Tinkers Lane

This morning, I walk through the shriveled vegetation that is the evidence of autumn’s first frost, down to the end of Tinkers Lane. It is just daylight when I close my heavy, outer door and leave the comfort of my kitchen for the semi-darkness outside. My sleep the previous night has been filled with wild, disjointed images of my early life here on the island. When I wake up, I decide to head to the place those dreams portrayed. My morning walks are a routine and, even in the cold pre-dawn, I relish them.
Tinkers Lane runs east off the main road to town. You need not come very far in before you are completely enclosed by tall spruces, forming a wall around you that obliterates all light. Even at noon in summer, the lane is shaded and cool. This morning, in early October, it is blue-black dark. Still, I know the way well enough that I don’t need the light, and I halt only briefly at a sharp cry that comes from the woods. Raccoons, likely. Not after me, just the windfall apples from the long abandoned trees lining the lane.
As I reach the rocky shore at the end of the lane, the sun stretches itself above the blurred line of the horizon. It’s overcast this morning, in advance of a hurricane moving up the coast, and sunrise is less than spectacular. Still, I watch for a while, enjoying the calm, silver-grey water, and the gulls and terns circling for their breakfast–inhaling the scent of spruce mixed with salt from the bay. Soon, I decide to head home to my coffee and the breaking of my own fast.
I have been to the end of Tinkers Lane many times. The lane is not more than a quarter mile from the house where my paternal grandparents lived when I was a child–the house where I often visited them. Tinkers was within the area we were allowed to roam in those earlier, innocent days of our childhoods–before children were snatched off the streets and adults everywhere–even on a small Maine island–became the frightened and watchful people we are now. But in all the times I have been this way, I have never noticed the dilapidated building, set on the rocks, hidden just beyond the end of the Lane. Seeing it now, I am reminded of its appearance in my dreams, last night. I have the sense that I have been called to come here this morning.
I am drawn, often, to those things others have discarded. Whether the thrift store table, the plants left in the community compost heap, the stray animal, or this abandoned building, I feel compelled by their condition to offer shelter, nurturance and/or rehabilitation, to that which others find undesirable.
Approaching this small, deteriorating, structure, I find it covered with lichen–growing yellow-gold against the greyed cedar shingles on the exterior. Windows and roof are intact, but the dirty window glass and peeling blue paint on the shutters and the door let me know that no one has been regularly caring for this place.
I wonder if its owner has died, or is simply no longer able to make the walk down the lane. I have no way of knowing, of course. But, wanting to discover what I can, I try the door. Happily, as I lift the thumb latch, and pull it gently toward me, the door yields. Standing on the large piece of granite set as a step, I peer into the dim interior.
The shafts of light from the windows are filled with dust motes, swirling in the air. Along the whitewashed walls hang coils of rope, buoys, and oars. Traps meant to catch lobsters are stacked on the floor. These are wooden traps, not the plastic-coated metal ones in use now, so I know that this equipment is from at least twenty years ago. I can see that no one has used it for a long time. I wonder about the fisherman who owned this place and why he never came back. I pray, silently, that it was not misfortune that kept him away.
I think about how often we abandon what is worn and well used in favor of what is pristine and new. The equipment stored here is in good repair–recently painted buoys, neatly mended nets–and tells me that the fisherman who owned this place took pride in the tools of his trade. I feel he would not have simply abandoned them to acquire shiny, new replacements meant to be housed in a new place.
I want to wash the dirty windows and sweep the floor clean, but although it’s unlocked, I feel that entering the building would be akin to trespassing. I decide against going inside. Offering a silent blessing to both the building, and its prior occupant, I shut the door gently and turn for home.


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