Blogging is light this holiday weekend. We are down at Windrock, rusticating in the big house by the sea, and unlike of previous visit we have the place largely to ourselves. There are renters in the little house - the parents of the groom at a wedding being held down the beach on Indian Neck, but the big house is ours and each of we four have found time to carve out for ourselves in various cozy corners to settle down with our favorite Windrock things. For Elias, this means rediscovering the collection of toys, begun when my aunts and uncle were small and carrying on to the present day. For Emily, this means finding the dress up clothes and then settling in with a good book done up like Lady Jane Kropotkin or a pirate chieftain. For Viv, it means having the large kitchen table to spread out her PTO and library plans and enjoy the luxury of space to work.
I go for the bookshelves. I seldom bring something to read with me to Windrock because like all great summer homes the place is teeming with reading material. It is less like the second hand bookshop it was when my grandmother lived here and had all her faculties - there has been a significant purge of utter clutter to get the big house in shape for renters - but still, the "children's room" has books stacked to the ceiling on cases that were extended using boards and bricks, and in "the library" the shelves actually have some rhyme and reason to what they contain.
There is, for instance, most of an entire stack dedicated to field guides and books of the sea. Among those for the flora and fauna of our part of North America are volumes that speak of the travels of family members, like the guide to the Birds of West Africa used in the 1970s by my Uncle Rob when he was collecting samples in Nigeria and Egypt with Yale's Peabody Museum. There is also a tattered, cover-less paperback that I am astounded and delighted survived the last "dumptser weekend" and that has its own story to tell. It was published in a series of standard military books and manuals by the Science Service and Infantry Journal, Washington during World War II and is entitled; "What To Do Aboard a Transport". From the CoPublisher's forward:
(T)here can be few who have not been curious about many of the shipboard sights and activities this book describes. It answers most of the questions that come to the mind of the landsman at sea - questions often not answered before the transport (or other ship) leaves port...At the very least, "What To Do Aboard a Transport" will help speed the slow days of voyage.
My grandfather took it with him to the Pacific and used it to teach himself celestial navigation, a skill he later used to help a navy plane find its way back across the dark Ocean to its island base when it lost the services of its navigator.
The books in this house hold the history of the people who have stayed here and the families who have lived here. My grandparents purchased Windrock together with its contents, and some of these were books. The inside plates of many of the grand old Wyeth illustrated copies of "The Black Arrow" and "Treasure island" bear the names of the various members of the Fish family, the previous owner, and a few even of the Lyman family, the first owner who build the house in the late 19th century. Some have the names of the Boston bookseller, and others reveal their origins as coming from the estates of other branches of the family. A few are very old - 17th century with dry leather bindings - and among the more recent of these sort I found the volume XVII of a year's worth of St Nicholas Magazine, published by The Century for boys and girls in the latter decades of the 1800s. There are thrilling tales of adventure, death at sea and ivory hunting in central Africa - just the thing for eager young minds. One of the authors is a young Theodore Roosevelt, and his piece about buffalo hunting during the twilight of the great herds is illustrated by Frederick Remington.
Adventure stories abound in this house. All the Jack London you can handle, stories of impossible exposure and survival after being torpedoed, stories like "The Sea Adler" about a WWI German wind powered commerce raider, all wait for new eyes to discover them. Most of these books are like those in your local library that are almost never checked out, but unlike your local library's collection these shabby volumes have not been tossed out or sold. They are the soul of the house, the thing that keeps it from becoming a sterile rental that was never a home.
This weekend, instead of blogging I will be casting my eye across their faded spines, eager to see where they take me.