We are on the Windsplitter and I watch my friend sitting comfortably with legs outstretched and her back against the cabin wall. A small, blond, sad-eyed lab is at her feet, and her husband of many years stands tall at the helm. His blue eyes scan the sea before them, confirming the fullness of the sails, his gaze resting in quiet approval of all this untamed, fluid domain. The sun is kind, the air fresh and clear and perfect as we head from Noank towards sunset in Stonington.
I ask, “What is this body of water?”
“We were in the Thames River and now—Long Island Sound.”
“I wonder why it’s called a sound.”
My friend looks it up on her phone and reads us the definitions. “‘A sound is a large inlet off the sea. It’s larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord . . . The Old English word that it comes from means “to swim” — inferring a body of water we can swim across, shore to shore . . .’”
“Hmmm, you know how sounds carry better over water? Maybe that’s another reason it’s called a Sound.”
With the help of these sounds—waves, wind in the sails, and easy conversation—I am swimming from the land-locked, mind-made shore of everyday life toward an inner shore . . . of simple serenity and the fullness of presence.
I keep thinking about my dad. He spent most of his summers as a kid sailing on these waters. Their family had a farm near Westerly. When my dad gets misty, he will always say how blessed we are, and I think that sense started here and then. He felt lucky to eat the vegetables that he picked in the morning, and lucky to run wild over the dunes in the afternoon and throw himself into the cold waters. Lucky to be here, safe from the hunger and despair of the great Depression, and safe from the growing threat of war across the ocean.
He brought my mom here when they were first falling in love . . . and then us kids when he could. I take a deep breath and let in the beauty of this legacy and the blessing of being here now.
So, like my dad did seventy years ago, my friend spends every possible summer day here on this boat, on this Sound. During the week, people come to her with their fears, griefs, questions, and longings, and she listens and helps them with skill, kindness and compassion. In a way, I think that her beloved clients are still with her on the weekend. Maybe because of the way our stories live in other people’s hearts. Or because this is such a healing space . . . or because prayer travels better over water.
We move to the forward deck of the boat and our captain brings us fresh, hot coffee. Later he sails us out of the Sound and into the blue water, the ocean. There the cold surprise of the sea splashes over us, again and again, as the sloop challenges the waves. My friend grips my arm so that I don’t slide off the deck, and I’m a little scared and a lot happy, and glad that I’d finished my coffee! She admonishes him for getting us soaked, he is truly sorry, and gives a sheepish laugh. And then she says, trying not to smile, “You’re not off the hook yet! I’m not done scolding!”
I love watching my friend and her husband. I feel the bond between them, and I know from her stories that this bond has been forged of many things: three beautiful sons, homes they built together, mutual delight in family, dogs, democracy, boats, and (lucky for me) friendships. Gratitude for my own husband wells up. I bow to their marriage—and mine and my parents—as a sacred thing . . . for the Earth is maintained by loves like this. And love is sustained by days like this . . . .