An attempt to understand the history of the old coastal town that is my home.
|Harbor towns yield their history slowly. The fog crawls and covers enough to let casual observers recognize the possibility of something indefinable smoldering beneath it.
The first sailors to land here trod carefully, uncertain of their own footing after weeks at sea. The land was unfamiliar. No memories existed to guide them as they began routines that were familiar and comforting in the homes they’d left behind. The trees they cut were strange to them. Danger – or perceived danger – was everywhere, and vigilance was their only shield.
Enough of their early craft remains to taunt and remind me of what they faced. Their stories hang in the air, in the mist. I want to slip the curtain to show me their faces, to listen to their lives and fears and deaths. I want to smell their rankness, hear them cursing and praying.
They’re still out there, some of them. There was too much at stake, they’d left too much of their essence to make departing the town possible. Witches and priests and farmers joined in a twisted struggle to understand and survive elements they couldn’t defeat. Fear drove them often, sometimes to inexplicable cruelty.
More often they tried to preserve their humanity, or at least the simpler among them did. It’s no surprise that their leaders were frequently willing to discard their souls in pursuit of power. Nor that the lower ranks permitted this as they spent themselves daily keeping favor with god and their bellies.
The houses and tools and jetties they built are gone now, but the streets they laid contain them.
And the Irish bar that stands where they sweated is filled. Gum stuck beneath the counter, and television that screams, belie the holiness. Tourists crowd them with plastic and tread on their graves.