Holding Hands: The Ogunquit Chronicles 2011

We arrive to lilacs in full bloom, filling our room and the yard with their Spring perfume. Some years we’re off – arriving just before or soon after their show is complete. This time we hit it just right.

Throughout the long weekend they would accompany us with their cheerful lavender blooms, sprinkling the air with that quintessential New England fragrance.

It’s good to arrive on Thursday – a trick we learned after waiting in long lines of Friday traffic on 495 for our first few years. Today the town is slowly awakening after a long, torturous Winter, and a rather rainy early Spring. None of that is in evidence now – window boxes are brimming with pansies and all the other pots have been planted with flowering annuals.

A row of mandevilla, and their accompanying trellises, lines the street in front of me, which I watch from a tree-shaded patio, sipping coffee and writing this out. It is a customary soft-entry into Ogunquit – a sweet decompression period that gently erases all cares or concerns of work and life in upstate New York.

I can feel my shoulders relaxing as the town walks by, and the dappled sunlight and ocean breeze work their healing magic, lulling me into a familiar comfort, an ease of life reserved for this beautiful place by the sea. In some strange way, I feel more at home here than I do in my own backyard. Another Memorial Day weekend in Ogunquit has begun.

It sends its scent forward first, and before it even comes into view the ocean has heralded its presence. It sends its sounds next – the vaguely thunderous pattern of waves, the cries of seagulls, the rolling wind. Only after this introductory preamble does it come into view, revealing itself with its sparkling crests glinting in the sun, the white-capped waves lapping at the beach, the vast immensity of the Atlantic occupying all that lies ahead. It is the deep blue horizon, and when you face it – really face it, head on, and take it all in – everything behind you suddenly ceases to matter.

This is our world at its simplest – at the crux of land, water, and air – and what else is there? We are small creatures to stand before such a colossal expanse, and it always gives me pause to question the humility and, alternately, the hubris it takes to face that vastness.

Most of us aren’t here for that kind of rumination, and, sometimes – well, most of the time – it is enough just to smell the salty air, to be lulled by the queasy undertow, to watch the kids splashing in the frigid surf. With the sun beating down and the warmth of the sand beneath bare feet there is no reason to think of anything else.

The title of this post is all there is to say really: a pair of men hold hands as they walk along the Marginal Way, and nobody pauses to stare, nobody raises an eyebrow, nobody even whispers after they pass. It seems like such a simple thing, such a common occurrence that most married or dating couples take for granted. But when you’re a man married to another man, there’s not much you can take for granted – not even holding hands. Men and women have been attacked and killed for less.

This is the only place in the world where Andy and I have ever held hands in public.

What does that do to a couple? What does that do to a marriage? What does that do to the human spirit?


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