Friday, July 19, 2013

Profit For A Hillbilly's Soul

"If wishes were horses,
Beggars would ride."
And I~ I would live by the seaside. I would not wish for white sand beaches, aquamarine seas, or endless sunny days. Instead in this wonder world of dreams Gloucester would miraculously become apart of my beloved New Hampshire and here we would dwell, for it is this sea town that has captured my heart. The first day I met her all those years ago, it was love at first sight.
A working town since the 1620's she does not put on a show or any pretense of grand illusion. And I love her for it. It is here that my senses are filled with life, history, and the working of a harbor.
The cry of gulls.
The creak and groan of boats that tug and pull at their moorings, impatient for the sea.
Small and cramped roads leading to wharfs and fish markets.
The mossy, decaying wooden pilings.
Men who spend their working hours in chest waders and rubber boots.
 Old building,
precariously cling to life and shore,
just a little bit longer ~ 
they wish to see the tide turn and the next generation of fishermen go out to sea.
And all this delights me.
Heart and Soul.

The "Arethusa" hauling in her lobster pots, her buoys red and white, mark the hope of her livelihood.

The gulls stand sentry duty on the sea-side,
 of the half mile long breakwater.

In this wonderland the boat traffic has 
equal preference to the motor vehicles. The drawbridge is allowing the "Jaylee" to pass through from the harbor into the canal that connects the Annisquam River to the Atlantic.

I wonder to what enchanted land this gate opens to and  I envision along with Austin Dobson that ~

"Here in this sequestered close
Bloom the hyacinth and the rose;
Here beside the modest stock
Flaunts the flaring hollyhock;
Here, as everywhere, one sees,
Ranks, conditions, and degrees.
All the seasons run their race
 In this quiet resting place."

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters: These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.                                                             Psalm107. 23-24
He keeps an eternal vigil at his harbor, a memory of those who gave it all for the love of the sea. Their 5,368 names engraved stand before him. Almost 400 years of memories he faithfully protects.

The Stellwagen Bank

Where you really gain an interest and profit for your soul

The curvature of the earth gives the illusion that we could sail ever on ward in this blue, black sea until we finally met the heavens. All around us there is only waves that incessantly move toward shore, they lift the "Miss Cape Ann" as they pass under her bow then continue their journey that  never ends. We stand as far forward as we can, letting the wind, salt, and sun cover us completely.

We travel 25 miles out from the Gloucester Harbor until we are on the south end of Stellwagen Bank. It is 842 square miles of rich and fertile feeding grounds that form a plateau, at about only 100' deep  it brings life in abundance as the colder, deeper waters that surround it bring up to its surface nourishment for all those that spend time there.

Thar She Blows


 There are 2500 Humpback Whales cataloged by name in the Gulf of Maine. They are identified as individuals by the white markings on their tails, each one is unique as our finger prints. Nile also has a very distinctive hook on her dorsal fin giving her additional identification. Her mother was named Mars. Nile has given birth to 4 calves and as her life expectancy is 70 -80 years there is great hope she will have a few more. The whales really do eat a ton of food per day and usually live in a pod ( I don't know why she was alone). I am amazed that there is that much life for them all. God' good earth, as old and tired as it is, is still so full of wonder and charm. The humpbacks go back and forth between the north and the tropics every year. They do not eat the whole time they are gone from the rich and fertile North Atlantic. The tropics is their nursery but does not have enough food to sustain them.
I apologize that the photo is not so good, but this is Nile's identification.

These are two Fin Whales. They are the second biggest animal to grace God's good earth. Topped only by the Blue Whale.

From my heart to yours, Jen

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ocean Born Mary, That Was Her Name

"... So throw off your bowlines;
sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain

