Saturday, October 03, 2009

Time in a bottle.

Reading the online edition of the Boston Globe yesterday I came across this unconventional yet poignant human interest story:
Each year on her birthday, Ann Hernandez and her boyfriend, Alan Tomaska, would settle on the rocky shore of Thacher Island and uncork a bottle of champagne in a toast to the day. When the bottle was empty and the tide going out, Hernandez would tuck a handwritten message inside and Tomaska would hurl the bottle over the rocks and into the crashing surf.

Tomaska considered the ritual a lark.

But for Hernandez, the messages in the bottle were a kind of personal driftwood - a piece of her joining the sea and traveling with its currents to hoped-for far-flung locales.

"When we got back to our humdrum lives, we didn't talk about the bottle," said Tomaska, a home remodeler. "But whenever we were on the island, she would say, 'One of these days, someone is going to find one of those bottles.'"

It would take six years, but someone did. Defying nautical laws and odds, one of Hernandez's bottles last month bobbed along the coast of France to a quaint village, where a French couple, Michel and Daniele Onesime, scooped it out of the water and read with wonder the note inside.

. . .

The message read: "Ann Hernandez is a lighthouse keeper on Thacher Island - Cape Ann Light Station and had a birthday there Oct 10 2003. Drop her a card at home." The message included her year-round Illinois address. The Onesimes quickly jotted off a postcard and sent it off.

But the connection was not to be.
For what the late Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story," click here. This bittersweet tale of a lighthouse keeper sending messages out to sea year after year in hopes of a reply made me think of other stories of connections forged between individuals who never meet in person. One example could be Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road, though the facts of that story are quite unlike those of the tale in yesterday's Globe. In a certain way, I suppose that blogs and online journals can help establish these kind of connections in a contemporary context.

A better example of this kind of far-off connection may come in the experience of reading the letters or journals of someone who died a long time ago and realizing that the author had thoughts or feelings much like one's own. This has happened to me on a number of occasions while reading the personal writings of long-dead Jesuits, whose joys and struggles bore a surprising degree of similarity to the consolations and challenges that many of us in the Society of Jesus experience today. Once in a while, it is good to be reminded that the bonds of personal and spiritual communion that unite us are not restricted by time or geography. The story of the Cape Ann lighthouse keeper offers us such a reminder; my hope and prayer for today is that the people involved in the story recognize the gift that they have been given. AMDG.


At 10/03/2009 5:34 PM, Blogger Laura Brown said...

This was a really moving story. One of my best friends is a fellow blogger I've not yet met in person (the story of our correspondence isn't a million miles away from 84 Charing Cross Road -- thanks for reminding me of it), and for various reasons I've had a lot of occasion to reflect on our friendship the past few days, so your observations really struck a chord with me.

And I agree with you about recognising our own joys and struggles in the writings of the dead. As long as we can communicate our thoughts, we truly can defeat both distance and time.


Post a Comment

<< Home