The Fearless Benjamin Lay


For years I taught a high school local history course, Philadelphia and Bucks County.  My Teaching Social Studies course at Holy Family College was sprinkled with local history material. For several years I wrote a local history column for the Yardley News.  My personal library has hundreds of books related to Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Bucks County history.  And when I travel I like to read local books.  Although I am trying to limit the number of books I buy, it’s still hard to resist new local books.

EA0CB15E-2B17-42FB-B425-920F954086E3I recently ordered “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker dwarf who became the first revolutionary abolitionist,” by Marcus Rediker.  I sometimes told a story about Lay in my classes.  Rediker opens his book with the same story.  Lay enjoyed shock theatrics with his protests. In 1738 he attended Burlington, NJ Friends meeting.  He stood up and began to condemn slavery, particularly railing against Quakers who kept slaves or profited from the slave trade.  He invoked God and the Bible.  Drawing a sword, he plunged it into a Bible that he held aloft.  Blood spurted from the Bible wound.  Lay had carved out the Bible and inserted a bladder filled with red pokeberry juice.  Rediker provided more details, Lay, a pacifist, wore a military uniform.  He proclaimed that the Almighty God respected all people “rich and poor, men and women, white people and black alike.”  The meeting broke into chaos and several Quakers lifted the calm Benjamin and carried him from the meeting.  He had made his point; he did not object.


Benjamin Lay would continue his guerilla war on slavery, particularly a war on Quakers who practiced, condoned or supported it.  Benjamin was born in England where he had become a Quaker but his strong anti- slavery stance distanced him from other members of his hometown and London meetings.  When he asked for papers testifying to his character to take with him to America, he was refused.  He left for the colonies anyway, eventually settling in Philadelphia and later Abington.

His theatrics continued and he was thrown out of both Philadelphia and Abington Meetings.  Benjamin lived a simple life.  Over the years he was a shepherd, sailor, glove maker and book seller.  He had little formal education but he read extensively, of special interest were the writings of early Quakers. His radical abolitionist position was formed after witnessing the horrors of slavery in Barbados.   Rediker labels him an antinomian, a belief that the law, the formal church, does not determine morality, the spirit in each individual did. Benjamin published a book, “All Slave-keepers That Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,”  however, it was somewhat disorganized, almost a commonplace book of slavery.  Another Benjamin, Franklin, published it.

Benjamin suffered ridicule throughout his life due to his short, deformed body.  He became a vegetarian, animal rights advocate, he made his own clothes from flax which he grew.  He married but his wife died early. He never stopped his crusade to end slavery in the Quaker community and his unrelenting approach antagonized (intentionally) the wealthy Quaker elite.    His final home was in a cave in Abington.   When he died there in 1759, he was buried in the Abington Friends School cemetery in Jenkintown.  Rediker spoke of Lay and his legacy in April 2018 when Abington Friends unveiled a grave marker for Benjamin and Sarah Lay. I’d like to visit the cemetery and cave some day.


Lay probably inspired later abolitionists. Rediker mentions Anthony Benezet and John Woolman.  I like to imagine Benjamin Lay, radical activist, today, defending the rights of not only the descendents of slaves but all people of color. He’d defend Muslims, Jews, and other persecuted minority religions.   He’d be vigorously defending the rights of immigrants and pleading compassion for rufugees.  He’d champion the rights of women, the handicapped, and those in the gay-lesbian community.   He’d demand fair equal treatment for the poor, middle and working class.  He’d speak out against tax cuts and special privileges of the usually white, wealthy, typically male, elite in American society, be they Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal.  He’d condemn corporate greed, the destruction of the environment, and the exploitation of animals.  He’d support quality health care and education for all.

Reality check: one person, one Benjamin Lay can’t be expected to do all that, certainly not alone.  Each of us need to be inspired by the Benjamin Lays in our society.  I think they exist.  We need to look for them; recognize them.  The plain people, even dwarfs, sometimes outspoken, maybe theatrical but those who model revolutionary activism.


