Category Archives: Cape Ann

Around Cape Ann by Boat

harbor-tours-signOn August 27th, a perfect summer day, I went on a great adventure, circumnavigating Cape Ann in a boat! Sponsored by the Cape Ann Museum, this was a Harbor Tours cruise to see all six lighthouses that stand around Cape Ann. This turned out to be one of the best days of my whole summer, a fabulous experience.

I had to get up early to catch the 8:30 train from North Station (I have to allow an hour to get from Jamaica Plain to North Station on the Orange Line, so this was a very early departure for me. I’m not a morning person.) It all worked out, and I got to the dock in Gloucester in good time.

our-boat-king-eiderWe set out on this little boat, King Eider, which was rather full with the group from the museum. There was no space to spare. I found a place in the bow and stayed there for the duration as I wanted to get an unobstructed view and take photos.

First we passed Rocky Neck, the old art colony, one of my favorite parts of Gloucester.  Just beyond there we saw the first lighthouse on Tenpound Island, a small rocky island in the harbor.

Then it was on to Eastern Point Light at the mouth of the harbor, with the breakwater extending out from the point. People were walking on the breakwater.

We saw the Thomas E. Lannon sailing in the outer Harbor as we rounded Eastern Point.

The Thomas E. Lannon
Eastern Point Light from the other side

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Rockport: My Beloved Former Home, Part 2

While in Rockport in June, I made nostalgic visits to some significant places. I walked around Hale Street and looked at my first home in Rockport, a cottage in the garden of number 9. I was so happy in that tiny house in those early days in Rockport that I wrote a small piece called Rock and Sky: One Woman’s Life in Rockport and published it locally in 1978. It’s my story of coming to Rockport from New York to visit a friend and staying to make a whole new life for myself.  Oddly enough, a battered copy is currently available on Amazon for ten dollars!

Subsequent owners have changed the cottage almost beyond recognition. There used to be a shed roof rising toward the north, with a row of clerestory windows across the back wall. The steeple of the Unitarian Church across the street was framed in one window, and I could see the sky and the stars. That is all gone and the entire roof line altered. The outcropping of granite outside the front door is still there; that would be hard to change.

My Old Home (Much Changed)

One morning I also stopped in to see my old church St. Mary’s Episcopal and had a nice chat with the office administrator about the people I used to know in the parish.  A few have died, but many of them are still there, thirty years later. St. Mary’s was rather influential in my life when Father Bamforth was rector. He retired shortly after I moved away from Rockport, and he and his wife Pat are living and flourishing in Maine.

St. Marys Church (2)

These are a few of the windows in the church. It was nice to see them again.

When I first moved to Rockport, I was utterly enchanted with the charming old houses and the little lanes and the flowers everywhere.  Now I know a lot more about architectural history, and I’m used to Jamaica Plain, with its large stock of late 19th century houses by leading Boston architects, classic turn-of-the-century apartment buildings like the one I live in, and even beautiful triple deckers. I’ve been on house tours all around eastern Massachusetts and beyond, and I love to walk around Boston and admire the historic and also new architecture. Still I enjoy walking the village streets of Rockport and admiring the houses and gardens.

This is one of the sweetest cottages, right by the harbor. The trellised arbor with the pink roses melts my heart.

This house on High Street is classic New England–looks more like Cape Cod, the other cape.

Cottage with Roses

This is the famous Hannah Jumper House on the harbor. I love the soft blue of those shutters, and the picket fence and roses are perfect.

Hannah Jumper House

On a quiet side lane on Bearskin Neck is this simple shingled cottage with beautiful blue trim,

House on Bearskin Neck

and here is a grander house near Old Garden Beach, which was featured on a house tour a few years ago and was one of my favorites. The wraparound porch is dreamy, and the view is fantastic.

House on Old Garden Road

I saw this pretty garden nearby, on Norwood Avenue.

The whole village was in bloom. The Rockport Library has a rose garden along the side. The Art Association had peonies in front.  The most favored flower in shop window boxes along Main Street seemed to be pansies.

Of course every time I go back to Rockport, I wonder if I would be happy there again, if we were to find a house we could afford. Peter seems to prefer Maine, but Rockport has the advantage of being a train ride away from Boston and of course being a place that has been deeply home to me.

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Rockport, My Beloved Former Home


Front BeachJust after the summer  solstice I set out for Cape Ann for a three-day visit to my beloved former home. From 1975 to 1985 I lived in Rockport, when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and those were the most formative years of my life. As a reader and writer of memoirs and other life story writing, I am interested in those pivotal moments in a person’s life when a particular decision or action changes everything that comes after. For me, going to Rockport in July 1975 (41 years ago!) was a such a momentous turning point that I divide my whole life into the time before I went to Rockport and the time after. Rockport as a place is still the deepest home I have known. I love my home in Boston very much, and I love Boston, but I don’t feel quite the deep connection to the land and sea I had in Rockport.  All these years later, I am in a sense still living on the deep reserves of peace I stored up in those years.

