Editor's note: A classic story of a never-to-be forgotten summer among the islands of Maine.
Out on the islands that poke their rocky shores above the waters of Penobscot Bay, you can watch the time of the world go by, from minute to minute, hour to hour, from day to day, season to season.
You can watch a cloud peep over the Camden Hills, thirty miles away across the bay - see it slowly grow and grow as it comes nearer and nearer; see it darken the hills with its shadow; and then, see it darken, one after the other, Islesboro, Western Island, Pond Island, Hog Island, Spectacle Island, Two Bush Island - darken all the islands in between, until you, on your island, are standing in the shadow, watching the rain begin to spill down way across the bay.
The rain comes closer and closer. Now you hear a million splashes. Now you even see the drops on the water ... on the age-old rocky point ... on the bayberry ... on the grass ...
Now take a breath - IT'S RAINING ON YOU!
At the water's edge on a foggy morning in the early spring you feel as though you were standing alone on the edge of nowhere.
You hear a snorting sound from out of the nowhere and you know that no, you are not alone. A family of porpoises is nearby, rolling over and over, having an acrobatic breakfast of herring under the bay.
Then through the fog you hear Harry Smith over at Blastow's Cove start the engine of his lobster boat and go out to pull his traps.
Suddenly there is a ripple and a splash along the shore that makes you jump! It is the wake from Harry Smith's lobster boat, and you smile because you almost got wet feet that time!
The ripple disappears into the fog, and though you cannot see it you know that it is silently gliding, gliding on its way. Then another distant, unseen splash - and the gulls and cormorants on Two Bush Ledge, with their seabird sense of humor, start giggling and laughing because they too were suddenly surprised by the wake.
Back from the shore the trees look like ghosts. The forest is so quiet that you can hear an insect boring a tunnel deep inside a log. And that other sound - not the beating of your heart, but the one like half a whisper - is the sound of growing ferns, pushing aside dead leaves, unrolling their fiddle-heads, slowly unfurling, slowly stretching.
Now the fog turns yellow. The bees begin to buzz, and a hummingbird hums by. Then all the birds begin to sing, and suddenly the fog has lifted!
And suddenly you find that you are singing too,
With the blue water sparkling all around, all around,
With the blue water sparkling all around!
At the height of the summer season the bay is spotted with boats - with racing sailboats, with cruising schooners, with busy fishing boats, and with buzzing outboards.
In the afternoon you sail among the islands, pushed by gentle breezes. You sail close by Swain's Cove Ledges, where a mother seal is nursing her baby.
And then at sunset, with porpoises puffing and playing around your boat, you come about and set a course for the island that is home.
Also by Robert McCloskey:
"One Morning in Maine"
"Blueberries for Sal"
"Make Way for Ducklings"
"Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man"
First published in the United States under the title TIME OF WONDER by Robert McCloskey. Copyright and A Robert McCloskey 1957. Copyright renewed A Robert McCloskey 1985. Published by arrangement with Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Pub Date: 5/24/98