Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's a curious thing that only later in my life have I become interested in exploring the eastern reaches of my home state. Jeannine and I just got back from staying two nights in Gloucester, MA, a place I think I may have passed through once, many years ago. It's a famous sea town north of Boston, in a little protruding bump of the coastline to which I have never really paid much attention before.

But this trip was not just to put our tourist hats on, though we did do that also. Jeannine has a friend who lives in the area, Pat Lowery Collins, a poet/novelist/painter, and Pat had invited us to see her home and studio and join her for lunch. And she had a show of some of her landscape work hanging at the library in Gloucester, so we wanted to see that, too.

Jeannine found what looked to be a nice inn near a section of the shoreline called "Bass Rocks" -- NOT named after the fish, as I first supposed, but by the sounds made by the waves as they pound against and rush under some of the rock formations. We managed to experience this auditory marvel on our last day -- here's a shot of Jeannine standing on those selfsame Bass Rocks...

... and it was quite thrilling to hear the powerful low rumbling notes which sounded like subterranean thunder.

One place we wanted to check out was a spot called Halibut Point -- curiously, it came up in conversation with our friends Jesse and Megan at their baby shower a day earlier, and also on that same day while Jeannine was reminiscing with her sister Margaret, who, with her daughter Cathy, was visiting us for a few days.
Halibut Point is an area on the coast near Rockport, the next town north of Gloucester, and features a huge granite quarry, just a little bit inland from the shore, now half-filled with water, with chunks of quarried granite randomly strewn about. It is quite impressive, and a bit eerie.

Jeannine and I walked about halfway around the quarry, then decided to head down to the shore and see some waves. We found a likely-looking path and wandered down to an area with some beautiful rock formations.

Off to the left, there was this gigantic pile of what looked like cast-off or undesirable pieces of granite. I was hoping to find out more about this titanic heap when we went to the visitors' center at Halibut Point, but sadly that was closed. I suppose I could probably do some online research to discover the whole story behind it.

After walking on the beach rocks for a bit, we decided to head back up to the quarry to complete our perambulation of its circumference, but -- due to the fact that almost all of the little paths through the scrubby bushes looked very similar to each other, and there was almost no useful signage -- we got lost, and it took us another twenty minutes or so to wander our way back to the path around the quarry. But it was worth it, because it is quite a beautiful place.

(There were a few moments when I found myself thinking about the lake into which Charlton Heston's spaceship crashes in beginning of the first "Planet of the Apes" movie, because parts of this quarry had similar coloration. Or so I remember it, anyway.)

The following day we went to see Pat's paintings at the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library. I say "paintings", and that is how Pat refers to them, but they were all (except for one) not rendered in paint, but instead with pastels. Here's a shot of some of the pieces on display:

No matter the medium, they were all beautiful, capturing the essence of that shore zone where the rocks meet the sand and the surf. (I'm happy to say that one of them will be hanging in our house in the near future.)

After that, we tried to go to the Cape Ann Museum, which was right around the corner from the library,  but they were closed on Mondays. So we decided to walk around Gloucester a bit, do the tourist thing for a while, and found ourselves shortly thereafter admiring the famous statue of the Gloucester fisherman…

… and nearby, the more recent companion piece dedicated to the wives and families of those same fishermen.

Then it was time to wend our way to Pat's house by the ocean (thank you, Honda GPS navigation system!), where we were greeted warmly and given a great lunch, as well as a tour of her studio and writing room, both of which (especially her studio) seemed to me to be fantastic work spaces. After hanging out and chatting with Pat for a while, we took a walk down to the beautiful beach which is no more than a few hundred feet from her place.

Walking around for a few hours in the extremely bright sun had tired us out somewhat, so we headed back to the hotel to take a break for a bit, before trying to find an appropriate place for dinner. And I lucked out in a quick online search, because I came up with "My Place by the Sea" in Rockport, which turned out to be a wonderful restaurant right on the water with great views, food and service.

(I should mention that before going to dinner, we took a quick dip in the hotel pool -- we were feeling too beat to walk the mile and a half to the beach down the road -- and while still wet from that swim, I walked across the road to the ocean, and tested out a new camera which allows for taking pictures underwater. It was fun, and a few of them looked pretty good, but I can tell I need to practice some more to get the best shots.)

(I had to take a photo of this seaweed I saw while doing that -- it was so incredibly green and bright.)

        After dinner, while wandering around downtown Rockport, looking into various small shops, I happened across the following view down an alleyway -- what I think of as the quintessentially small town New England harbor scene.

         And on another street, we ran across this odd but cute sculpture titled "Baby and Frog" by Richard Recchia.

On our last day in Gloucester, we did make it to the Cape Ann Museum, and while not a huge place, it was still fascinating to look through. They had lots of stuff about the fishing industry in Gloucester, including a cool diorama representing the docks and boats of Gloucester, which Jeannine pointed out to me had been shown at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

(I have been fascinated by that World's Fair since reading Erik Larson's book "The Devil in the White City" a few years ago, and it was fun to imagine this diorama having been part of that historic event.)

Another interesting piece that Jeannine pointed out to me was a plaster model made by Leonard Craske, the sculptor of the "Gloucester Fisherman's Memorial" statue we'd visited the previous day. Apparently, he'd had the idea to do a companion piece honoring the fishermen's families, but had not been able to secure the funding to produce it. It's interesting to consider this piece's similarities to -- and differences from -- the statue that was eventually created and installed to commemorate the families of the fishermen.

The visit to the museum marked the end of our stay in Gloucester, but we had one more stop on the way home that promised to be fun -- we had seen the signs for this place on our drive out to Gloucester, and on the way back, I suggested to Jeannine that we stop there for lunch. It's a restaurant called "The Old Mill" in Westminster, MA, and Jeannine remembered going there with her grandparents when she was young. She recalled with fondness that there was a waterfall, and a wooden bridge, and a pond with ducks that a little girl could feed.

And so there were, still. -- PL


Anonymous said...

Peter, so glad you got to enjoy one of my favorite places - or two, really! Hopefully you saw why I love Rockport!

Great pictures, btw!


BL said...

BEAUTIFIL photos! You have GOT to tell me more about this underwater camera! (Those are terrific shots! What colors!)
Again....I see a photo book of your work/panoramas in the future!
(Would be a great book for every family in America!)
Keep on taking pics!

usagiguy said...

It looks like you had a great little vacation. Very nice photos with that underwater camera. I look forward to seeing more of those photos.

PL said...

"Anonymous said...
Peter, so glad you got to enjoy one of my favorite places - or two, really! Hopefully you saw why I love Rockport!

Great pictures, btw!


Sis, I believe I do see why you like that place so much, though I suspect you have explored it in much greater depth than we have. I do hope to go back and see some more. -- Pete

PL said...

"BL said...
BEAUTIFIL photos! You have GOT to tell me more about this underwater camera! (Those are terrific shots! What colors!)
Again....I see a photo book of your work/panoramas in the future!
(Would be a great book for every family in America!)
Keep on taking pics!

Bruce, you're too kind! But I must say I like the way those underwater shots came out, and I look forward to playing around with that some more. -- Pete