Friday, July 24, 2009
summer in Orient, the grave-markers of slaves
Today I drove Paul to Orient Point, so he could catch the ferry to Bridgeport; he's off to teach for a few days at a low residency program at Fairfield University. The day was amazing, since after last night's demi-hurricane the air was clear, and the greens of the leaves seemed all aglow. We had a little extra time, so we drove around Orient, which might be the most beautiful little Long Island village of them all -- pristine rows of clapboard houses along very green lanes, and only a realtor, a post office, a general store and an ice cream shop for retail life. We drove down the main street, followed the curve of the land along a small harbor or bay through moist-looking fields, then along a small patched road to a town beach spotted a placard beside the road. It turned out to mark the grassy path to a small, stone-walled cemetery just where solid ground ended. Here a group of slaves who worked the oyster ponds nearby until the 1830s were buried. A white couple, the owners of this particular oystering operation, had chosen to be buried with them, and their graves were marked by a pair of carved headstone. But beyond those were simply rows of stones -- no carving, no names -- indicating the graves of the the unrecorded ones. The most achingly beautiful spot, and in it these un-inscribed markers.