41 Fair Street, by Anne Troutman

The first thing I noticed when I entered this house was the light. It was like a lantern, luminous. Bright sunlight stitched ceiling to wall, doorway to stair, stretched out across the floor, lazed over the lace curtains in the bedrooms upstairs. After over 200 years of habitation by a host of island families –Cartwright, Starbuck, Folger, Chase, Gardner, Perkins, Robinson and a few others–the rooms were a-jumble, as cobbled together with borrowings as a bird’s nest, and there was not a single right angle or plumb line to be found – anywhere. There still isn’t.

Oh, the other thing I noticed?  It was a happy house.

This spring is different from the others. ‘Sheltering at home’ during this long cool season, I find I have the time to catch up with myself; I’m letting go of years of running, doing, planning, moving around.  The slow quiet dream of the island is amplified and I feel time bend and flex with the weather.

This is the first spring I’ve heard that ringing silence throughout the day, undivided by the clatter of trucks, sanders, hammers and leaf blowers; the first spring in awhile I’ve heard so many different birds singing from dawn until the chiming of 8 o’clock church bell when they mysteriously go silent; the first spring I have daily savored the slow swell of buds on the hydrangeas by the front windows, the gradual greening of privet along Tattle Ct, the blossoming, fading and dropping of the maple’s tiny red flowers as the buds start to unfurl. The sycamore, lazier: its branches are tufted with lichen, its conical buds still tightly curled. Yesterday, two eagles circled high over Fair & Tattle, Farmer and Pine, riding a southerly current of air.

I like to imagine Lydia Starbuck waking early one morning in the year 1810. Her two young daughters, Judith and Phoebe, are still asleep upstairs. She’s lighting a fire, putting on the kettle, listening to the wind muscle around the house. Perhaps she looked out this same window at the wood smoke sifting crazily from the neighbor’s chimney; perhaps she too followed the slow progress of sunlight across the pine floors; perhaps she smiled, thinking–this is a happy house.


Artist and writer Anne Troutman lives and works on Nantucket.