I was twelve when my family shared a big gray house on Fire Island with the McKennas. The house was at the end of a series of narrow boardwalks, just over a small dune from the ocean, which was easily visible from our veranda. I believe the house also had a sundeck off of one of the upstairs bedrooms, because I have a vague memory of someone—my mother, I think—telling me not to disturb Mrs. McKenna, who liked to sunbathe “in the nude.” I had never heard that expression before and, at first, could not believe I had understood it correctly. Only the weird blend of excitement and disapproval in the voice of whoever was speaking convinced me that my interpretation was exactly right. I have no memory of the sundeck itself, however, nor of ever seeing Mrs. McKenna in anything more revealing than a one-piece bathing suit.
Maps are one way humans make sense of their environment. In this age of Google Earth, where a few mouse clicks call up a satellite image of almost any inch of the globe, it can be difficult to imagine a time when maps were often based as much on hearsay and guesswork as scientific surveying.
Not cool for September so we walked
slowly, slowly to cross the still-green campus
gold-struck in morning’s light.
That’s the kind of phrase I’d have used,
years ago, an undergrad arriving in town
the same year that you’d left.