So this is how Dover’s early houses looked?

Some historical accounts contend that the first housing in Dover was log cabins, as opposed to the thatched roof houses of Plimoth Plantation we can visit down in Massachusetts on our way down south of Boston to Cape Cod. (Go there, if you get the opportunity, by the way. It’s truly enlightening. And you won’t have to eat turkey or cranberry, not that I would object. Anyway, did those Pilgrims have mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes on that big event menu?)

Let me emphasize, log-style construction is often claimed for both the Hiltons’ settlement at Dover Point and the growing settlement’s first meetinghouse, which sat on what’s now roughly under a toll plaza on the Spaulding Turnpike.

Alas, both Dover sites represent lost opportunities for historical research.

In contrast, Colonial Pemaquid, Maine, from the same era, has been subject to extensive archeological work. This reproduction is a typical West Country fisherman’s family structure for the period, based on those findings.

Yes, that’s right. A whole family would fit in one.

Notably, the earliest residents there and in Dover were from the West Country of England – especially Devonshire. And from nearby Bristol, a name that’s been applied to both.

An extended conversation with one of the dedicated volunteer caretakers convinced me on this style, unlike log cabins, which were apparently brought to America by Scandinavians to Delaware a few years later.

Fish-drying racks would have been important.

In a related conversation, close to where I now live, I was surprised to hear that the French settlers on St. Croix Island in 1604 arrived with pre-fab housing and set it up, rather than constructing their village and fortifications from scratch. When the survivors abandoned the site in the spring of 1605, they readily dismantled these and took them to their new site, Port-Royal, Nova Scotia.

That had me wondering how all of that would fit into a ship, but then I started thinking of it as the cargo coming in one direction, replaced with fish, fresh timber, and pelts on the return. Maybe it was bigger than a bunch of U-Hauls. You’d be surprised how much we’ve shoved into a few of those.

So might something similar gone on when the English sailed up the Piscataqua? It would make a plausible alternative to the log cabin assumption.

The Maine historical site adds details to the reasoning behind their reconstruction.

By the way, the Borderlands region of England had a structure known as a cowpen (sounds like cabin), reflecting the reality of a somewhat temporary house that would be destroyed by fighting within 50 years. Or maybe even a wild party.

I’ve never been quite comfortable with the traditional log cabin description of Hilton Point’s early settlement. Point made?

Just look at our new garden beds taking shape

Warning! Don’t get your soil tested. Ignorance can be bliss, until you discover you’re being poisoned.

Well, others in town told us we really should submit the samples. And then, when we opened the envelope with the results from the dirt we sent to Orono, we had to face the reality that the lead levels here are way off the charts.

It’s not just old paint, either, but decades of pesticides used on the apple trees all over the island, even before we get to the long-gone canneries. Maybe even the pearlescence factory, too.

Flowers are one thing, but what we plan on eating is another. And my wife is not only a devoted gardener but also a fabulous cook. Meaning fresh food from the garden is essential.

Contrary to the website blurb, these cannot be put together in five minutes. An hour and a half per bed is more accurate. The front yard, do note, has the best sunlight.

So here’s what’s happening. New raised beds, using kits ordered online. We went with metal, which prices out roughly about the same as wood these days and will definitely last longer. My experiences maintaining wooden frames in Dover had me leaning toward change here.

Set atop a layer of landscape fabric and cardboard to suppress grass and weeds, we then filled these with (ugh) purchased bags of soil and compost. As we were counseled, there was no guarantee local loam had been tested. We want to be safe.

Well, as she says, it’s cheaper than therapy.

Besides, we’re finding it’s generating a lot of talk around town and the conversations from the sidewalk are lively.

Now, if we can only keep the deer at bay. As they used to say on TV, please stay tuned.

There has to be great music

What would you look for in moving to a new community? It’s an interesting mental exercise, even if you’re staying in place.

