such gain, left to carry the rubbish after this unsettling and upheaval, all crashing down, the lonely conflagration increasingly desperate for a phoenix in some dawning how often one begins over, take the bookshelves, reorganize religious literature, find that ten-year-old letter initially appearing unopened sent just before the marriage with its Far West a nebulous daydream now I continue in the opposite direction rebounding perhaps keeping time as pigeons return quietly that’s all Thanks and g’day
Among the artists-in-residence the Tides Institute invited to town last year was tintype photographer John DiMartino from Brooklyn.
He was certainly the most visible, with his big camera and tripod everywhere and his workaholic hours. He was enthralled with the place, its light, and its people.
Curiously, his medium gave everything he shot a back-in-history quality, as well as reversing the subject before him.
Here’s what he did to me.
For more of his portfolios and other characters he captured in town, check out his website, johndimartinojr.com.
ream the medicine cabinet, fill penny rolls for the coffee exchange, throw out old prescriptions and that old slide rule, already obsolete, then it’s off to the office supply store for carbon paper and metal bookends, return editions and LPs to the public library before the art stack goes to my ex-wife’s aunt where I’ll hear how her latest opening went screwy . back home, have a beer, phone my lover, take a call from the watch repairman warning if I don’t pick up her metronome they’ll sell it off, so once more out I go, how ’bout you?
thinking the cleaner bag full I discovered the rubber drive belt had snapped meaning a trip to the shop and the next day was Sunday as she had left it all the same, dust and sweep, wet mop, and rinse, move tall stacks about, sort items but what if we don’t? refill the trash can, love, after all, would expose this . honestly I won’t quit so simply whatever past is mine . pay dearly, of course, for these revelations. so make room for more labor . brush and chop, returning to the same spot rather than scurry onward
I thought we Dover Quakers – or more formally Friends – had our long history covered. I had even helped Silas Weeks, way back, in some of his research for his definitive volume on New England Quaker meetinghouses and burial grounds.
Frankly, after revising and republishing seven novels after the appearance of my eighth, I wanted a break.
A big break.
These are supposed to be my retirement years, OK? Admittedly, I had long imagined devoting myself to the writing as a big part of that dream, but really!
But then a casual request for an overview of Dover Friends history changed everything. It came indirectly, through someone in another denomination who was active in our Sanctuary movement. But then, going back through my filing drawers, I came up empty – couldn’t even find my folders of notes. What we did have was mostly about our three meetinghouses over the years – especially the structure where we’ve worshiped since 1768 – along with a few prominent events.
This left me unsettled.
Unlike many other denominations, the Society of Friends, or Quakers, is first and foremost about its members. Our definition of church is the body of believers – not the building or the polity and definitely not the ordained clergy. It’s why we call our building a meetinghouse and why we organize as Meetings, reflecting the times and ways our church-people come together. Church can happen whenever and wherever we are, even over dinner in our homes or chance encounters on the street or in the midst of social activism. And vitally it’s not just us – we’re meeting God, too.
WHAT NEEDED TO BE TOLD was the lives of the individuals and families who were the essence of one of the oldest Quaker Meetings in the world.
I resisted as long as I could but finally succumbed. Who were they? Why were they so willing to risk severe punishment and persecution imposed by the Puritan authorities? And in the face of that, how and why did a third of Dover’s population quickly become Quaker? And several generations later, start fading away?
With the 400th anniversary of the settling of Dover – and thus New Hampshire, too – coming up next year, the timing for our side of the history felt right.
Now that the book’s written and revised, I’ll be sharing some of my findings with you as well as news of publication itself as that nears.
WHAT EMERGED IS A PARTIAL HISTORY, as in partisan, with my focus on a radical religious subculture that thrived in a unique, out-of-the-way, locale. Partial, as well, to the independent streak of New Hampshire against more powerful Massachusetts authorities to the south. Partial even in being incomplete as well as lacking footnotes, and not even the work of a professionally trained historian.
The story is also partial in being biased toward a sequence of unusual, sometimes roughhewn, figures and their families – not all of them Quaker – and inclined especially toward the narrative they shape.
The roots, as you’ll see, arise in the very beginning of English settlement. Forget what you’ve assumed about New England before Paul Revere and Sam Adams and the American Revolution and Boston as the Hub of the Universe.
A lot had already happened before the first Puritans sailed into Boston Harbor. Let’s look instead to Dover, which lays claim to being the seventh-oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the United States.
In the standard telling of the founding of today’s city of Dover, New Hampshire, two brothers arrived from England in the spring of 1623 and settled at the mouth of Great Bay on the Piscataqua River, upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. The brothers were fishmongers, members of one of the oldest and wealthiest guilds, or great companies, of London.
Except, as it turns out, one of the brothers didn’t arrive until a few years later.
Instead, the cofounder of the new settlement was a fishmonger apprentice who would be an important figure in the early years of the colony.
YOU’LL PROBABLY BY AS SURPRISED by this alternative take on New England history as I’ve been. It’s not just Quakers. There’s much more to New England’s past than a Thanksgiving dinner and a riotous tea party followed by a midnight ride and the shot heard ’round the world or even the notorious witch trials.
Here at the Barn, you’ll definitely be hearing a lot more about this big project through the coming year. Believe me, some of the findings will be startling.
economy of expression
an acknowledgement of mystery of the universal seed in the particular
if only I’d been able to uphold it in the newsroom
Yes, clean lines, stripped-down materials, and elegant craftsmanship meeting a love of the baroque in a quirky, inimitable style
at last, reducing the list drawn into this homestead with the ash of that upbeat tone of previous years, a forced smile, wishful thinking, or pure resolve no longer the Yule Letter, high school classmates, even college . ashram . Binghamton or teachers . other writers . Iowa. Western Reserve . Baltimore . former loves . Old Order elders . what do these people mean now in context? So, sincerely
What is life without memories?
The most tragic part of Alzheimer’s is what happens when one crosses that threshold and leaves the connecting memories behind.
Quite simply, stories – and storytelling, one way or another – are essential. Stories are, after all, ultimately memories within human existence, no matter how fanciful or mythical.
How else do we remember where we are in the universe? Or even why?
There are good reasons we swap stories, from pillow talk on.
still wondering why I’m amazed what one discovers in each move, why, unpacking is almost like Christmas, even the delights of discovering the workings of another’s mind, like Evelyn’s neat way of wrapping electrical cords to appliances (Mennonite heritage appears in curious ways) moving forward, rather than sideways or backwards on ice, your friend who made it thus far and nothing much broke
still owe you that tango but don’t know if you were a better cartoonist than editor or publisher all we have is that moment of dancing between the line we’ve drawn on the beach defying the tide where we swim more freely than birds in flight, then before the last note Zippers