One birthday, my beloved co-author and friend, the late Harry Lodge, gave me a brass marine clock which he had had restored. The face is some ten inches across and it sits on a deep brass ring. It has to be wound every seven days, but it keeps perfect time. It chimes on the hour and the half hour, on nautical time. That is, it rings every half hour, up to eight bells, then starts again.
It is screwed into the wall, right next to the big desk, here in my study, the coziest room in the house. It just rang one bell: four-thirty in the afternoon. When I sleep in here, I listen for it sometimes in the night, if I’m awake. It tells me, say, “six bells,” or three o’clock and so on. I listen for it and I think of my own sailing days, of Harry’s great kindness and the passage of time. Which is somehow warmer, when it is sounded by this familiar clock.
Now I am sitting at my desk in the middle of a ferocious storm. High winds are tossing the huge trees, the sky is black and the thunder and lightning are almost scary. Makes this room even cozier. I’m glad to be here and not out on some boat, I tell you. There comes a time, sailors say, when one “buries the anchor.” That is, one goes ashore for good. I have buried the anchor – way out here in the Berkshires, far from the sea. I miss the ocean all the time. And I miss Harry. And a number of others who have been sucked down into the ocean of time. And I am glad to have this clock.
There are two pictures here: the clock and my last boat, a Mercer 44 named Wandering Aengus. The little boy, curled up against the boom, in the sail – under the clock – is my son Tim, then ten. The man yelling from the cockpit of Aengus is Tim, too. Now he is 61. What are we to make of that?