This is the Old Stone House Inn, in Little Compton, RI. I was there last July for a memorial and stayed up on the third floor. Ahh, memories. The building has no a/c, but it doesn't really need it, what with being so close to the sea.
There's always a breeze. I watched the curtain billow for several minutes, entranced. I grew up in this town, with this very breeze, in a house not far from the Inn.This was the view from my room at the Inn. The water closest is Round Pond. The tiny bit of silve-gray in the distance is the Atlantic. The land between the pond and the sea once belonged to my family. A very long time ago. My grandfather grew up there, and we managed to wheedle permission to scatter his ashes there from the family who owns it now. That was back in the mid-nineties. I hadn't been back until last July. When Papa died, there just wasn't much reason...my remaining family in the area were strangers to me.This was the beach that my grandfather looked over, played upon, swam and boated from as a child.
Why do I mention all this? A smell.
A smell caught my attention, and in less than a moment, it brought me back to Little Compton and my time there. I loved that town. I love that town still, even if it doesn't know me any more. Oh, some terrible things occurred in my young life, there, but I loved it anyway. I could lose myself between sea and sky if I sailed out from the harbor nearby. I could play in the waves at South Shore beach until the sunk sank down with a sigh for his own evening swim. I could happily clamber on the tremendous rocks at Lloyd's Beach, sneak around the back to Haffenraffers place and play on that beach, too. We weren't supposed to go to Haffenraffer's place - it was once my grandfather's family land, that's the place he grew up, but they sold it long before I was born. For some reason, it was taboo for us - I never understood that, and one of the best rocks for exploring, for playing on, was over on that side of the spit. So, being a child, I ignored the taboo and went and played on the wonderful stone and in the little stand of trees there.
I would hide from my family, source of much pain and confusion...hide from everyone in those trees, only emerging when it was time to go home. No one worried I'd drowned...I was more fish than human back then, and drowning me would have required a great deal of cement and some lead weights. When I was older, I would ride my bicycle down there alone and spend hours sorting through the pebbles that made up the shore, looking for wishing stones - gray slate-like stones with a quartz band all the way around them. Find one and you can make a wish. I have staccato memories of searching them out with mum, with Mimi, with Spouse (my father's mother), always hunting for them and for sea glass on the way down to the water. It was always the water that I wanted the most, and not even freezing weather or storms could keep me from it.
If I lived near the shore today, I would go down each day, whatever the weather, and swim - though the waves be great and the water frigid, I would wet myself and paddle about for a while because above everything else, the sea is my mother and I wish for her embrace always. More fish than human, still.
The smell that brought me back? Hard to name it. It's a combination of things - the scent of old, old wood, exposed to generations of wear and countless fogs, sea breezes, rains, nights, and hours of sun. The smell of sand and salt, damp cotton towels and sun-warmed cotton clothing, wet stone and seaweed, wet rope and planks and a hint of sunscreen with a touch of lemon dusting spray and Murphy's Oil Soap. There's a hint of horse, too, and leather, and Zippo fluid from Papa's lighter. The iron tang of water from the old hand pump by the house, where we'd rinse our feet. A faint note of pine and cut grass, a bit of earth and always, always that playful zephyr blending it all together.
I have no idea how it found its way into my closed-up house in Georgia. It must have followed me here last year and been waiting in a corner to be discovered. Just now, it yanked at my cuff and demanded notice, reminding me of where a part of my heart is still rooted. I am home, here...and I am home, there...I am divided between what was and what is, with no sense of where I will be in the future - some combination of forest, mountain and sea if it is to satisfy all my yearnings, all those nostalgic little tugs from the many places I've lived and loved the Earth.