Hardworking leaders. We’ve been blessed by people who want to get things done. The town’s made a huge turnaround in the past 20 years, from a time when the mill windows were boarded up to the vital business incubator it is today.
In general, we tend to vote more to the left, in a working-class streak. In a small state like ours, you’ve probably met the governor and at least one of your U.S. senators. And our city counselor lives across the street.
Family friendly. We actually have four high schools – the city’s (which is moving into a new building), St. Thomas Aquinas, Portsmouth Christian Academy, and the state-chartered Cocheco Academy of the Arts. The Rotary and Kiwanis clubs have been active influences in shaping this direction.
The Greek Orthodox church, one of the oldest in North America. Outwardly, they’re at the opposite end of the Christian spectrum from my Quaker plainness – something I find challenging and refreshing. But they’re welcoming and wonderful and have provided great grounding for my upcoming novel. And, as I’m finding, they’re everywhere in this town. The interior of their house of worship, by the way, is visually gorgeous.
Public transportation to Boston. C&J buses run hourly to Logan airport and South Station. They’re clean and quite comfortable. And Amtrak’s Downeaster heads to North Station five times a day – what a delight! – as well as the other way to Portland, Maine, or a little beyond.
Yes, we neighbor Maine.
Fresh food. Farmstands are just minutes from downtown, as well as two farmers markets. Sweet corn’s no problem. Pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples as well. And then there’s the seafood – not just lobster, either.
Market Basket. Well, technically it’s across the line in Somersworth, but this legendary supermarket chain is significantly cheaper than its competition while being highly responsive to its local customers. (It has the best tofu around. The Asian restaurants all get theirs there.)
Police and fire and rescue services. They respond instantly, as we found out back when we had a phone button on autodial. (And they were very friendly about it.) Just as telling, women aren’t afraid to walk home late at night downtown. And, from what we hear from immigrant communities, they’re sensitive and supporting.
Garrison Hill observation tower. The walk from our house starts through our neighbors’ yard, twists up some side streets and then through the woods to the top of the hill and then up the flights of stairs to the crown of the tower where the panorama spreads out over the village -like setting of downtown or, the other way, clear to one flank of Mount Washington. And then it’s the reverse. Great for quick exercise or a jaunt with our guests. See where we live?
For the past 18 years I’ve lived in a small city. One of 30,000 men, women, and children in addition to dogs and seagulls. And it’s felt right. Way back in my past, many folks expected I’d wind up in New York City, and while I do hold a certificate in urban studies from my university, my career took me in another direction.
Well, here are 10 reasons I like where I am:
Quaker Meeting. It’s my core community, my circle of kindred spirits, and we’re the fifth oldest congregation in the entire state. The four before us were all state-supported Colonial Puritan institutions. We were the renegades.
Walking distance to whatever is usually essential. What a civilized way to live! We’re a mile from downtown, in one direction, and the hospital, in the other. (Oh, yes, we can stop somewhere nice for a drink and not worry about having to drive home.) It’s pedestrian-friendly place, really. Cars have to stop or, well, I’ve seen them halted by cops on big horses.
I really like our mounted patrol. As do most of the kids.
The Community Trail. As long as we’re walking, we have the option of a former railroad line that’s become a narrow woodsy park heading out from the train station (I often take that route to Meeting on Sunday morning) or a riverside meander heading upstream. Sometimes I think I’m much further north, in the mountains, especially when I’m on cross-country skis in deep winter.
Centrally located. Within an hour’s drive we have Atlantic beaches one way, forested mountains in another, and the Hub of the Universe in a third. OK, Boston depends on the traffic, but I do rehearse weekly in a choir there.
Waterfalls in the heart of downtown. The river falls to the tide and runs through an arch in the big brick mill. It used to power the mill, too. The scene’s quite charming and sometimes dramatic. And salmon are returning to the fish ladder.
