Just so you know about Lake Winnipesaukee

  1. Situated near the center of New Hampshire, it’s the state’s largest lake and the third largest in New England.
  2. It stretches about 21 miles and varies in width up to nine miles, covering about 71 square miles.
  3. The lake contains at least 264 islands and has 288 miles of shoreline.
  4. Maximum depth is 180 feet, augmented by a dam at Lakeport.
  5. The center part of the lake is called the Broads.
  6. The outflow joins with the Pemigewasset River to form the Merrimack, which heads south into Massachusetts before turning east to the Atlantic. Its waters powered many of the industrial mills along its way, including Manchester, Nashua, Lowell, and Lawrence.
  7. The Native name translates as either “smile of the Great Spirit” or “beautiful water in a high place.”
  8. Officially, it’s not a lake but a “great pond,” which the General Court has defined as a natural lake of more than ten acres. The state owns the beds of all the great ponds, making the surface public water.
  9. Ice-out is a popular measure of the end of winter in the Granite State. It’s declared when the ice on the lake breaks up sufficiently for the Mount Washington cruise vessel to make it to every one of its five ports: Center Harbor, Wolfeboro (“the Oldest Summer Resort in America”), Alton, Weirs Beach, and Meredith. It’s also considered the beginning of boating season. The date has varied from March 16 to May 12.
  10. It’s hard to spell. That’s why it’s often known as Lake Winni.

Looking out at the Pawtuckaways

The three peaks of the Pawtuckaway mountains to the west of us are viewed here from the Garrison Hill tower. Well, the middle one is obscured by the tree. Still, they’re prominent points in southeastern New Hampshire, midway between the Seacoast region and the Merrimack River, with good views of Boston from the forest fire lookout tower atop the 908-foot South Mountain (left).

Never mind that bit about bearing gifts

Growing up in the middle of America, I had little awareness of the extent of immigrant Greek influence in the New World, much less in my own hometown. These days, though, I see how pervasive — yet nearly invisible — it’s been, now or then.

My decision to have my first novel close with Cassia’s future father marrying into a Greek-American family was, in part, predicated on a desire to have his immersion in one ancient culture from Asia, Tibetan Buddhism, be countered by another from Western civilization, and thus Greece , blending both classical glories and some New Testament threads, which seemed appropriately symbolic.

It’s up to you to weigh in on how well it works in my novel What’s Left.

In the past decade, though, perhaps prompted by the annual community-wide festival our local Greek Orthodox church presents every Labor Day weekend, I’ve been connecting the dots and discovering how many Greek-Americans I’ve known over the years and how much the recent encounters have been enriching my own outlook.

As I wrote to one friend:

One thing that’s greatly surprised me is how little literature exists that relates the Greek-American experience. You’re too numerous to be so invisible. What’s up? Just look on your impact in Dover alone. Perhaps the best overall portrayal comes in Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex (a masterpiece, by the way), although the work is acclaimed mostly for its exploration of hermaphroditic genetics and identity. Along the way, he also does a knock-out job of nailing the Midwest where I grew up, another strand of literature that’s otherwise anemic. I am glad I’d finished the first draft of my new work before encountering his novel — he won the National Book Award and Oprah’s endorsement for good reasons. It could be too intimidating. Well, if he could go on to do such an insightful job with Quaker Meeting, as he does in his third novel, The Marriage Plot, maybe I’m not so out of line in venturing into yours. I hope. Oh, yes, I’m also glad I finished the draft before getting to connect the dots of your own family. You’d be ideal for the movie version.

~*~

Look around at the people you know. Tell us something (good, we hope) about someone of Greek descent.

~*~

I think she looks a lot like the young woman on the cover of the book, apart from Cassia’s Goth garb and makeup. Aphrodite, anyone?

No more Comcast!

Or Xfinity, as they also say.

I was perplexed that they kept raising the price on our broadband service, seemingly monthly, and then privately complained about monopoly abuse. We haven’t had a TV for years, but for some reason, that didn’t affect the pricing, however they tried to justify that.

Canceling when we moved, though, was a great pleasure. Besides, our new provider is $720 a year cheaper for the same service, perhaps because there’s some competition.

Not everybody’s sticking to broadband for digital access, either.

As a blogger and author, though, I’m just not ready to do all my online stuff on a smart phone. Not that the option couldn’t be tempting.

 

 

A breath of new heights

Despite growing up in the flat country of the Midwest, I’ve always been attracted to heights. The top of the tree in our backyard was mine alone. I remember taking the speedy express elevator to the top of the Carew Tower in downtown Cincinnati as a child and looking down on the ant-like people on the streets far below. And mountains have always loomed large in my imagination, later abetted by a few early visits to the Appalachians in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. I even backpacked a week on the Appalachian Trail at age 12 as a Boy Scout with my primitive-camping troop.

By the time I returned to Indiana in the mid-’70s, I had also lived in the Allegheny foothills to the west of the Catskills in New York state as well as the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania. I’d even ventured into New Hampshire to climb Mount Washington, the highest point in the Northeast. I thought I had a familiarity with mountains.

The paperback cover …

My next upheaval sent me west. The drive across the Great Plains and Rockies was a revelation, and the entry into the environs of my new employment came frankly as a shock. Neither my wife nor I was prepared for the arid, open desert where nearly everything, including its famed apple orchards, required irrigation. Forefront in my mind was Swami Lakshmy’s observation from her first visit to India, that every place she visited had its own unique vibration.