A Gentleman in Moscow


What would it be like to live in a hotel for a month, a year, decades.  Not just any run of the mill hotel, but the best.  The Bellevue in Philadelphia; Copley Plaza in Boston; The Plaza in New York City.  Remember Eloise?  Count Alexander Rostov shares his experience with us. For decades, under house arrest, he lived in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow.  “The Gentleman of Moscow,” by Amor Towles is a novel but reads as non fiction. You feel like you are in the Hotel with Count Rostov.


During the revolution Rostov was in Paris but he was determined to return to the motherland.  In 1922 he is back but he is an aristocrat and is convicted of writing subversive poetry (ironically much later we learn the poem was written by a close friend).  At the time of his arrest, the Count was occupying a large, elegant suite on the third floor of the Metropol, the finest hotel in the city.  Instead of banishment to Siberia, the authorities decided a life confined to the hotel would be a suitable punishment for an unrepentent aristocratic, enemy of the people.

Sasha (as he is sometimes called, a nickname for Alexander) accepts the move to a sixth floor small, cramped attic room.  He must leave behind many of the expensive personal furnishings in his suite but moves a family desk, a portrait of his sister Helena and a few other treasures.  We will learn that the hollowed out legs of the desk are filled with gold coins.

The Count settles into a routine; a delivered breakfast; morning newspapers in the Lobby; meals in the Boyarsky (restaurant) or the more formal Piazza;  drinks in the Shalyapin; reading while leaning back in his chair (he was a lover of books and brought many to his attic room); interactions with the staff, a fantastic ensemble of characters, an evening aperitif, usually just one.  The life of a “gentleman.”

Two events alter his settled life.  He discovers a door in a closet that leads to an adjacent room.  He empties the room, there is a lot of storage in the attic, and creates a sitting room for himself, entry through the closet.  When visitors show up he guides them through the closet into the sitting room.  The second event is his meeting and eventual friendship with the precocious Nina Kulikova, a young girl who also lives in the hotel.

Nina had secured a pass key and guides the Count through the hotel.  They hide in a balcony, watch and listen to party committee meetings.  They visit the Count’s former suite, still furnished with his family heirlooms and there are the cellars, that area devoted to wine is of particular interest to the Count. They dine together and have all kinds of experiences.


The years pass, Stalin dies, who will take over?  Towles provides just enough local color and history to root his story in Russia, the Revolution, later World War II and the Post War period.  To keep busy and be purposeful, the Count becomes the hotel’s  headwaiter.  Nina grows up, leaves the hotel and becomes associated with the party.  Traveling, she leaves her daughter, Sophia, in the Count’s care and the young girl, even more than her mother, becomes his constant companion and is often called his daughter. Like her mother, she is talented, clever, a delightful child.

Count Rostav becomes part of a Hotel Triumvirate with chef Emile and Andrey, the maitre d.  They meet regularly to plan menus, seating arrangements and any other important restaurant matters.  Ocassionally they must foil the attempts at control by the Bishop, a party functionary, appointed manager, who does not understand or believe in class.  One on the Bishops first actions (to Rostov’s horror) is to strip all labels from wine bottles.  Order white or red; no class pretensions.  The “three” however resist his leveling, and in one conspiracy, collect ingredients (some difficult to obtain) and create a magnificent bouillabaisse which they share in a two hour euphoric meal.

There are many other characters and subplots in the 30 years the Count lives in the Metropol. There are hotel staff including  Audrius, the bartender, Marina, the seamstress, and Victor Stepanovich Skadovsky, the orchestra conductor in the Piazza.  All play a role in the Count’s life; most have long Russian names.    Anna Urbanov, a former actress comes and goes and eventually becomes a lover.  Mishka, an old friend visits and it’s revealed that he wrote the poem that was the immediate cause of the Count’s arrest and confinement. There are years of activity as Sophia grows into a young lady.

