, with Liptauer cheese redolent of anchovy, a rack of roast prime rib, Yorkshire pudding and biscuit tortoni, and the boys built the deepest of snow forts in the deepest of snowfalls.
It was Nova Scotia, up the road from Peggy’s Cove and much too far from Halifax. An island, and I should have listened to my father’s words, once upon a time when he came to visit, that it reminded him of Ireland.
But the boy with whom I walked the cats had been the first to set me on his knee and read me Wordsworth [yes], and we had both decided that Arcadia it was to be, despite the endless Winter night and the narrow slip of land.
And despite all that came before and after, it was home, my first, and, as the poet knew, waters on a starry night seemed so beautiful and fair.