In Which it is Always Ten Minutes Before Two

We have a clock in our cottage in Rockport. It is a beautiful, handcrafted Provence style clock in blues and yellows;a perfect signature piece for the cottage. We purchased it a couple of years ago on a whim and a sale and have no regrets.

When on display in shops, clocks are often shown with the short hand pointed at the two and the long hand pointed at the ten. I’ve been told this is how you show a clock to its best advantage. (Who knew?) Since this was a battery operated clock, and unwilling to be stuck like a child on Christmas morning who longs to use a toy only to realize his parents have forgotten to buy batteries, we stopped and purchased a pack of AA batteries – Duracell for good measure.

When we arrived back to the cottage and I was ready to place it on that perfect spot on the wall, my husband and I looked at each other and made a decision: we would never put a battery in this clock. The time on this clock would never move. In the cottage in Rockport it would forever be ten minutes until two in the afternoon.

And so it has stayed. We have had guests come and go who have longed to put batteries in our clock, but we won’t let them. In a world filled with demands and stresses, productivity and deadlines, we have a place, a space where time stops. We will forever be at ten minutes before two.

It’s summer now, not the official summer that comes with solstice and a June 20th date, but the practical summer that begins on Memorial Day in the United States. Every day we have a little more time as it stays lighter longer. And in summer we need time to stop a bit, need life to slow down, need to take walks on beaches and stay up late on porches. I am so grateful to have a place this summer where it’s always ten minutes before two in the afternoon, where time stops and life happens; where we are given the grace of slowing down.

Do you have a place where time stops? Where you can relax so well that time no longer dictates your life? Would love to hear about it in the comment section.


Autographed at Eight Bells

8 Bells, Rockport, MA

On Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Massachusetts is a shop called 8 Bells. The shop mixes a vintage charm with a beach feel and has everything from uniquely designed vintage door-knob bouquets to pictures in weathered frames. Old window panes stenciled with lacy white templates are beside vases and signs showing off the talent of an inspired artist. Despite the small area, 8 Bells is a shop you can stay in for hours just for inspiration.

On the front desk in a container are copies of  a book called Night Swimming” holding their own inspiration. Inspiration for making life happen when you believe you don’t have much to lose. The author of the book, Robin Schwartz, is also the owner of the shop and is as unconventional as her created character, Charlotte.

The first time we visited the shop, Robin looked at us as we left and said “You’re not going to buy anything?”  She was incredulous and her incredulity was guilt-inducing.  The next time we didn’t leave until I had picked up a copy of “Night Swimming”. Robin autographed the book for me that very minute. The autograph reads:

Dear Marilyn, Thank you for coming back. I think you will enjoy Blossoms blooming. And as she swims, may you get lost in laps of laughter and reflection. I hope you come into 8 Bells again and again and I hope Night Swimming rings your bell. xoxo Robin Schwartz

On this rainy weekend, as I read the  book in two sittings while curled up on a couch,  I did get lost in laughter and reflection. It is a delightful account of a woman living a boring, quiet, predictable life in a small town in New Hampshire. The protagonist Charlotte Clapp, who is eating her way into oblivion, gets bad news from her doctor. Actually terrible news. Her blood test results show that at 36 years old she has cancer and only a year to live.

Her response to this news is to promptly go into the small town bank where she has worked for 15 years and quit her job. Following this she robs the bank and cleverly disappears from town with two million dollars, reinventing herself along the way in her last year of life.  What the reader knows that Charlotte doesn’t is that the physician got the blood test results mixed up with another woman by the same name from another town in New Hampshire. She’s not dying. But even as the FBI becomes involved in searching for her, she is busily oblivious on the opposite side of the country, spending the two million dollars and living out her final year of life so she has no regrets. The reader leaves behind any predisposed views on justice and punishment and prays that the FBI will come up empty-handed as they go alongside Charlotte rooting for her.

So why does the book resonate with me? For two reasons. One is that it makes me wonder what I would do if I was told this was my last year of life. It wasn’t a morbid thought so much as a healthy self-reflection. The other is recognizing that we all get to points where we need new beginnings. Charlotte, although her means were unconventional, actually went for this. Deciding that she had nothing to lose, she bought a luxury apartment in Hollywood and began discovering who she really was.

In Charlotte’s character is something that will resonate inside many women. That deep desire to develop our true potential and learn how to love in the process.  So if you go into 8 Bells, make sure you tell Robin that you read about her book here!~

Rockport, Blueberry Pie & the Cottage

I am back in Cambridge after a weekend that was made for poets and artists. Sun-filled days, ocean waves, and the rocky coasts of Rockport, Ma were my scenery, blueberry pie was my dessert, and “The Cottage” was my resting place.

“The Cottage” is actually a condo across the street and down one block from the ocean. It is located in the Pigeon Cove area of Rockport,  surrounded by old New England homes with big porches, hanging plants, and bay windows.

We found “The Cottage” three years ago, and taking a huge risk decided to purchase on a short sale. Thinking back on this I think we were both a bit crazy but I’m so glad we were. We had made a cross-country move only 6 months prior from Phoenix, Arizona. This move, made in the middle of winter where sun and palm trees waved us goodbye and the worst winter in five years bid us hello, was a tough one. For weeks we said “Right Move – Wrong Time” to each other as we battled through a job search and mid-life crisis for me; a teenage daughter whose “Life was ruined!”; and a search for the right school for our 6th grader.

We exchanged cathedral ceilings, designer paint, and a master suite for a Cambridge condo that had us occasionally pining for space and light. Into our lives at this time came the opportunity to buy this condo-cottage in Rockport – a place that for over twenty years of marriage had been a destination of peace and light. Rockport is an old artist colony and sits apart on the North Shore of Boston with its eclectic people, unique homes, and charm. We had always dreamed of having a place like this. A place that we would not only use as our get away, but a place we could offer to others  for those times when life feels too hard, and peace feels too aloof. So we did it…we risked practicality and finance and bought “The Cottage.”

And this weekend, yet again, we remember why we did this. For after a few months of stress and uncertainty in both of our jobs, a house full of people all going various ways and inevitably colliding, after 85 inches of snow and a daughter going through a revolution in Cairo, we set up “The Cottage.” Basking on ocean rocks in beautiful sunshine, eating blueberry pie, playing games, and talking for hours with some of our best friends we fell in love yet again with “The Cottage”.

Back in Cambridge, as we prepare for a busy week ahead, reality bites, but we look at each other, sigh, and say “At least we have
The Cottage!”