Monday, October 22, 2012

A blustery day in Portsmouth (and New Castle), NH

  Last week had some beautiful days!  Peak color, hint of cooler temperatures and the feeling that it was good to be alive.

nb: There are a LOT of pictures in this entry.  If you're bored, just scroll down!  But then let me know what you think, OK? 

The Writer's Almanac was perfectly timed with a poem by Elizabeth Spires

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn

"In Heaven It Is Always Autumn"
         John Donne

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's paths no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down,
    the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?

Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun
    shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must
    be heaven.
 "In Heaven It Is Always Autumn" by Elizabeth Spires, from Now the Green Blade Rises. © W.W. Norton, 2002.

After visiting the Newington Bookstore (goes without saying!) we headed towards Strawberry Banke and the Portsmouth Harbor.  It's a working harbor AND they are doing quite a bit of building and remodeling which meant that finding photogenic sites was a bit of a challenge.  I don't know there the new bridge is going to go, but there were LOTS of construction workers working, and lots of interesting shadows in the late afternoon sun.
Abstracting the pictures in Photoshop was fun, but I'm not sure the images are all that successful!

 The wind was strong and COLD.  If seagulls got goose bumps, they'd have had them.  I totally sympathized with the seagull sitting on the dock in the bay trying to absorb warmth.  I'm glad to know that ducks and gulls intermingle.

 I never did figure out what the man in this "vehicle" on a raft was doing.  He looked like he should have had a crane to operate but I never saw anything connected to it.  I wonder if his job was under the water.
 Across from where we parked was what looked like a big fancy yacht club... with a big fancy yacht.  The blues in the water were so pretty.
You put your left foot in....

 The sea gulls seemed to know I didn't have anything for them, but they also were not in the least flustered. I need to check in my bird book and find out more specifically WHAT kind of sea birds these were.  I don't remember  California gulls having such pale legs.

 This seems to have been a public landing or launch before people figured out how well floating piers work.  Watch out for that last step!
(I'm pretty sure that when we were there the tide was OUT.)

 I'll be interested to find out whether anyone leaves their boat in the water for winter.  There are companies that offer to "shrink wrap" your boat.  And I imagine it is only the hardiest sailors that would want to sail when the temperatures are making ice... but I would think that freezing salt water would be rare.
 The granite whale is almost six feet long.  There was no information about it that I could find.  I bet there have been LOTS of whaling expeditions that left from Portsmouth.  They still have whale WATCHING trips... although those are mostly in the summer.

 There are lots of islands in the harbor.  Some of them have been connected by land fill for the Navy and Coast guard yards.  The building on the left (in the picture on the right) is not a Courtyard by Marriott, but is an old Navy Prison. The site was used as a prison since pre-Revolutionary times. In the early 1900's "improvements" and additions were made which reflected the structure of the prison on Alcatraz, and it thus became known as the Alcatraz of the East... even being bordered by fierce currents and sheer cliffs in some areas.
The prison figured in the movie The Last Detail, W.E.B. Griffin's novel "Semper Fi," and is referred to in  Stephen King's 1982 novella The Body, later filmed as Stand by Me.
In 1974, after the Armed Services developed a three tiered prison system, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard prison was decommissioned.  Later engineers estimate that it would cost more than $10 Million to get rid of asbestos and "update" the building for civilian use.

Apparently the local fish and fisherman are suffering.  Years of OVER fishing are preventing fisherman from catching much... AND they caught so much that many of the fish are too immature to reproduce.  What a bind.  (Not to mention change in sea temperature!).
But there must be lobsters!  There were certainly lots of lobster traps.

 Strawberry Banke is described as an outdoor museum.  The area was originally slated for a 1950's style "urban renewal" program, which would have razed all the buildings and put up "projects." A coalition of savvy people thought it would be better to renew a historical residential area called "Puddle Duck".  I would say that the "gentrification" and museum combination has brought a lot of positives to Portsmouth.