She was born upon the ocean.The year was 1720 and there was a brave new world to be found on the opposite shore. Her mama had boarded a sailing ship at a wharf upon her native soil; all her worldly possessions were packed in a trunk at her side. A belly round and beautiful with her first child. Was she scared? I think she must have been courageous and strong to walk forth into all that lay before her~a new homeland, the name of Mama, oceans deep, storms, and labor pains. Yet, walk on to that wooden vessel she did. Weathered with salt, wind, and sunshine. Masts rising tall and true. Sails billowing white against the sky. Westward that ship sailed, small in the immensity of the mighty Atlantic. As the weeks passed by this mama to be waited for land and birth, until the July day arrived that God brought forth upon the ocean deep a tiny baby girl.
As Mama rejoiced in this new little life that she held in her arms, there on the distant horizon was another ship, moving ever closer. And another fear was being realized for this young Mama and tiny baby girl. Pirates roamed the seas then, seeking whom they might devour. The confusion and melee as they swarmed over the sailing ship. Loud and ruthless killers were these Spanish buccaneers, led by none other than the Don Pedro. Was a new life just begun already over? Did this mama meet a pirate's eye straight on when he stopped there before her? With heart pounding and protection of sweet baby filling her heart and soul; a cold, black heart softened as he took in the miracle of life, and compassion took over. In the midst of fear and trembling upon the ocean deep, he softly made a request ~
" Will you name the child Mary?"
To him a name that meant love and memories of another time, another place. As mama nodded her acquiescence, the Don Pedro brought forth treasures and gifts for sweet baby girl. Silk brocades, deep green and lustrous, which would later become her wedding gown when she grew up strong and tall and full of life. Jewels and gold from far off places where left in the trunk at Mama's side.
Ruthless pirates turned and walked away from this wooden sailing ship leaving only life, gifts, and the legends that arose from that fateful July day upon the mighty Atlantic in 1720.
And sweet baby girl lived and learned and grew for another 94 years. The last 20 or so in which was known as Widow Mary. But she was Ocean Born Mary. That was her name.


"Indeed, I was born neither on this side or that side o' the water,

nor anywhere else on God's green earth."

Mary Wallace 

Although this is my own version of a New Hampshire folktale, Mary really was born on the ocean and was named by a Spanish pirate. The ship (The Wolf) was captained by her father, he and all the passengers sailed on to Boston unharmed. There are many stories about Ocean Born Mary that are not based on truth, such as the Ocean Born Mary homestead. It really did belong to Mary's son, Robert, but she did not get along with him and probably never even visited him there. Instead Mary lived with her other son, William, (also in Henniker), that house burnt to the ground in 1923. The names and dates I believe to be accurate. If you need facts instead of tales the Henniker's Historical Society and Wikipedia have detailed reports of her life, although they too have differing information. But if legends suffice than I hope my vision of her story brought you some joy.
The house is located on Bear Hill Rd. It is a wonderful road to meander down, if you should ever get the chance, it is New Hampshire at some of her best.
The gravestone is located at Henniker's Center Burying Ground. A wonderful old cemetery, with many interesting and beautifully carved headstones. Mary's stone is about half way down the cemetery, favoring the right side. She is buried in the Wallace plot along with Robert, William and their wives.
A great fiction story about her life is "Ocean-Born Mary" by Lois Lenski
There is also a folk song about her titled "Ocean-Born Mary" sung by Neptune's Car.
From my heart to yours, Jen

Thursday, July 4, 2013

We Were All America

"How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings

they are in possession of,

and which no other people on earth enjoy."

-Thomas Jefferson


After a week of rain the sun came 'round again. The temperature rose steadily and the soggy earth started to evaporate, turning our air sultry but not hazy or humid. The sky and our vision stayed clear and blue. It was noon time on the Fourth of July. We stood on the balcony of an old Meeting House; whitewashed clapboards, a steeple rising tall and true. Hand hewn granite provided a step into the lower floor, where  hard wooden pews stood soldier straight in neat rows. Each one was filled and there was only standing room left, so we made our way to the corner stairs that led up to the balcony. These pews, stairs, and walls have seen much over the centuries. They are older than the nation itself and have been there in life and death, in marriages, as a place of worship, and where local government conducted its business. Parsons, politicians, and citizens all lived and learned, ebbed and flowed here in this old Meeting House. Like so many towns in New Hampshire it was once the focal point of all life.
And on this Fourth of July we stood quiet on the balcony with so many others. Each one unique and from so many walks of life ~ staunch Yankees, the young and the old, some were conservatives and others were liberal,  kids with blue mohawks, a few leftover hippies, black, white, and brown, and there was a couple of hillbillies like us. But we were all America.
With tears in our eyes, lumps in our throats, and proud and thankful hearts we listened as the Declaration of Independence was read from the front of this old Meeting House. Our voices rose in unison as we all sang 'Yankee Doodle'. We cheered and clapped  'cause despite our human failings She is still the greatest nation there ever was, but we remember, too, our duty and rights as citizens ~ that we are the people who fought to be free of tyranny.
From my heart to yours, Jen