When our most recent Nor’easter, “Athena” arrived last week (Who knew “winter” storms get labeled now, too?), I choked when I heard her name. Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and “Just” Wars, pounded our coast eight days after Sandy. For a while Wednesday and Thursday, I wondered what wisdom irate Mother Nature sought to impart as she launched her second offensive in less than two weeks. Patience, perhaps? Maybe fortitude? Or perhaps, it was something else.
We get these Nor’easters, and we get through them, but during Athena, following so closely on the heels of Sandy’s devastation, something occurred that brought to mind how fate factors into our lives.
The coast south of Boston is littered with sharp rocks. The area’s past is colored with tragic shipwrecks—including a horrible story of Irish of immigrants who died within sight of our unforgiving shores. Only a fool pilots the waters anywhere near us without up-to-date navigational charts. Once, my husband watched a man throttle his powerboat outside a marked channel at the mouth of our harbor. Before he could finish saying, “That guy is nuts” that “guy” hit ledge and began to sink.
Keeping that in mind, tell me how this happens? With the wind blasting and massive swells pounding on shore and off shore ledges this week, an empty fishing boat from Gloucester, a city north of Boston, (13.5 nautical miles away, or about 60 miles by car— an interminable time through traffic should you choose to drive), pulls its mooring and travels across Massachusetts Bay to the South Shore. It makes it from one coast to another, without capsizing and without hitting rock. It rides Athena’s mountainous waves and washes up, relatively unscathed in front of a house, which happens to sit on the brink of one of the few small stretches of ledge-free coast in our town.
I’m sure the owner of that boat is cursing the mooring that didn’t hold, but I hope, also, he is counting his blessings. I think of folks in New York and New Jersey, who’ve lost everything—scrabbling for scraps of their lives—chasing family photos as they blow across debris littered lots. Then I imagine that fishing boat, twirling and spinning across miles of dangerous water, missing the Grampus Ledges, the Black Rocks, Minot’s Ledge, Harding Ledge, Thieves Ledge, and so many other obstacles, to land, battered but whole, on the other side of Massachusetts Bay.
I caught a photo of the boat during the height of the storm. The next day, the sky was scrubbed clean and blue. I stepped out with the camera, chasing a picture of the still ferocious sea crashing over our lighthouse, and as I made my way down the coast, I passed the stranded boat again. Seeing it there, safe and whole, I understood Athena's lesson.
There’s a mighty fine line between awesome and awful.