 President Obama visited Strawberry Banke earlier this year and spoke to a huge crowd.  Some residents grumbled about the disruption to traffic (which is easy in Portsmouth any way!).. so much so that schools got an unexpected holiday.

There is a big grassy plaza right on the ocean.
Beyond the plaza are a variety of Colonial, Federalist and other sorts of restored buildings.

 The fountain wasn't running when I was there. Nor was a statue of a fisherman present.  (That statue is in lots of photos linked to Prescott Park Fountain.)
 The marble urn in the middle was covered with carved fruit... Apples, I think.  The plaque said that the plaza was in honor of an Ensign Hovey from Portsmouth who was sent to the Philippines in 1910 and then ambushed and killed  on the island of Basilan. (I didn't know until just now that there are more than 7000 islands that make up the Philippines!)

A residential area adjacent the port and more or less South of Strawberry Banke was known as Puddle Dock.  This is where the homes were restored rather than razed.
The previous link has wonderful photographs by a REAL photographer... so I'm not the only person who has been impressed!
I really like the crazy historical colors.  SO much better than blocks and blocks of bricks or beige.
Telephone lines are not very photogenic, but they are sometimes unavoidable!

I love the alternating complimentary colors:  greens, reds, pumpkin and sky.

If I hadn't read it on Wikipedia, I don't think I would have believed that New Castle was the smallest town in New Hampshire. But is apparently has only a little less than 2.4 square miles of land and less than 1000 in population.  Even though it is also only 20 feet above sea level, the homes looked pretty pricey. (Three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1/10 acre, and wood frame built in 1660 was listed at $3.5 Million.  That's a lot of clams even if it IS waterfront property!)

New Castle also has a Coast Guard station and just about the oldest fort around:  Fort Constitution.  Before it was Fort Constitution, that battlement was called Castle William and Mary, and was one of the first to be raided for armaments by the Revolutionaries.

Accompanying the hefty property prices was a flotilla of beautiful boats:  sail and power

New Castle is also home to an old/well known destination hotel, Wentworth by the Sea.  This is the last of the "Gilded Age" Resort Hotels to survive in any form, even though it was almost demolished in the 1980s to build homes.  The National Historic Preservation Trust featured it on its "endangered properties" list, a buyer was found and most recently it is run by Marriott with the addition of a spa.

It won prizes for the preservation of architectural features from the 1870's-- which is probably why it reminded me a bit of the Hotel Coronado on Coronado Island near San Diego.  Perhaps because of Hollywood stars or the California economy, The Hotel del Coronado was never quite so close to doom.

After leaving New Castle, we headed back toward the center of Portsmouth.  Once again, the town had fun seasonal decorations.  The pumpkin-headed ghouls with their gecko-like hands were cheery but weird.

With so many folks dressed in winter black, the ghouls and pedestrians blended together.

We browsed one of my favorite craft galleries, Worldly Goods. They still have red silhouette sheet metal moose, beautiful necklaces, and raku cats!

We had a small dinner at the Portsmouth Brewery.  Clam Chowder (with oregano: recommended)! The Brewery is one of the older brew pubs in the area and is a "sister" enterprise to the Smuttynose Brewery across town. They are building a new brewery and are open for tours.  They are also making a seasonal PUMPKIN beer.  (I prefer my pumpkin in pies... but it could be interesting.

1 comment:

Ed Bolton said...

The guy squeezing a fish statue is removed from the Hovey fountain every year for the winter. It will be back in the spring.

The gardens at Prescott Park are worth a look 3 seasons of the year, but they are especially impressive in the spring.

A couple of days every year they open the lighthouse at the Coast Guard base next to Fort Constitution. It's worth a visit.

There is also a WWII era fort in Newcastle, Fort Stark. It isn't signed from the main road, but it is at the end of the road right next to the road that goes into the public park. I think it is Wild Rose Road, or something like that. It's pretty interesting for some people. There is some signage and a small museum there that is occasionally open. Never managed to hit the museum right myself.