A sandlot game seems an ideal pursuit on this expanse of lawn at Windrock overlooking Buzzard's Bay. There are certainly enough cousins in the 1st and 2nd degree to field a full compliment of players on either side, and one might well assume that this field has hosted such splendid summer recreation for generations. In fact, it has only recently become lawn.
My brother-in-law Justin is pitching from what was for decades a corner of a vast vegetable garden, put in by my grandfather in the 1950s and still in use into the late 1990s. The old septic field - a bee-hive brick cistern with ceramic pipes - was there in the infield for over 100 years and in use until 2004, when an upgraded system was mandated to renovate the "Little House" for summer rental. Before it was a garden, and before my Grandparents bought the property in 1947, there was a grass tennis court here. Before that there was sheep pasture, cleared from a tangle of Atlantic white cedar, scrub oak and pitch pine. Go back far enough and one finds the retreating edge of the last ice-age, which left the bluff and cobble beach and granite erratics like "Goat Rock" where goats indeed frolicked during my mother's childhood, and where her grand-daughter the cowgirl in the sand perches in the image at right. Roots go deep here, and though the scale of our 60-year tenure is but a brief moment in the history of the land it is our imprint that is most acutely felt.
Lest one get the impression that gathering at Windrock is all play and no work, the place is maintained by a tremendous amount of family labor. There are always projects to attend to, and what my grandfather once did virtually on his own, drafting an assistant when needed from the ready pool of child and grandchild labor, is now taken on by many. My Uncle Rob and Uncle John are mainstays of these efforts, having tinker's skills and inclinations. Here they try and disassemble the corroded iron pipes of the old hand pump - an iconic fixture at the side of the big house that has perched above another brick cistern since the house was built. Rainwater empties from gutters into the cavern beneath the pump to a depth of 8 feet. The water is not potable -indeed it is a mystery to me that we haven't had an outbreak of cholera yet - but the pump itself is loved by children who work its handle and watch the water splash into pails for ponies or to rinse scuba gear. This particular project hit a snag as we attempted to loosen the final cast iron cap on the pump mechanism and managed to shatter it. There was a bone blocking the vacuum chamber, confirming the wisdom in having a deep artesian well to serve the household.
But then, Windrock has always been a place to take risks and run wild, where skinned knees and sunburns are par for the course and bare feet toughen as the summer progresses. It is a place for children to explore and expand their zones of comfort. The beach is one frontier that successively emboldened swimmers and sailors ultimately transcend. The woods are another, where last weekend troops of sword-wielding pirates renovated their forts of pine duff and brush. It is precisely the sense that they belong here that emboldens children to run and play and make it their own. There are public places, I know, that have this effect as well, but it is that sense of place, of knowing the ground where you stand and your place in its history and future, that provides our center.
Our family is particularly blessed to share family lands with each other and a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. This sense of hospitality, of always having room for one more, characterizes how my grandparents ran their household, and it is a value they have passed on through the generations.