There is a climatic “happy” ending, references to “Casablanca,” Sophia on a concert tour in Paris, and Count Rostav escaping the confines of the Metropol.  I recommend you get a copy of  “A Gentleman in Moscow,” and read more for yourself.

Diane originally got the book for a discussion group.  It’s not something I would typically read.  But reading is my escape to different times and different places.  I meet people not in my 2018, American, east coast orbit.  “A Gentleman in Moscow” was all those things.  Again, get a copy.




Loose Ends


There always seems to be so much to do and not enough energy to do everything; sometimes it seems there is no energy for anything.  I recall a birthday card I received from a close friend several years ago. “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”  I posted  the card above my desk at work (back when I worked). I’m not sure I realized the quote was Mark Twain.  Then, of course, there was Scarlett in Gone With the Wind,  “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  Yes, Scarlett.  I’m a list maker.  It’s a good day if I cross off two things and only add three or four.


Weather can have a strong effect on energy levels; one’s desire to do something.  I recall reading a diary of Ragna Hamilton, a year she spent in the late 40s, recovering from her internment in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, and a post war divorce.  She was living with Rodney Hamilton, an RAF pilot, in a Napoleonic fort in Northen Ireland.  They were attempting to raise pigs.  In her diary, Ragna recorded her daily moods.  On rainy days, and there were many, she felt alone, depressed, suicidal; then the sun came out.  She and Rodney would share a picnic lunch, bottle of wine, boat ride.  Life was good.  Love was in the air. Unfortunately I lost the diary in a flood.

In November, 2017, we took the kids to see “Annie” at the Walnut Street Theatre.  Remember the lyric:


The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be sun

Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow
’til there’s none
When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh

The sun will come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on
’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away!
When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say.

Tomorrow, tomorrow I love ya tomorrow
You’re always a day away …

How poetic, glorious. . .

But then there are the loose ends, the to do list.  My current in no particular order includes: finish cutting the grass (then take the lawn mower to be repaired, auto movement isn’t working);  grill eggplant, yard sale of basement stuff; sell stamp collection; organize books; buy a new camera; plan Maine trip; digitize slides; weed garden; make beer and cheese (of course bread and biscuits); clothes to Good Will; buy pants; sand and finish dining room and kitchen floors (well not me, but hire someone); stain deck (controversial, it doesn’t seem to last a season); should I go on.

This doesn’t include local field trips, lunches out, writing, reading and walking.


I’ve also been thinking about doing, energy levels, and the lack of it related to companionship, friendship, who we live with, spend our days and hours with, our roommate, spouse.  Some days I go dog walking with Diane.  Other mornings I walk on the canal behind the house, alone.  Many of the runners, walkers, cyclists, out on the canal are solo.  I have sisters, friends and acquaintances that live alone.  I think I need people contact.  I can’t imagine living alone.  Interestingly, I had lunch with Dan Ryan, a HGP friend today, he lives alone and couldn’t imagine otherwise.

Tomorrow, weather, companionship, energy levels, to do lists.

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk, you’ll never walk alone
Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein / Richard Rodgers
I’m not totally sure what the lyrics mean “walk with hope in your heart” and “you’ll never walk alone.”  But I like the melody and it sounds good.
Tomorrow is another day.  Oscar Wilde said, “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.” I may have heard that before.





The Watch at Peaked Hill

When I travel, I like to read about the people and places associated with my destination.  When in Rome; read about the Romans.  This year while on Cape Cod, I read several books.  The first was “On Whale Island: a place I never meant to leave,” by Daniel Hays.  It’s a memoir about building and living in an isolated house in Nova Scotia for a year.  A bit of Walden?  The second was “The Last Lobster: boom or bust for Maine’s greatest fishery,” by Christopher White.  White lives in Stonington and explores the lobster fishery.  Neither of these is about Cape Cod but they are about the sea and perfect Cape reading.  (See my posts “Getting Away”and “The Lobstah will Come.)



