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  • Writer's pictureAnne Hodges White

Watch Your Bow Wake

“NO WAKE ZONE”

Sign at the Wickford, RI marina


A boat's wake off the coast of Maine

An average-sized lobster boat pulling ten knots in an average-sized cove will kick out a bow wake of thirty-one waves. Here on the dock at Quahog Cove, writing but distracted, I count them. Laws of physics are at work here.


The wave spreads out from the lobsterman’s single diesel source, him standing in the white deck house looking forward. He trails a widening V that spreads across the morning surface, evenly spaced as if he intended silent order. He has passed me far to the left, his inboard whispering, when waves reach my dock, which creaks with receptive slaps, rising, falling. A cormorant and three ducks bob nearby, the buoys pull and release the ropes of a nearby float with a fussy eeeekkkk. The waves reach shore and wear themselves out on the rocky remains of an ancient Appalachian range. Calm again.


But not for long. The sun is higher now. New boats, new wakes: the crossways wake of a fishing dingy, high-pitched and sputtering—a tight wake; a 28-foot Hinkley in half sail, proud and entitled—the lordly, rolling wake; a youngster gunning a 45-horse Johnson—the wake of heedless peak and impatient splash. Wake overtakes wake and the day is a patchwork, and opportunities for space are lost in chop, and confusion reigns on the surface and beneath it.

All my life I have watched bow wakes. Witness the wakes of people! The sputtering, the entitled, the impatient, the pussyfooting. And what is mine? Do I see it? Do I discipline the eye inward? There is something of terrible importance here.


It is now late in the day. This writing space on the dock has yielded up a page or two. My breathing is deeper, what comes from a good day of writing. I sense the broader rhythmic rise and fall of the Great Ocean to the east just out of my sight. It moves into the cove, a breath taken down into the peninsulas of Maine, the awaiting alveoli of its coastal body. Deeper movement enlivens the inhabited body into the fresh, the new, the direct impression. A No Wake Zone of the enlivened heart.

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