Twin Lights

Photo by Bill Scala

It’s instinctive. The first place I go when I make my yearly pilgrimmage to Rockport is the Eden Road house. That’s what we did then. That’s what I do now. I exhale a suppressed breath and internally exclaim, “Ah, now you are Home!” Formerly my paternal grandfather's summer home and now the sole property of my cousins, the 7-bedroom Eden Road house is a Clark institution. I have never actually lived in the Eden Road house yet it is Home more than any house, apartment or flat I’ve lived in over a span of more than forty years.

Thacher Island, also known as Twin Lights, is less than a mile out to shore from the Eden Road house. I stand on the wooden porch that stretches the length of the back of the house, and look straight ahead. First, I see The Rocks. It’s low tide. I see my favorite tidal pools, and at water’s edge, rocks draped with different varieties of seaweed in green, brown and amber hues. My brother Nicky used to swim off The Rocks with my cousin Johnny at high tide. They would come up for air with a shriek that accentuated the water’s icy temperature. Actually, it was rarely a swim; it was a dip. That was the trouble with The Rocks. It was hard to get in unless you dove but even harder to get OUT … especially as your extremities grew increasingly numb with the chill. Nicky, Johnny and my older cousins used to challenge each other to swim out to Thacher Island and back but I don’t think it ever happened. A more realistic challenge on a rare day when the water’s temperature was more tolerable was to swim out to the closest lobster buoy and back.

I wonder where Nicky is swimming today.

I believe Thacher’s is the only island in the world that has “Twin Lights,” two lighthouses on its small expanse … not more than a mile in length. I’m told there is nothing much there but the two lighthouses, sub-standard housing for their keeper, and a modest dock for the occasional boating visitor. Today, only one light is in operation but the two towers still stand. The foghorn still blows … a lot. I take another picture of Thacher’s to add to my growing collection. Thacher’s is and always has been just plain THERE; the backdrop to our sailing and swimming families. I would love to take a walk on Thacher Island. I bet Nicky would have liked that too.

  Instead, I walk a short distance down Eden Road toward Loblolly Cove, where Margie O’Grady and I used to go to collect beach glass … those white, brown, green, aquamarine and prized blue bits of sea-weathered glass. But I’m not searching for beach glass today. I walk past Loblolly Cove to the jumble of rocks further out on the point … Sullivan’s Point. Thacher Island is still everpresent, anchoring me. I am on my way out to the spot where Nicky’s ashes were scattered into the water, according to his wishes, on a bitter, cold day in November of ‘96. Mom, sister Margo and her teenaged children, Danielle and Charlie, and I all traipsed out to a spot that, in retrospect, is not very accessible. We chose it because it was as close to Thacher’s as we could get. The water that day seemed as grey as the sky above us and Nick’s white-grey cremains were swallowed up by the lapping tide swiftly. We spontaneously sang Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken,” which had played at Nicky’s Memorial Service, on our way back to the warmth of the car
Watercolor by Martha's father, Geoffrey Clark  

Three years later, I sit by the water’s edge, watch the waves and tide having a life of their own, and feel like I can’t get any closer to Nicky without jumping in the water. I am silent. Thoughts, feelings, and memories are swishing through my head, heart and soul at a meandering, undirected pace. I feel peaceful and calm, quiet and sad. I’m annoyed with myself because this year, I forgot to bring some flowers to throw to him in the ocean. As I walk away from “Nicky’s Spot,” I start humming the song that he had sung in a summer theater production of Cabaret.

by Fred Ebb

How the world can change,
It can change like that,
Due to one little word ….

See a palace rise,
From a two-room flat,
Due to one little word …

And the old despair,
That was often there,
Suddenly ceases to be.

For you wake one day,
Look around and say,
Somebody wonderful married me.

  Bill & Martha
Bill & Martha

Boy, could he sing. I hum this song because it reminds me of Nicky. I hum this song to tell him about my second marriage to Bill. I so wish Nicky could have been at our wedding. He would have been there despite ill health unless he were hospitalized. Nicky could have sung that song which two friends sang in duet at our wedding reception. That was the closest I could get to having Nicky there. But he sent me a message that day; I’m sure of it. Just as candles were lit to remember those who could not be with us on our wedding day, and the congregation relished a moment of silence, a leaf from the tree just above me fell and landed on my shoulder. On my shoulder. I knew that was Nicky. He was there. I felt like I was Home. And this time, I wasn’t in Rockport.

I hum this song out at Nicky’s Rock for a third reason … to honor how deeply he loved the woman he married and the hopes he had for that union. Up until the day she suddenly left their 11-year marriage, I think he would have sung this song about Susan and his life with her. Nicky’s 4-page autopsy report attributes his death to nasty complications arising from a heart transplant in 1985 and a kidney transplant from Margo in November of 1995. I think he died of a broken heart.


It comforts me to know that the last words he heard from me, by telephone, were “I love you.” If I could somehow patch up and repair that broken heart, I would. By scattering his ashes in Rockport, I hope we brought him back to a happier era … hanging out with cousin Johnny, playing Little League baseball in the Meadow, diving off the Rocks, caddying at the Golf Course, sailing in one of the Clarks’ boats, and dreams of swimming out to Thacher Island one day.

I wonder where he’s swimming today. May the Twin Lights be his beacon.

Martha & Nicky    


Martha Clark Scala, MFT • 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 •