Dede Cummings

My father told stories all the time. He’d plan our Sunday outing and would ferry us out through the small channel going against the tide. He would talk to me mostly, as the younger girls were chatting aimlessly with Shirley in the front of the boat and the wind carried their words away with the offshore breeze. I’d constantly ask him: Who lived here? What did the Narragansett’s do? What was it like in the Great Hurricane when your family lived in their summer home?

“Red, right, returning.” My father taught me that navigation directional as he coasted around rocks and drove the boat into channels. There was one cove that had nothing but high spartina and flocks of white egrets. He’d always go in there and cut the engine. The boat would coast, and the chatter would cease. He’d raise a finger to his lips and look around, daring us to look through the tall grass, or out through the channel to the sea beyond.

That was my time with him. The other sisters and Shirley would begin to get all wound up as soon as the motor started. I kept on gazing back at the spartina, the longing so intense it felt like I was being pulled back by some unknown undertow.


Dede Cummings is a writer, publisher, and commentator for Vermont Public Radio. At Middlebury College, she was the recipient of the Mary Dunning Thwing Award, and in 1991 studied with Hayden Carruth at the Bennington Writers’ Workshop. She was a poetry contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2013. Dede is working on a memoir of her childhood called “Spin Cycle.” She lives in Vermont where she designs books and runs the startup Green Writers Press.




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