It’s only forty-five miles from Boston to Rockport, but when I cross the bridge to Cape Ann, I feel every time that I am in a different sort of place, a more enchanted place. Returning there reminds me powerfully how much I love to be by the sea. That first night I walked around town until sunset. One can walk everywhere in Rockport; that was something I always loved.  It’s also a completely safe place, utterly peaceful and benign. There was a gentle sunset on June 22nd, and I followed along the shore line to see it.

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Front Beach at Sunset (2)

The next morning there was brilliant sun as I walked out to the Headlands, always one of my favorite places in town, really a sacred place for me and a place where I go to touch stone. You go down this little wooded path

Path to Headlands (2)
and come out on the rocky cliffs above the harbor

Rocky Headlands

and suddenly the view opens out dramatically and you can see up and down the coast. Bearskin Neck and the breakwater lie below, encircling the harbor, and Pigeon Cove extends to the north in the background.

Breakwater from Headlands (2)

It’s a great place to watch boats come in.

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To the left is the harbor and the village behind it.

Rockport Harbor and Village from Headlands

In the opposite direction is the sea, the open sea that rolls all the way to the horizon and then on to Spain.

sailboats from Headlands

When I was young, I would spend whole afternoons up on the Headlands. I would climb down the cliff to a special place overlooking the mouth of the harbor, where there was an overhang that provided a bit of shade. Nearby was a depression in the rocks that formed a sort of cradle that you could lie in, under the huge sky, and be held by the rocks. For years when I returned to Rockport I would go back to that place. Now I won’t be able to go there again. At sixty-five, I wouldn’t take a chance of turning an ankle or falling on the climb down.

I sat on the top of the Headlands for a long time. It’s nearly always quiet there; not many of the visitors know about the Headlands or else they can’t be bothered to walk up (too busy with the shops on Bearskin Neck!). The few others who were there on that weekday morning were in contemplative mood as I was or walked quietly around on the rocks. Being on a cliff above the sea is my favorite position in the world for joy and exultation. Some of my greatest experiences have been on cliffs in England, in Dorset and north Devon and Yorkshire. Here in Massachusetts the Headlands are  the high point.

I continued along the coast to Old Garden Beach to the south of the village. The water sparkled and the sea air refreshed body and soul on this splendid morning.

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Gloucester Community Quilts at Cape Ann Museum

Recently I took the train up to Gloucester to see the Gloucester community quilts at the Cape Ann Museum. I love the Cape Ann Museum, which so beautifully evokes the special qualities of Cape Ann, my home from 1975 to 1985 and a place I will always love deeply. The amazing Cape Ann light is the first thing I notice whenever I go back, and as soon as I got off the train, I was struck by it once again.

Gloucester Community Quilt Exhibition_small

At the museum I had the light-filled second floor gallery all to myself as I encountered the stunning exhibition of quilts representing Gloucester’s very diverse neighborhoods, made by seniors at the Rose Baker Senior Center in Gloucester. I am lost in admiration for Juni Van Dyke, the Art Director at the senior center who led this project over the past nine years. She must be the most amazing art educator. Under her direction, these women in their later years, and a few men I gather, have created something of lasting value, thirteen quilts about their neighborhoods, which have now been donated and accepted into the permanent collection of the Cape Ann Museum. I can imagine the enormous satisfaction they must feel for having been part of the years-long effort of this collaborative creative process and now seeing the fruits of their labor of love in the museum.

Downtown Quilt

  Downtown Gloucester

Art Education is a field dear to my heart after working for thirty-two years running the Art Education office at MassArt and supporting the preparation of art teachers. I always loved keeping in touch with our alumnae, who teach in almost every town in eastern Massachusetts, and I wish we could claim Juni Van Dyke as one of ours. However, I see from her bio that she is a Museum School/Tufts graduate. She seems to be a most outstanding art educator, who for over twenty years has been involving the seniors of Gloucester in significant art projects. According to my internet research, the seniors have also made banners for the offices of Senior Care Inc., made ceramic bowls every year for the food pantry’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, made art for the Downtown Storefront Windows Enhancement Project, participated in an inter-generational art project with a local school, shown their work at the State House, and illustrated a children’s book with collage, among other things.  I purchased a copy of the book, If I were a dog by James M. McKenna, in the museum shop because I liked their collages so much.

Gloucester City Hall, detail of Downtown Quilt

Gloucester City Hall, detail of Downtown Quilt

The quilt project seems almost stupendous in scope. Nearly a hundred people participated, and most of them have no formal art training. Juni Van Dyke says this is proof that “one need not have attended art school to create beautiful works of art” and the quilts “bear testimony to the truth that the gift of creativity resides within all of us.” This attitude is one I really admire; art education is for everyone, children and adults, whose lives can be enriched, made joyful, even transformed by participating in art making. I especially admire Juni Van Dyke’s art education work with seniors, who are in the time of life when meaning-making is of the utmost importance. To be able to make a contribution to the community and indeed the world of art works such as these quilts must mean a great deal to the makers–it would to me. I very much wanted to attend Juni Van Dyke’s talk about the project back in January and was planning to go up on the train, but the weather that day was miserable, rain and snow, so I missed out.  Unfortunately the museum did not record the talk. There is a very nice article about the opening reception for the Community Quilts on the excellent blog Good Morning Gloucester, which includes photos of the Art Director and some of the senior quilt artists.

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