Ocean, Glass, Pine cone. The cottage has been abandoned for years, no one is quite sure how many. Long enough that even the park rangers can’t remember who might have owned it. The sand has been bleached almost white, specks of darker rock and bits of shell blow in through the open window. Sea oats grow up the side of the sand dune and flourish in the sun and salt air.
The sand has slowly overtaken the little one-room cottage, protecting the wood from the wind and elements. The glass from the windows, broken years ago, is long gone. In its place the sand has covered the windowsill, and spills through the opening, blowing across the floor in an ever growing pile. The walls are leaning and the roof slants as the floor space fills, it is more than waist-high now. Without the support inside, the walls would have collapsed long ago.
A sand dune is a living thing, in constant motion with the wind. The movement may be slow, but the sand has overtaken this cottage in just the last several years, and it will have buried it entirely in another few. It is anyone’s guess what will be left when the dune moves away and leaves the wood behind. A few hurricanes will likely be the end of it. The cottage is in a protected area, set back from the ocean side of the island. There are two rows of dunes protecting the island from the sea, and the cottage is behind the second set.
Did it have a picket fence? Silvered cedar shingles and paint chipped shutters? Did it have a wide plank floor and white linens on the table for company? Were there ever wildflowers from the field in red, yellow and purple; set into a vase on a little wooden table? Seashells drying on the counter, pine cones piled near the fireplace? Were there hollyhocks in a riot by the back door and a little garden on the south side? Was a kiss ever stolen by the gate in the moonlight, love-filled angst driving the heart to pound? Did babies ever toddle across the floor and did a beloved pet ever curl up by the fireplace?
Was it just a summer place, to be opened and aired each June then packed up and put away come the cool autumn? Did college boys ever drink themselves silly and stumble down the path? Did a young mother ever look out at the stars in the sky here as she prayed for her family and husband at war? Did the cottage ever shelter wayward strangers, or sea captains or angels? What dreams were forged here, what memories made, underneath the southern moon on the windward side of Cumberland Island, Georgia?
All that it shelters now are spiders and the occasional alligator who gets curious. Scorpions and grasshoppers, crickets and moths. Soon there won’t be enough space for them either. The sand will fill the opening until there is no more room. The windows and the doorway will be dark and the cottage will pass from our sight and out of existence, as though it had never been there at all.
~ The End
PS: This cottage and island are real – Cumberland Island National Seashore – a wild and wonderful place that fills the heart and imagination. http://cumberlandisland.com/