1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Yes, we neighbor Maine.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.
  10. 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?


What don’t you like about the place you live?

Laundry on the line.




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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I really like our mounted patrol. As do most of the kids.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. Our neighbors. They’re a story in their own right.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.


What do you like about the place you live?

And for a little sobering perspective. It’s wet and cold on the bough.




I stopped to explore a tunnel that had been a major hazard on the Canyon Highway until the highway department finally bypassed it. “It must have been only wide enough for one-way traffic at any time,” I observed one Sunday afternoon on the drive back to my apartment.

“They used to have traffic lights at each end,” Erik replied, repeating a story heard many times.

“Wow, I’m glad we don’t have to use it any more. Look at all these huge rocks that have fallen from the ceiling!”

The bypassed asphalt was covered with boulders bigger than our VW Beetle.

It isn’t the only tunnel in the canyon. Some, the siphons, carry irrigation water through mountains. Every year somebody rafting the river is swept through one and drowns. In accord with Far West tradition — and bloated political leverage — the railroad long ago claimed the choicest spots along the narrow river passage. As a consequence, the highway twists a lot. When there’s little traffic, this can be a sporty drive.

Our alternate route was longer but faster — miles traded for time. The freeway opened out into marvelous vistas. As we came to know each roadway, we anticipated the coming views.

“Think Mount Stuart will be visible around the next curve?” he’d ask.

“No, it’s too cloudy.” Then, detecting a solitary crag ripping through a dramatic storm, I’d recant. Sometimes both Rainier and Adams stared like brothers with heads at table level. Watching for cattle and sheep, we viewed foxes and deer.

In winter, freezing rain or drifting snow often forced the state to close the expressway. Even when that highway stayed open, its surface could be treacherous.

Everywhere I turned, once I was out of the orchards and well beyond town, I could see all too clearly, this was the kind of place you could leave somebody to die.

Or be left to die.

For more of the story, click here.


The Nubble Point Lighthouse in York, Maine, is decked out for the holidays.
The Nubble Point Lighthouse in York, Maine, is decked out for the holidays.

The lighthouse at Cape Neddick in York, Maine, is one of the most photographed in America. Also known as the Nubble Point Light, it has a red beam to distinguish it from other nearby beacons. Each Christmas season, it’s outlined in holiday fare. Here’s how it looks.

It sits on its own island.
It sits on its own island. Watching the darkness grow is a memorable experience.


With a holiday touch.
With a holiday touch.

Vittorio’s in the North End is famed for its espresso and pastries. With Mercury as one of the coffee makers, you can see why the neighborhood is also renowned as Little Italy.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.