Edgartown's Beautiful Old Church of Whaling Days, f/k/a the Edgartown United Methodist Church.
I am loving being in town this week, a departure from my usual routine (and sentiments), with this time of year, with the exception of Mondays and Tuesdays, more typically being spent in the city. But with the birth of a grandchild imminent, I decided to hold over until the baby makes his or her appearance (ha - the baby knows I am waiting. I might have to get on the ferry and pretend to leave).
I haven't always been able to say that I like January in Edgartown, but it has been very pleasant this time. For one thing, it means I get to sleep in the same bed for a number of nights in a row which is always a plus, as well as being able to focus on projects without being interrupted. It's not that I don't like the commute, it's just that sometimes I get a good head of steam going, on whatever it is I happen to be working on, and my travels - changing locations mid-stream, or steam - can be very disruptive, so I have come to appreciate an opportunity to to stay put for an extended period - in either location.
Knowing there will be a baby at the end of this stint helps - a lot - plus, I am very cozy and happy in my lair overlooking Main Street.
There's one thing I've been missing, however, and that is the sound of the bell in the town clock. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed its absence without reading in the local papers that the bell has been removed from the tower and shipped off (to allow for repair of both the bell and its housing - full story here, and here), as I'm often the one who calls Tommy Bassett (the clock keeper; a job that his father, Bob Bassett, and his grandfather William Silva both held; Tom's son Jake also works on the clock, which totals four generations of Bassett/Silvas taking care of our clock) when the clock isn't keeping the correct time or if the bell is malfunctioning.
Yes, it is eerily quiet around here, and I'm not one who craves the quiet, which is one of the reasons I choose to live smack in the middle of Coolidge Corner, with the sounds of the C-line train, and sirens, and traffic, and people, right outside my window all day and half the night. It's also the reason I like living on Main Street, for the sense I have of being surrounded by movement and sounds and life.
Bells in a town say, "people live here." In thinking about this posting, I remembered - and was even able to find - this bit from my Edgartown Column, written in December of 2001: "Sunday was a perfect day for working on outdoor projects. My chores included varnishing my new kitchen door and reworking an old brick walkway, and as I worked in my sunny side yard I savored the sounds of what I call, 'the music of life' - the whisper of the wind through the trees, an occasional seagull's cry, the distant sound of church bells, each church taking its turn..." I was living four blocks away on Plantingfield Way when I wrote this, and in those days, not only was the town clock sounding the hour, but St. Elizabeth's, St. Andrews, and the Federated churches also had carillons that played on the hour, and they all seemed to be calling and answering each other, which now makes me think of this English nursery rhyme:
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Chris Scott, the director of the MV Preservation Trust, which owns the church building (the town owns the clock), in a conversation on Main Street yesterday, told me that the bell is scheduled to be re-installed by Memorial Day. He also has assured me that the repairs will not change the sound of the bell (and I hope he's right because after hearing it for the better part of sixty years, I certainly have its frequency - the exact note and timbre - etched deeply into my brain; a different note just would not be Edgartown, I'm afraid)
The view from my kitchen window, with the town clock just two blocks away. This time of year I can see what time it is from my window (by ducking and weaving a little). Growing up in this house, the sound of the town clock was a part of our daily lives
While I was down town this morning taking the above photos, Tom Teller stopped his red truck and one of the things he said to me was, "This must be a favorite subject of yours. I've been looking at your photos, and you've got a lot of pictures of this church." He's right. Not only is Edgartown's Beautiful Old Church of Whaling Days (its real name) beautiful, but it's big, and seems to be catching the light differently every time I walk by, which is often.This was also my dear Grandmother's church, where she took me when I was very small, where I first heard about the God who loves me.Once, when we were kids, I went up to the bell tower with Tommy Bassett and his father. It was dizzying, but the view was spectacular. Check it out: if you look in the window of the bell tower, you'll see an empty space where the bell used to be.
From the archives: my Aunt Maude (Shurtleff) Norton; my grandmother, Mabel (Shurtleff) Boylston; and Roberta Gilluly (now Tilton; my second cousin, and Maude's granddaughter), ringing the bell of the town clock on VJ Day, 1945.
Reportedly, one of the repairs will be on the mechanism that allows the bell to be rung by hand, something that has not been possible in many years.