Is this what everyone feels about their own hometown? I love water I can swim in, a soft, seaweedy smell anoints the congregation of people who gather en mass to worship the gods of the sea. At 8 am the power walkers, bikers and runners descend upon the shore. The older folks are busy at the market or post office having already walked before the town has opened. I met a dedicated Manchester resident while walking who assumed I was a tourist, which I kind of am, because I had a big smile and a tie dye hat. Then we got down to talking about the people, the land, ocean and weather and decided it was probably the best place in the world to live. The combination of having family there, familiar faces and places mixed with the novelty of vacation is definitely part of the enchantment. It helps to be older and see what I didn’t appreciate when I was younger.
So far this trip I swam at White Beach, Stage Fort and Singing Beach and down on Craigsville Beach on Cape Cod. I have lived on Venice Beach, swam in Bermuda, Alaskan lakes, The Colorado River, The Aegean, even in a pool set in the Seine. It’s hard for me not to enjoy the water anywhere I am. I don’t like it too hot so I haven’t spent much time in the tropics. I’ll leave them to you, so Cape Ann works for me.
I used to love the crowds at Singing Beach. I guess it was a mating call kind of thing but now White Beach or Stage Fort are fine with me, especially because they’re free and close by. I see only ghosts at Singing Beach now. Bodies of people who remind me of other people long gone.It surprised me that there were no radio sounds. Remember AM and FM? You could hardly walk a foot without hearing WBCN or a baseball game. I did see an older man at Craigsville hugging a transister to his ear as he was trudging towards the bathroom trying not to lose track to the game. I don’t mind paying to walk on at Singing Beach but the thrill of the place really comes back after five, when the admission police have retired and I arrive sweaty after a buggy run and can rush right in the water. Now that I think of it, I guess my sensitivity to the sun colors my view as well. I can’t sit on the beach at Cranes, Good Harbor or Wingersheek like I might have when I was young and less aware. Although next visit I would bike over to Good Harbor or Wingersheek just to try. Cranes kills me with the flies. I’m so lucky my mother introduced me to all these beaches, one for every mood, for whatever friends or family accompany me. The salt water is sticky afterwards. I usually have seaweed all over me to wash off but there weren’t any sharks or jellyfish to worry about. I saw a seal in Gloucester harbor so there may be sharks which I don’t know about but let’s just keep it that way.
The trees, the birds. At 4 am the sky peals with bird call. Screams, squawks, peeps, pecks, swept in by the giant maple leaves filled the room I awoke in. The trees are huge and so many. Dogwood, oak, chestnut, maple, pine which were pelted with rain for hours upon my arrival but woke up sweet and singing the next morning. I don’t remember them being anything special when I was a kid. I did love the chestnut tree in front of the library in downtown Manchester and the Magnolia tree in front of the bank and I still love the lilacs. I visit either too early or too late for most of these but just in time for the flowering dogwood. My brother has one and there is a lovely one on Ocean street. Just walking on Ocean Street I saw a Great Blue Heron, Osprey, some chickens and a rabbit. My brother has a very nice cat that I seem to let escape at least once each trip. It’s fun to just watch the cat watch the birds, like a live game of pac man without any controls.
The architecture. Alright, it’s not a Frank Lloyd Wright kind of place. It’s a colonial, Federalist, Victorian era estate kind of world. When I was a kid I didn’t look at the houses besides to know which ones my friends lived in. There is a castle on the point near my brother (who lives in an reclaimed gravel pit by the old poor farm.) Paul says the castle went for about $12 million dollars the last time. But right out the castle windows they are surrounded by lobster men, weekend partyiers on their speedboats because no one owns the ocean. I love a walk to see the old revamped carriage houses and granite posts with iron rings for horses which front the estates. Sure I know that they are probably occupied by people who get their money god knows how and they’re much more successful than I will ever be but I like to look at them as I would a tombstone in a cemetery. They are sweet monuments to a time of glory for a particular family and they look to the sea for confirmation of their worth. The sea doesn’t care and neither do I. Although I confess if I were in a book club with people who lived there I would read the book when they hosted.
I know the unemployment is bad, the politics are variable, the people can be parochial but isn’t life imperfect everywhere. I just choose to dwell on the highlights because my heart is here. If I relocate my body, my heart may move away. There are no guarantees, only moments of bliss, bike locks which need to be sawed off, spilled ice cream which can be washed out wherever I am. I have one thing that I may not have had before I left home, perspective. That helps no matter where I am.