Tom Osmers

by the Editors

Tom Osmers

Elizabeth Cecil

On a clear afternoon near the end of June, Tom ties off his boat, the Merry Sea, at the dock in Menemsha, and we stop to collect ourselves after a long day of fishing. As he passes up the net, poles, and a cooler full of a day’s catch, a young family walks by.

“Hello,” Tom calls to the little boy, tipping his faded blue cap and taking a puff on his corncob pipe. “Would you like to see a fish?” he asks with a gleam in his eye, nearly breathless with excitement. And lifting off the cover of the cooler he reveals to this small child all the bounty of the ocean as if it were the greatest treasure known to man. Clasping a fish by the tail, he lifts it off the ice and lays it flat in the palm of his hand, allowing the boy to run his tiny fingers across the smooth, shiny skin. “Now that’s a fish,” Tom exclaims with such joy and amazement that it’s as if he too is seeing it for the first time.

Tom interacted with the natural world so intimately, it was as if it was merely a continuation of his very being. He had a way of romancing the sea and the land alike—whether it was a handful of freshly picked blueberries in August or the glistening belly of an oyster in March. Nature was a thing of great beauty to him, and he was eager to offer it up to any stranger passing by.

Tom would speak of fish as if they were old kings. He’d bait a hook with the care and precision a master might give to a great work of art, and in the very same breath, he’d tell the tale of a Greek god imparting a certain wise truth to ponder on your journey home.

If Tom were still here, I’d tell it to you just the same. Because even now he is as alive to me as the blooming shadbush by the Mill Pond on a bright spring day as you pass over the bridge on your way to go out fishing, with herring running in the stream below.