And yes, there were mountains, including the barren heights defining our valley as well as the eastern flank of the Cascade Range to our west and glacier-clad Mount Adams looking down on us from 50 miles away.

As I adjusted to the realities, everything was filled with wonder I came to love, as you will see in my novel Nearly Canaan, which started out being more about the distinct landscape than about fully considered characters.

My employment situation, meanwhile, provided its own fodder for what would emerge as Hometown News back in the Rust Belt. I never wanted to leave Pacific Northwest, for sure, but a new publisher at the newspaper made the situation intolerable. As I bailed out, along with the most of the rest of the management team, I entered a difficult period that added much to the newspaper tale, plus a divorce and broken engagement.

It’s always hard to come down from a mountain. A part yearns to hang there forever.

I had promised myself I’d never do another U-Haul move

OK, I lied. Even to myself, as honesty is so central to my values.

Yes, I lied. In fact, as my wife recalls, when we jumped into our little city farm 21 years ago, I quipped that my next move would be in a pine box. Last I checked, I’m still breathing and my heart readings are falling within an acceptable range. Whew!

Oh, yes, back then my new stepdaughters informed me I’d better be nice to them because they’d be choosing my next home.

Skip ahead to now and the plot definitely changed. I’m not yet in a nursing home or eating those institutional meals, either. In fact, I’m enjoying relearning to cook, spoiled as I’ve been.

There were a couple of truck-rental actions where I helped our younger daughter (note the change of degree) and then our future son-in-law as well as a few younger members of Quaker Meeting, but that’s hardly the same of facing all of your own stuff. And I mean ALL.

And in our recent move, like my earlier ones, once more, we didn’t call the movers in but determined to do-it-ourselves.

Not that professional movers could have handled this one.

We were way behind in our sorting, for starters. Or, from another perspective, the move came upon us much earlier than we really expected. So much for the drama queen.

There was no way all of it could possibly fit into our new address in Eastport, even once we get some serious renovations done, so that meant a lot of redirection. (As I once remarked, after settling into Dover, I couldn’t imagine how people could live without a barn – yes, this Red Barn. But here I am.) Some of the mass has gone into our elder daughter’s Antique House and adjoining barn down in York, Maine, but there’s only so much space available there, and I can affirm that it’s jammed pretty solid. That led to renting and quickly packing two storage units, where I sense we’re buying time as much as anything else. Some intense triage will be done there. And the remainder has come up to Eastport with me, including one run with a small U-Haul truck itself. Along with more triage. And the dump, or “transfer station,” is nearly an hour away.

This move – my fifteenth address and ninth state since graduating from college a tad over five decades ago – has differed from the earlier ones, even if I had forgotten how heavy those boxes of books are, as well as the LPs, or vinyl, as cognoscenti like to say. Just noting that makes my lower back ache.

For one thing, this move’s been sequential, rather than a single burst. Each of my dozen trips between the two homes has allowed more goods to come east. In many of the earlier leaps, I hadn’t even seen the town until my job interview, and at least once I filled a truck, drove across many miles, got in town, and started looking for a place to live only afterward. (OK, a few times it was only my car, back when I had really focused.) Sure seems foolish to me now, but funds were limited. I’m grateful things worked out in the end, and it did provide some interesting fodder for my novels. And, oh yes, I was VERY single.

For another thing, my wife and I were moving from only the second home either of us had ever owned, and having a Realtor definitely helped, even in a hot real-estate market. Our new destination, meanwhile, connected to dreams I thought I had abandoned in leaving the Pacific Northwest, as well as some other activities I’ve added in New England. My wife, for her part, had come close to living on an island, and technically, she’s finally achieving that dream after a heartbreaking disappointment.

Emotionally, leaving a location you Barn readers know I truly loved was eased by being already socially distanced, thanks to Covid. Hey, I’m still getting together with those folks via Zoom, and I know I’ll be with many of them through New England Yearly Meeting of Friends even before considering the release of my next book, which is all about Dover’s unique roots. (Please stay tuned, as they used to say on TV.)

I’m also grateful for my goddaughter’s reaction to seeing our old place on Zillow and proclaiming, “Sheesh, the house certainly does clean up well! And that kitchen is truly a dream. I always loved feeling the warmth, whimsy and charm of that house, though I am sure your new place will have all of those qualities and more once you’re through.” We can hope.

She has her own connections to our relocation to Downeast Maine that I’ll skip for now.

So that’s where things stand. Maybe, as a result of all this, my survivors will have less to deal with when I “pass over,” in the old Quaker phrase.

What have your adventures in moving entailed?

What Eastport doesn’t have

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot you won’t find here.

For starters, there’s:

  1. No pizza parlor. No Chinese, Thai, Indian, or Mexican restaurants, either. At least a brewpub just opened, overlooking the water.
  2. No bakery.
  3. No laundromat.
  4. No name-brand gas station. Just one off-brand pump at the garage where the Mobil once was.
  5. No auto dealership.
  6. No hospital or specialists, though there is a health center and pharmacy.
  7. No indoor swimming pool or even a public outdoor one.
  8. No fitness center or gym.
  9. No tattoo parlor. Much less piercing.
  10. No traffic lights. Not one.