Thursday, September 22, 2011

Button, Button

"Do not wait for your ship to come in - swim out to it"

Day 9

The aspens leaves are starting to carpet my morning walks with gold and as I made it to the top of a small rise this morning I felt a familiar pressure. Yes, I went before I left the cabin and no, as usual, I didn’t bring the necessary clean up supplies nor a tidy little zip bag to carry them back home in. I thought about trying to ignore it but it was just the beginning of my trek so I ducked off down a little trail that I’d used before. I can boast for the facilities,  private with a fresh piney scent. As I took the position, I remembered that the last time I was in this approximate spot I had spotted something glinting among the pine needles. I’d reached over and picked it up. It was a metal button. And that made me remember another time, another place, another button…

Seven years ago, just about this time of year, two hurricanes had swept through the Abacos, Bahamas and while their winds wreaked havoc on the terrain of the low lying islands, their waves stirred a maelstrom in her waters, churning up centuries of deep sea detritus, sand and shell and treasure. Yes, treasure. You see separating these tiny islands from the mighty Atlantic ocean is a 50 mile long protective reef and upon this reef many a ship met her doom and spilled her, you guessed it, treasure. As a matter of fact, many of the people of these islands earned their livelihood through the practice of “wracking” and stories are told of the minister of the church in Hope Town who one Sunday morning instructed his congregation to bow their heads in prayer. Nothing unusual in that, except that the minister had spotted a shipwreck on the reef and while his faithful followers were deep in prayer, he shed his robes and hurried out to plunder all the goodies from the ship before anyone else could get there. Since then there has been a law that all churches built in Hope Town must be built so that the minister faces away from the ocean as he spreads the good news.

Anyway... The cap’n and I began combing the beaches of Elbow Cay, Kaliks (local beer) in one hand and digging tools in the other, with great fervor. Almost every day we struck gold. Not literally, well just that once but I’m not sure who could claim ownership and I don’t really want to do battle with the Bahamian Government so forget I typed anything about it. We found various coins from the 1800’s and 1900’s, shards of china and pottery, and several lonely single sandals. We also found a few old metal buttons. One of them, once we cleaned a couple of centuries of embedded sand and crustacean from it, bore the shape of a Tudor rose surrounded by 13 stars. Hope Town was settled in the 1700’s by a widow by the name of Wyannie Malone and several other North Carolina loyalists who had relocated to the Bahamas after the side they were backing lost the war. I imagine this button, with the Tudor rose representing England, and the thirteen stars representing the Colonies, or what we now affectionately call the United States, once adorned a shirt or blouse of one of those first island occupants who left everything they knew behind to start a new life. And 250 years later, it washed up to be found on a beach by me. A small relic of what must have been a very brave soul.

Skip forward a few years and here I am, also braving a new world and sometimes longing for the old one. What will I leave behind? I have recently found out that I will be having a granddaughter in January, the first girl. I’ve already finished knitting one blanket and am working on a little wrap sweater and matching cap with pink roses. The capn’s son called the other night to let us know that they, too, are expecting a new little one in April. Another blanket. In my mind, I can envision my coming grandchildren someday wrapping their own grandchildren in these same blankets, now faded and soft with years of love. But the most precious, the most lasting legacy I want to give to these children, is the memory, many memories of a sober grandma. Memories brighter than gold. For me, that would be riches beyond imagination.

So today I’m out there just doing my best to shine my buttons and leave something behind other than the faint smell of ammonia among the piney forest.

P.S. Oh, that other button I found in the forest? I discovered its origin when I stood up to fasten my own shorts. I guess I really was bustin’ to go. And that gold in the Bahamas? Well, it was just a 10 karat ID bracelet belonging to someone with the initial S. K. But let me tell you, I just about wet myself when I saw those gold links shining through the crevices of that limestone shale.


  1. Hello Kary

    So glad to see that you made it back in one piece and you were able to find your way home to sobriety.

    The thought of the grandmother I'd like to be is a big motivator for me, too. I had one grandmother who was involved and present for me, and another who was a rather self-involved alcoholic. I know the difference. I have many wonderful memories of the first grandmother. She has always been a safe haven for me. The other, well, I feel bad for her because we both lost out on that connection. In her later years she became the most enthusiastic and attentive great-grandma ever when my son was born, but I was always (sadly and wrongly) a bit suspicious of her motives because of my experiences with her.

    Keep writing! I look so forward to your posts and value your inspiration.


  2. Thank you. Both of my grandmothers died when I was very young and my mother died before my boys made memories with her so part of me is doing this for her.