Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

On the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, Thomas Hudson’s house is built on a high promontory between the harbor and the sea. The house is described as “solid as a ship” and has survived three hurricanes. The tall coconut palms that surround it have been bent by the constant pressure of the wind. The path from the door on the ocean side leads down the bluff to the sea, where the Gulf Stream flows past the island. The water changes colors from dark blue to green. The beach is a safe place to swim during the day, but at night sharks come close to the shore to feed.

Thomas Hudson is a painter and lives in the house most of the year because he does not want to miss any season. Although the summers can be hot and the autumn hurricanes can be fierce, the weather is usually fine. Thomas Hudson has studied tropical storms for years and has become adept at predicting their arrival. He has also learned how to survive the hurricanes, though he knows there are hurricanes through which no one could live. The hurricanes bind all the people on the island together.

Thomas Hudson’s house on the promontory is the highest thing on the island, except for a few trees. Sailing toward the island, one first sees the trees, then Thomas Hudson’s house, then the rest of the island rising up from the sea. It is also the only house on the island with a fireplace, which keeps it warm in the colder winter months. He burns driftwood that he finds along the beach. There are some beautifully shaped pieces that he is reluctant to burn, but he eventually burns them anyway.

Thomas Hudson enjoys winter evenings spent sitting by his fire, reading, and listening to the sounds of the surf below. He often puts out the lamp, lies on the floor, and watches the driftwood burn. The fire makes him both sad and happy—happy in its beauty, but sad at the thought that it might be wrong to burn something of which he is so fond. But he does not feel guilty.

While on the floor, Thomas Hudson can feel the wind whipping around the four corners of the house. He can also feel the pounding of the surf, which reminds him of the heavy pounding of guns in his long-ago wartime experiences. The beauty of the fire leads him to feel that winter is the best season of all.