What we’re seeing when we look at Eastport is the reality of how ephemeral much of what its attraction for us remains. Quite simply, people are a big part of what makes this place so special, and most of the population here skewers toward the gray end of the scale. Who’s in the wings to step up when they move on?

Our young director of Stage East, Mark Macey, for instance, is heading off to London on the theater fellowship. It puts a dent in the scene.

For me, having a Quaker Meeting is a central factor. Ours is small, older, and spread over a wide geographic area. It’s precious while it lasts.

And, as you’ve seen on this blog, natural wonder in the outdoors is important.

Let me add to that music, usually especially in a classical vein. Eastport is especially blessed on that front.

For example, before I had even met John Newell, his influence became a swing factor in my moving to Eastport. Other family members were already on board for relocating, but I was less ready to uproot, no matter the natural wonder of the place. But then, during a visit, I saw a poster for an upcoming Quoddy Voices concert and sensed this was no ordinary community chorus. Its repertoire was much like the one where I was singing in Boston – except that we didn’t yet have a piece in Chinese. Mandarin? (Which our conductor there did speak.) I also appreciate the fact the Down East ensemble is not auditioned and was told, at a small store downtown, that they’d likely really welcome another male voice. (Whew! I can’t imagine auditioning, only the fright.)

Flash ahead to actually living up here.

During the Covid lockdown, I joined the ensemble as it continued to rehearse via Zoom. At least it kept us in shape, and I did see how much fun everyone had together. But how would we sound when the time came?

Here’s a surreptitious shot of John Newell rehearsing Quoddy Voices. We were so grateful the masks came off most of us for the actual concerts.

Quite simply, at our first in-person rehearsal post-Covid, I knew from the first two chords out of our mouths in warmup that this was home. After my first concert with the group, I especially appreciated an aside from another bass-section member, “We’re so happy to have you,” or something to that effect. It’s a much smaller chorus than my previous one, and thus more demanding.

Quoddy Voices is, of course, John’s dream and labor of love. Like my previous directors, he’s meticulous yet patient, a published composer, an excellent keyboardist, a clean conductor, and someone with fine senses of humor and delight who also genuinely cares about his singers and colleagues. (George Emlen and Megan Henderson deserve posts of their own. Note to self.)

How perfect!

But, after ten years at the helm of the chorus, he and his wife are relocating to be closer to family for much of the year.

One thing about singing together is the personal warmth people often develop. The right director can be especially admired, for many good reasons.

John will be missed, of course, and warmly remembered. Many thanks to him for all he’s given to us and the wider community.

If you want to see more of our feelings, visit the Eastport Arts Center’s Facebook site.

We do hope he’ll be back often, perhaps even singing under our next director, someone we know is also a Character in his own right.

Meanwhile, from here to September we have a gap in our Monday night schedules.

Out of the ‘50s, mostly

STILL IN COLLEGE, Hoosier central, but return to the farm at Phillipsburg to stay over during a snowstorm. Dad had picked me up at college but dropped me off for elsewhere.

Next morning, everything’s fine and I awaken hearing voices. Aunt Edna and maybe Orpha are around.

Soon I’m downtown, walking from the hilltop with a friend through a mist or rainfall. The neighborhood’s like Fairview – nice but older. We pass one house that has a shiny chrome fat-tire bicycle on the driveway, close to the sidewalk. A few blocks further on, I leave my companion and go back and steal the bicycle. Just gotta have it. I’ll get back to the farm that way.

Riding it is exhilarating! But I decide to return the bike. My companion’s bewildered, so we part again.

As I’m putting it back in the driveway (the house has changed, it’s a bungalow on a small hill surrounded by a lot of rock and patches of grass), I’m greeted by name. Someone I’ve corresponded with about genealogy. My Rasor line, which would connect me with the farm and Aunt Edna.

I’m introduced to a husband, big family, the more ramshackle neighbors.


RETURNING TO MY CHILDHOOD HOME, I can see – perhaps from a kitchen window – the roof of a church down the street – the house must be slightly higher, on a small hill.

