|a calydonian boar greets visitors at the entrance to the household wing at osborne house|
our english friends, the lovely lady katherine and her handsome husband, john—a commoner like the rest of us—from horton, northampton, were recently in maine at their cottage in cape elizabeth. they took time away from their rigorous relaxation schedule—drinking a lot of tea (english habits die hard), reading books, going for walks along the beach, and barbecuing hunks of bloody, meaty things—and favored my husband and me with a few hours of their company. we met at—where else?—gritty's, our local brew pub.
lady katherine was the one who insisted i go to osborne house (!) on the isle of wight—my husband and i were overseas for a few weeks last june and he had a business meeting on the island—to see queen victoria's summer palace and the walled garden. i assumed she had been there; turns out she has never set foot in the place. the things you learn. so the four of us laughed about that, and talked about life in northampton, life in maine, life in general, and swapped stories about our aging parents and our grown children and their boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands—all the usual catching-up topics.
later, after we had said our goodbyes, i thought about the house they used to rent in cape elizabeth. i smiled to myself when i remembered how the seagulls would line up side by side, perching from one end of the roof to the other, like ducks in a carnival shooting gallery. they always seemed to be resting on lady katherine's roof, but not on any others. i guess the birds liked lady k's view the best.
funny, isn't it, how you'll have something random on your mind and then that will conjure up more similarly random thoughts. thinking about the cape elizabeth seagulls brought to mind other maine places where birds like to congregate in large numbers—the shorebirds at popham beach and in the nooks and crannies along our rocky coast, the great gatherings of puffins on eastern egg rock, and the seagulls and cormorants on the thousands of ledges and anonymous, vaguely egg-or-dumpling-shaped rocks in the ocean which are often surrounded by rafts of eiders and nosy harbor seals—also found on the "seal rocks" near portland—in the bay's rolling tide.
my train of thought kept coming back to eggs and rocks, and rocks and eggs, and rocks that, by scrunching your eyes into a good squint, resembled eggs. of course, once eggs got in my head, i had no choice but to think of birds.
i was given an animal picture book when i was a child which had a nice drawing of a large rock with lots of birds on it. that rock was the first rock—in what would become a long line of rocks—i knew to be called egg. i asked my parents why the author called it egg rock and they said can't you see why? it's obvious—it's shaped like an egg. that answer might have been obvious to them, but it was far from obvious to me—it did not satisfy me then, and it still doesn't satisfy me. in my opinion, the rock in question appeared egg-ish or egg-like but it also appeared quite dumpling-ish or meatball-ish since it was basically roundish and therefore only an approximation of an egg's shape. i thought how dumb can parents be?
i argued with my parents that the rock in the picture book had birds all over it so wouldn't it only make sense to call it bird rock. (this was long before i knew about seal rock, which would have helped my argument immensely.) that's an obvious name, i told them. besides, some giant, mythical mutha of a bird had to lay that monster egg of a rock in the first place, and now the rock was covered with birds. everywhere birds, birds, birds. it's a bird rock, i insisted, like it or not.
my parents said to me bird rock or not bird rock, you're so argumentative you should become a lawyer. (they said that many times while i was growing up.)
maybe i should have, but i never did.
~ congratulations. you made it to the bottom of the page. now you get to hear the truth. i have a confession to make: my friend katherine is not a lady at all.... well, i mean, she is a lady, a lovely lady, just not a royal lady. i call her lady katherine because someone actually thought she was a royal lady once. but that's a story for another day.