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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

The Second Greatest View In The World

As you no doubt remember, I’ve already explained to you that I’ve seen the greatest view in the world.

I hate to brag…

Hey, stop your snickering.

Anyway, I hate to brag, but I’ve now also seen the second greatest view in the world. And this is it:

That’s not actually it, but it’s the photo I took to give you the general idea.

You see, I was socializing. I very rarely get to do that. When the opportunity to socialize is offered, you must take it and not waste it by transcribing it for posterity. That concept is not settled now, and people have yet to adapt to the fairly recent capability to record everything digitally.

We attended a party for our lovely niece, who graduated from high school in a town near Portland, Maine. Since we did not get a chance to attend the ceremony itself, we were lucky that her dear old dad had photographed the whole thing, and could plug the camera right into the television and show it to all of us.

It occurred to me that every person who attended the ceremony did that. Everyone records everything now. It’s fantastic and terrifying. We’ve become an enormous press corp following ourselves around. We’re nervously checking for messages on our phones, taking digital pictures and movies all the time. I think it needs more rumination over the effects it has on our participation in anything. You do not fully participate in anything if you’re recording it. And you do not act the same way with a recording device pointed at you.

I think my brother-in-law enjoyed watching his daughter’s graduation more as images of it passed by on the television than he did when he was there, because he was busy making a series of digital artifacts of it while it was going on. It wasn’t real for him until it was on TV, because he could just look at it and see his daughter get her sheepskin.

The TV points a camera at everything and everybody now. When there’s a TV show following the exterminator around, we’ve come to the end to the ennui road, unless they start filming toll booth operators. But reality ain’t real, really; I’ve worked every kind of construction, and believe me if you watch HGTV you have no idea what those people act like when the camera is off. You don’t want to know. Artifice always enters the equation.

It is an important milestone in a person’s life to graduate from high school. My niece is lucky that her father thought enough of her, and it, to remove some of the passive pleasure in it and replace it with the active commemoration of it. Someone has to cook, so that all may eat.

But what if we are all cooks, but no one is hungry, and we’ve forgotten the recipe we were making anyway?

We visited afterwards with an old friend that we’d lost touch with. It was marvelous to see her, and meet her husband, and get a tour of their house. They live on a spit of granite running right into the waves in Cape Elizabeth. That’s the famous Portland Head light there in the background.

Their house was built in around World War I, a period lasting ’til the depression when the most best houses were built in the United States. And unlike a modern version of this house, it didn’t just gape at the ocean through banks of the worst window and the worst door combined –the slider; instead there was a series of framed views, one after another, dizzying in their variety, and ephemeral because they would wink out as you passed by them and went on to the next one. Inexorably, you’d be led on until you stood right on the granite doorstep of the mighty Atlantic Ocean just steps outside the house, and have the Earth and sky revealed to you like the denouement of a play– instead of a combination of a hammer to the senses and a kind of overwhelming wallpaper.

I’m in the recording business here. I’m supposed to take pictures and show them to you. But I’m only human. I enjoyed the company instead, and walked through the house like a guest and a friend and a human, and refused to do my duty instead and record it all for you.

I could lie to you and tell you I forget the camera in the car, or the battery in it was dead. But I can’t lie, because I went to Catholic School what seems like a century ago and I’m still afraid of the nuns. I left it in the car on purpose because I’m selfish and polite. I was not visiting goldfish. In a weak moment, I ran back and took one or two.

Friends are better than pictures.

7 Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I have taken the stance of NOT taking pictures/videos of various events over the years so that I could work more on experiencing it in the now as well as actually remember it.

    For a related take see one of the underlying themes (especially more toward the end) of “Home for the Holidays”.

    “And no one will take pictures.”

  2. I hope Mrs. Cottage enjoyed a trip away and the company as well. You did take her, too, didn’t you?

  3. As an aside. There is a show called Verminators on Discovery. Pest killers on TV, oh what wonderful ratings!

  4. I ruined a couple of the kids Nativity Plays for myself when they were 5 years old – in the process of taking a few blurry photos. Now all I remember is what is on the blurry photos.

    I cast the camera aside, and for the later plays where I didn’t use one, and when as I watched I knew the experience was un-repeatable, I have several vivid and lovely memories.

    The memory has its own rules, and one of the rules is that memory works best when given responsibility.

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