I wanted to focus in a little more on the social and economic reailties of the American plutonomy here at home. The people in the square in Egypt who are paying 80% of their wages for food aren’t alone. My little island in downeast Maine is a microcosm of the plutonomy..the small minority very rich in elegant ocean front homes..the majority fisherman who have always been here, now working twice as hard for half as much..many losing their homes and their boats.
I want to bring it home to you in the way it’s brought home to me every single dark cold winter night.
A few weeks ago I got up in the night awakened by the wind rattling the house and out on my cove .right in the middle I saw a light like a large flash light..moving around..very slowly..moving up and down. There is no public access to my cove and in winter only four of the very few houses on the cove are occupied and access is difficult as the unoccupied houses are at the end of long long un plowed private roads. We have more than two feet of snow cover. I thought maybe a small boat had gotten swept up in the powerful tide at the mouth of my cove and was now stranded. I went out on the porch in my jammies and hollered down ” You out there..are you all right..do you need help?” the answer came ” “No Ma’am. I’m fine..diggin’ clam’s ‘s all”. I was astounded. It was 5 below zero..absolutely dark..no moonlight. a biting wind. The price of Maine’s famous and incomparable steamer clams is $1.25/lb to him through a local dealer even though a plate of fried clams right here on the island starts at $14.95. It made me just feel weak in the knees to think my unknown friend out there needs money enough to be digging clams all alone in the middle of the night for $1.25/lb. For those not familiar with clamming..there is no machinery..it is all manual labor and carrying. And It’s not like walking on a beach either…… very difficult to walk out on the flats.
I have been here 12 winters. I have never seen that… He is out there alone every single night. Somehow I wake up automatically as his light starts its silent journey to the middle of my large cove as I do when the moon light or the light of a bright planet suddenly streams onto my sleigh bed. I don’t know what to do for him so I let him know I am here keeping watch.. I make a cup of tea..light a candle in my bed room window and try to stay awake until he is safely off the cove with his few crates of clams.. and watch for his return twelve hours later on the day time lo tide..
In his silent solitary aloneness out there on my cove in the middle of the night, he bears witness to the failure of our own democracy, to the realties of our own economy.
Cove Meadow February 21, 2011