It was ten o’clock on a recent September morning, sunny and warming, the air scented with the last of white puffed hydrangeas and red roses spilling down the hillside to my right. The aroma of fresh-turned earth rose from the tire-pocked path I walked, a mysterious twittering and scuffling sounded from bushes.
From the top of the hill, great ship-like mansions drowsily woke to the breeze playing in the trees that surrounded them, framed like an aureole tinged with the first leaves of fall; they winked from windows at their lookout over the blue goblet lake to my left, lilted my spirit with their majesty, like unexpected Trumpet Voluntary.
Save for my shoes crunching on gravel, it seemed totally quiet. But pausing there, summery sounds singled themselves out. The hum of cicadas grew louder, louder, receding, then returning full force — like wires zinging undecipherable messages in code. Laughter of a breakfast boating party, a little way down and rounding a curve, sang out from a waterside cabana just out of sight. Bee murmur hovered over the bright splash of mustard and lavender wildflowers punctuating here, there, at the foot of the hills.
And over all, a breath of fall fell.
An orange leaf sailed lazily down just then, coming over the sloping lawns to land at my feet with a “Ha.” I smiled.
Geese in formation, honked and flew squadron out over the trees. And the loveliest sound of all… church bells floating and skimming across the inlet as if on watery shimmers. I looked for and found it…the towering Colonial spire crowned with its historic Mayflower ship weathervane, just there… rising from treetops across the blue expanse to touch the white brushstrokes of scudding clouds.
I sighed, contentedly. “Why do I not come here more often?” I wondered. This hidden, mostly unpaved public road that runs alongside the small neighborhood lake, sandwiched between private mansions and their beach fronts, was like a mini getaway just minutes from home. Peace fluttered and lived here, like the splayed lashes on a sleeping child’s rosy cheek. In the same way, it invited and welcomed you in, with a sort of hush, like a proud parent, finger to mouth, leading you in for a treasured peek, cradle-side.
Though the sunlight dazzled ahead on the winding path now, dappled in and out leafy glens, ran fingers of rivulets out on the water steps away to my left, it only caressed the high top homes I’d come to photograph for drawings. Amateur photographer, I’d happened on the perfect time of day to capture them! And now that I was here, I couldn’t stop clicking away.
Now and then, a jogger jaunted by, called hello, paused as if to share a drink with me. One ran up to confide her own pleasure in following this one grand place I was snapping. “I’ve been watching it through all its many seasons,” she burst forth, telling me how fragrant the roses there in springtime bloom, the joy of summer at its height, divulging its secrets. “I can’t get enough of it, either,” I answered. White, with balustrade and pillars across wide southern verandah, gigantic red, white and blue draped over its midsection, cupola on rooftop, porthole window accents, the shape and size of this striking beauty reminds me of a massive ocean liner somehow moored like a watchman atop the cliff.
Yet, juxtaposed with these grand manors, their beach side cabanas below brought their own allure to me as I came upon a bit of Cape Cod cottage, lakeside, just big enough for one, two — loving the old-fashioned sailor’s lantern light hung at the door, the patterned gray shingle of its low lying roof, the vines growing up and around the door, the large pots of geraniums by the little brick path running up to it, the white picketed deck set in lapping water.
Finally, sated with photos of such, I turned my thoughts to finding again the surprise glory a friend and I discovered the week before, walking here, camera-less. That day, the lake was a mirror of white sail reflections out on holiday.
But this morn lay serene upon the water, like a whisper. Would they still be there, off by themselves in a secluded little pool, hidden by a circle bank of reeds? I hoped so.
Two men stood chinning together by the path as I neared the spot where I thought they were. Another trundled by in a golf cart. I stepped aside momentarily for a lone meandering car, then hushed my steps as best I could, fearing I’d scare them out of their seclusion… like padding solitary on the carpet in a quiet, empty church, not wanting to breathe so heavily as to somehow extinguish the candle glow.
Then, as if pulling back a leafy drape from a private window, I found them. Five or so, gray and white feathers, huddled together en masse — every now and then one stretching to its full startling height, then sinking back upon the others to groom and preen themselves. I snapped pictures, knowing they were too far away and too much together to be distinguishable in a shot, probably blurry in telephoto anyway, willing even one of them to spread sail for me.
“Oh!” I must have sighed after a bit, aloud and involuntary, for as I did, they jumped, peered about their quiet green haven suspiciously, even as I wondered again why they preferred this murky, reedy hollow to the clear blue just beyond…
And then… like words put to Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals…my heart leapt.
For quite of a sudden, she separated from the others (I think it was a she!), and like a prayed for gift, glided out on the water.
Lighting a Presence, a cathedral, an orchestration of praise upon the scene. A feel of walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. An air of wonder that made me stop and breathe, “Thank You.”
Doesn’t this shot, though a bit blurry, remind you of England paintings of lily pad waters? 🙂
© Pam Depoyan
This is the gorgeous piece of music from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, with lovely words set to it…It was playing in my mind as I was watching this swan, inspiring me in this post… :) Love the beautiful, moving scenery someone added to this you tube version too!