The city’s indoor pool. I swim a half-mile four or five times a week. Nice bunch of fellow swimmers and lifeguards. Not bad for a Christmas present!
Our neighbors. They’re a story in their own right.
Architectural diversity, as you might expect in the seventh oldest settlement in the continental U.S. We’re always seeing something unexpected when we stroll.
We’ve become the downtown for the state university one town over. A third of its students live in apartments here, so we have a bit of that college town flavor. But not so much that we lose our blue-collar edge.
Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.
Somehow as a Subway Hitchhiker (at least in my imagination and dreaming) I’ve settled in a small city in a cluster of small cities amid moose and deer and the occasional black bear. As well as the eagle, overhead. Here, with my city farm, as we garden.
Always the Outsider – even when I’m the Leader.
This slow process of learning to trust each other again.
Yet some Wants are also Needs! (To be loved, accepted – even as a writer – even successful or victorious in some manner.)
My Wall is an aspect of Control. (Even if it’s so classic it’s trite.)
Sometimes it seems we don’t play. We don’t play enough.
The pathway is not straight but strait. Not even like a tightrope. No wonder I’m so often off-kilter.
In the beginning was the Plan and the Plan was (as I paraphrase the gospel of John). Yes, simply was. And all we have to do is step into it! As if it could really be that simple.
This is hardly a Literary Life. How different my work would be had I led another existence. Something with more time for serious reading, teaching, refined social circles. Rather than laboring out in the field.
So comforting, this thick terrycloth bathrobe that reaches to my ankles – not a given, at all, when you’re tall. Nice way to round out the year.
Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.
Is anything more relaxing than sitting in front of a wood fire? Even when it means sitting on the floor?
Gift-buying husbands? Just look! As she says, they’re subjected to indentured shop-itude.
First day of winter and the flannel sheets should be on the bed by now, if not earlier. Flip the mattress and rotate, too.
Our traditional Christmas dinner includes fresh homegrown Brussels sprouts, which means I’m out in the garden harvesting – sometimes in several feet of snow. Likewise with kale and chard: frost improves the flavor.
Let me suggest Mary, as the mother of the church … a slightly different twist on the Nativity story.
For someone who’s lived under relentless deadlines, Christmas itself can be seen as another damn deadline. Or series of deadlines. This year, I think I’m ahead.
Still, I’m deeply grateful for the sense of release – notes, poems, correspondence … the logjam broken … now that the poems and novels are available.
Grandfathers have grandfathers too. In case you’re in one of those inner-child perspectives.
What are the theological dimensions of Alzheimer’s or dimentia? Where are the connections – the response ability – when your story gets so fragmented you’re no longer connected to anything you encounter?
picnic table with a block of snow 2-feet deep atop it and a hole at the center extraordinary deep purple in the Siberian irises Quaker ladies abloom on the meeting burial ground – even on the Friends graves in Pine Hill Cemetery the ox-eye daisies I lifted from rock and sand to transplant here – […]
The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear fashion. So what’s on my mind these days? How about counting on these fingers?
She’s big on Christmas traditions, including our observing Advent these days. I’m still surprised she inherited none of it in her family! Created it like a radical quilt. Makes this array all the more remarkable, from my perspective.
Slush on the windshield. Ice underfoot.
Winter’s setting in, though I’m already tired of it.
The earliest sunsets of the year have plateau’d and are already inching back in my part of the world. The oppressive late-afternoon darkness will soon be obviously relenting. We don’t wait for the solstice.
I like the Eastern Orthodox insight of Mary as the Mother of Light.
In reality, I hate being the caretaker, responsible one, cleaner-upper, put-awayer. Contrary to my self-image.
It’s been a long road to here. Sometimes it feels like a hangover.
In working a seasonal job, she has a curious freedom in not having to worry about being fired, losing the mortgage, and so on. Just put the hours in and go home.
Whatever happened to my collection of winter scarves? (As if I really need to ask.)