The church was something like the fundamentalist one built on Smithville Road, late ’50s, yellow brick, but it’s the roof I notice, caving in from the middle.

I walk down the street to explore.

But then I’m with, well, doesn’t matter, their Volvo got covered in some kind of ash, a paste. I test it and begin washing it off. We’re laughing as we clean the car but I’m interrupted by someone from that church. Did he beckon us? Me?

I follow, perhaps. Unclear.

There’s a small group inside, early 20s, mulling about, sad to be losing the place. But they’re rehearsing something, and two start to dance, something fast, great choreography with lifts and twirls and then music. Soon I’m in the midst of many of them, the sanctuary opens out into an airy social space.

I’m supposed to be with the kids and you for a day trip. Back on the street, I realize you have to take off without me. What can I do? The new crowd sweeps me off.

It’s a contemporary Christian group gathered and led by a young Cuban who’s watching his dream crumble. He has followers or fellow travelers but not the financial resources to sustain it. I try to meet up with him in the crowd, but he keeps slipping away, drawn by others.

They pull him across a dark inner-city street. Traffic intervenes.

So we’re on the street anyway, big-city downtown, now full of light as we’re joyously singing and dancing. Back Bay Boston or Times Square pre-Disney, perhaps Cincy more than my hometown in its prime. Many yellow taxis, for one thing. And many smiles. We know the strangers around us would tell us our faith is unreal. We don’t care.

Then I realize I have to go, maybe I’ve seen a clock overhead, but don’t have my phone. It’s in the Volvo, wherever. Can’t call you, either. At least I have my credit card for a bus ticket, though I’m uncertain how I’ll get from the depot to the house.

You somehow appear, fully understanding. It’s not the first time I’ve left you in the lurch, but you’ve had a good time anyway.

Even so, as I awaken, I feel free, renewed, refreshed, happy, in a state of wonder and amazement.

Is dance and song and improvisation within some structure (think of that elaborate couples’ dance) what’s been missing? Plus, there’s some zesty food in the background.


We’re even part of the famed Bay of Fundy

Maybe you’ve heard of it, the place of the world’s most extreme tides, up to 53 feet every six or so hours, meaning about six feet hourly on average or up to 12-plus in certain time windows.

If you swim, you know that’s way over your head.

So here’s a little perspective.

  1. Most U.S. maps cut out nearby Canada, leaving little sense of how much lies east of Maine and not just north. That’s anything beyond Portland, essentially, yet not that far north of Boston.
  2. Typically excised from maps of Maine, the big island of Grand Manan is essentially as lengthy as Martha’s Vineyard but with much more substantial cliffs and an undeniably working fisherman economy. To get there, you need a ferry hop or two from Canada. And that’s saying nothing of its craggy inhabitants. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
  3. Technically, I dwell on one of the subsidiary waters. Fundy Bay itself is about 55 miles wide just south of here, pointing to another place renowned for its scallops. Or is that also east? In other words, Fundy’s big.
  4. The bay’s positions of Maine and New Brunswick, on one side, and Nova Scotia, on the other, act as a funnel that intensifies Atlantic currents in and out of the channel. It’s a long story but likely worthwhile for certain nerds, especially once you see how it shapes up on the dinner plate. The intensity of the record tides does have some techies well as others drooling.
  5. That leads to the possibilities of electrical generation. Mainers would definitely welcome a reduction in our electrical bill. Wind, solar, and tidal power generation are all rising as important sources.
  6. We are mused by one local craftsman who proclaims her studio the Clay of Fundy. She’s hardly alone. You’d be amused or quite critical of the range of wordplay prompted by the Fundy word.
  7. It has rivers that reverse their flow, a phenomenon known as tidal bore.
  8. The bay can report up to ten kinds of whales every summer.
  9. For water to get from the mouth of the bay to its crown can take up to 13 hours.
  10. Its ecosystem is said to rival the Amazon’s. Just ask scuba divers.