Talked with Cliff Clark, a fifth generation ferryman, at the May Day 5K and told him that I too had a ferryman ancestor, who, in the 18th century, plied the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. “He had a bar too.”
“And he’d ferry people there — a smart man,” said Cliff, whose Shelter Island ancestors began rowing people between Shelter Island and Hog Neck (now North Haven) in the early 1700s.
“My mother told me we owned Pittsburgh’s South Side when it was a goat pasture,” I said, adding that in our family, when it came to material possessions, “we seem to miss the boat — it’s like going on Antiques Road Show only to learn that the jewels that have been in your family forever are paste.”
But, that’s okay. It’s the spiritual legacy that counts most, and I’ve got that, though to be of a place, and to be part of a worthy tradition to boot, as in Cliff’s case, is, I think, to be really blessed. Most of the rest of us are windblown, trying to find an anchor, a home.
I think I’ve found one here, though I don’t know if it’s so much the flora and fauna and the estuaries and beaches, all of which tend to put one at ease, as it is the people — people such as could be found in numbers at the May Day 5K the other day, infants on up to octogenarians commingling on behalf of a good cause on a perfect spring day.
That the gathering could be traced to an idea that two high school sophomore long-distance-running teammates, Dylan Cashin and Ryleigh O’Donnell, had last fall, an idea that was to be fully realized in time, with the help of their elders, attested all the more to the feeling I’ve often had that we live in an inspiriting place, one in which the generations reinforce each other.
That’s home to me.