Dover’s four-mile-long community trail is a gem and has provided more than a few photo ops I’ve shared here at the Barn. Its southern leg starts at the Amtrak station downtown and, until recently, ended unceremoniously at residential Fisher Street with some delightful scenes in-between. Considered the urban leg, it’s paved for bicycle use as well as pedestrians and runners.
The northern leg kicks off at Fourth Street and follows the Cocheco River up to Watson Road, with its waterfalls and dam. One kink in that route – approaching at the Spaulding Turnpike bridge – was cleared up a few years ago, as was improved access to the trail itself at Fourth Street more recently. Some memorable cross-country skiing from the Watson Falls down to the Spaulding and back had me feeling I was up in the White Mountains rather than still inside the city limits.
Now, after being on the drawing board for more than six years, a 2,000-foot-long portion of the rail-to-trail pathway has extended the southern end almost all the way to the Sawyer Mills apartments and made ready access for middle- and high-school students.
There were complications getting permission to skirt some commercial properties along the way, as well as drainage issues and some serious poison ivy. Remaining railroad ties made walking difficult – forget the bicycle or the baby stroller.
Now that winter’s over, the stretch has been graded and paved and, where necessary, fenced off – in a stylish way, I’d say – and while some final touches remain, it’s already attracting happy pedestrian traffic.
You can bet I’ll be checking it out on my return visits.
It’s not like I won’t be back. My next book is a unique history of the town’s Quakers, for one thing, and I’ll be promoting it. And I’ll still be connecting with Dover Friends, especially through New England Yearly Meeting. Yes, Downeast Maine is still part of New England, thank God.
Will I miss people? Definitely. Some great neighbors, the Greek Orthodox circle, the lifeguards and fellow swimmers at the city’s indoor pool would be high on that list. My fellow musicians, on the other hand, were down in Boston, and I haven’t seen them since before Covid. Our beloved conductor even stepped down in the face of its digital demands. The local writing circle, meanwhile, adds some valued faces to the list, though I can’t say we were close or even much on the same page. But that’s where I did learn about Smashwords, where all my novels quickly appeared.
Which brings up another point. This new move would be much harder if we were leaving extended family behind or, more crucially, that rare friend who connects intimately on a range of shared interests – those things that fit one’s life mission or identity. For me, that would be a nexus of Quaker spirituality, off-beat literature, classical music, natural wonder and wilderness, back-to-the-earth awareness, even folk dancing. Things like gardening and foody smarts would be more on my wife’s side of the equation.
What, you think there are tons of people who match my varied interests? Surely, you jest.
Death has already taken a toll there, as has spiraling illness, their moving away to a distance, or even insurmountable conflict. But in my new setting, I am meeting some fascinating eccentrics. More later, I’m sure.
I do wish we had more words to describe friendships, though I’m afraid any subtlety would quickly be eroded. The fact is there are few of those soul-mate connections, especially among males of our civilized species. Women seem to be naturally inclined toward that one-special-friend connection, the kind of person you have to phone (or text) every day. Or every-other hour. Not so guys, to our own detriment. Mea culpa.
Let’s also note that Covid precautions have also already detached us. We’re rarely in physical contact, no matter how much Zoom and other platforms allow me to catch up with buddies even when I’m way up Downeast Maine. And, from everything I’m seeing, that’s likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
My wife and I have both been surprised how quickly I’ve switched into my new center. Once my workstation and files were set up in our new address, that’s where my heart was. Dover is undergoing what I expect to be an amazing rebirth, but I won’t be part of it, and I’m aware of that.
Quite simply, it’s become a great place for me to visit, but no longer home. All of my goods have ether been moved to the new address or are in the storage unit we’ve rented.
In other words, the dream has stepped on.
As I look back on my years in Dover, I realize I see I hadn’t spent as much time in neighboring Portsmouth as I’d expected or at the University of New Hampshire just a town away. Even once I’d retired from the newsroom, I was largely hunkered down in writing, revising, and publishing. So much for the writer’s life!
I can say I feel comfortable in leaving Friends Meeting in good hands and wish the best for the new owners of our old house, barn, and precious gardens.
I can say Dover’s been the best years of my life. So far. You will be seeing more from that through the coming year, here at the barn.
What would you miss most if you uprooted?
The old Foster’s Daily Democrat newspaper plant had been added to willy-nilly over the years, and there was no way of hiding that in the building’s transformation to multi-use tenancy. As we’ve seen in previous posts, much of its rear side facing Henry Law Park was essentially a windowless concrete block wall. Not anymore. The corner apartments were quickly rented.