It was a neurosurgeon whose name is now long-forgotten who was performing some delicate brain surgery during which the patient could not be entirely anesthetized that some fascinating observations were recorded. As probing instruments made physical contact with different areas of cortex the patient would re-experience a complete “replay” of life-events never consciously recalled until that instant. Afterward, that patient would explain that every detail, including smells, tastes, sounds and intense feelings associated with the specific event were revealed. Perhaps it is a similar phenomenon that permits us occasional access to hidden “chords” of memory.
I had just come racing into Mom’s kitchen from outdoor play when I came to an abrupt standstill because of something I was hearing. Visually, I was looking at a loaf of Silvercup white bread – a local commercial product of the time – where it lay on the large kitchen table around which our family met to eat and talk each day. What stopped me was music playing on the radio. It wasn’t something I was familiar with, but there was something about it that captured my attention. I was not yet “into” classical music, which this was, featuring a piano and orchestra. . Everything about it just made sense, was in such perfect order that I could picture the next note or phrase before it played. Without calling attention to the fact, I decided to hang around. I probably would have sat on a hard wooden kitchen chair. I have tried to widen the picture of that experience in my mind over the years after I realized that it was important. To this day, the playing of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto touches a special place in my heart (and in the cerebral cortex of my brain.) It marks an exact moment when for a small boy, a “love affair” was born.
Over the years it has been my practice during our annual visits to coastal Maine to greet each dawn from the nearby harbor wharf of the small-town we have frequented for forty years. For several hours each storm-free morning it is a very busy place, as dozens of lobster boats and crew depart for the day, each of them prepared to service a “flotilla” of traps. I never tire of watching an ages-old story unfold before my eyes. I was still in place one gray Maine morning as a lone and very humble lobster boat pulled up to the fueling dock after everyone else was long gone. A boy who was probably not yet out of his teens leaped ashore, tied up without help, and went about dragging a fuel hose aboard. I noted it was not the diesel hose, supporting the assumption that this was the lad’s first boat. After winching down a blue bait barrel, a box of ice and squaring away his lifting gear, he climbed up the ladder, passing near me to pick up a six pack of coke before finally casting off and motoring past the bar and off to sea.
Two crusty old sea dogs watched from a nearby spot they probably occupied every day, blue smoke curling skyward from their pipes. It was clear that stranded ashore after a lifetime of pulling traps, and fighting gales, these two would never have been anywhere else at this hour. They hadn’t said a word all the time they had been there, but now one pulled his pipe out and said in a down-east accent you could cut with a dull knife- “wall. . he may be late. . . but he allwas goes.” The other thought about it for a minute before replying “Ahiah”, in complete agreement.
Silent but impressed, I realized I had just witnessed a generational compliment of the most profound kind. I only wish I could have recorded it so that I might replay it for that young “lobsterman” when he returned that evening.
When considering the value of constancy and commitment to a dream as a human quality to be cherished, I always think of that enlightening sermon delivered on a gray Maine morning amid the call of overhead gulls all those years ago.
The economy of Maine’s mid-coast and the well-being of its people rest heavily upon a form of individual entrepreneurship unlike any other. Al Cooper Photo