The third book was a Cape Cod memoir, “The Watch at Peaked Hill: Outer Cape Cod shack life, 1953-2003,” by Josephine Breen Del Deo.  I bought this on a previous trip, but didn’t get to read it.  Started it this trip and finished it yesterday.   Josephine, her husband, Salvatore, two children and eventually grandchildren summer in a shack owned by Frenchie, an actress drawn to Proviencetown and the dunes.  Josephine is a philosopher writer; Salvatore is a painter.


In the 1960s they and most other dune shack residents support the federal government’s  creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  They are assured they will have rights to the shacks for themselves and posterity. But almost immediately after the Seashore is created the National Park Service takes an unfavorable view of the shacks.  They are evidence of humans on the dunes.  When a few shack dwellers die; the Park Service burn or tear down their shacks.  Much of the book is the record of preservationists attempt to save the shacks; and the right of the owners to live in them.

There are meetings, reports, court cases, testimony, and it drags on for decades.  Josephine uses journal entries, hers and others, to make the dry legal fight personal.  I found it interesting that even though the shacks were eligible for  National Historic designation, they were not saved.  The Park Service legalize argued the legislation for the Seashore protected “improved structures.”  Since the shacks had no improvements they weren’t protected.  Preservationists argued it wasn’t just the protection of a structure but a “way of life.”

And “way of life”is the heart of “Peaked Hill.” Del Deo writes beautifully about the dunes, the ocean, grasses, sand, swallows, storms, fish.  She draws strength, sustenance, excitement, joy from the landscape.  She writes poetry and prose.  Salvatore paints.  They grill sea bass; have a glass of wine at sunset.  She reflects on the famous (Eugene O’Neill) and the unknown who have lived in the shacks.  I want to extract her reflections, allow them sink into my consciousness.

In the past when I’ve seen private property intrude into parks, national or state, I’ve thought, hope they can be bought out.  I’m not so sure now.  Some of the Proviencetown shacks are now owned by non profit groups that rent them.  Sounds good.  But Del Deo argues a weekly rental is not the same as generations passing the dune shack life to the next generation.  A few are still owned by families.

This year Diane and I spent a day on the Race Point beach. It’s not far from many of the shacks, the area of the extant Peaked Hill life saving station. Wouldn’t it be great to rent a shack.  To experience a totally unique way of life.  At the least, next  year we might take Art’s Dune tour, which goes by the shacks.  I also just discovered that biplane rides over the dunes can be charted at the Proviencetown airport.  To join if only for moments Del Deos, O’Neill, Thoreau, Beston And all those that have lived life on the Cape Cod, Provincetown dunes.




A week ago we returned from two weeks on Cape Cod.  As much as I enjoy travel, returning home is always a good feeling. My granddaughter, Viv, said as much, she didn’t want to leave the Cape but would be glad to be home.  Her brother, Eli, who came to the Cape after a month at Camp Pinemere in the Poconos said, “I’ll be glad to sleep in my oun bed.”

For many, home provides warmth, comfort, reassurance, security.  Home-made is good, tasty.  Home cooked is comfort food.  Home sweet home.  There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is.  OK, maybe smaltzy; straight out of Hallmark.  But I decided to look up some additional  “home” quotes.  A few I liked:  “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.”  “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”  “Home is where one starts from.” –T.S. Eliot.


Coming home. I rembered the summer of 1975 we spent it in Bethel, ME with Garret and Melody Bonnema who had moved from Bristol and opened a pottery studio.  The area was beautiful.  Several times a week we hiked in the White Mountains.  I spent a week doing photography on a Maine island.  We had a fantastic time.  But when we returned to Bucks County we commented on how good it felt being home.  For me we were actually living in my first home — the apartment in Bristol where I grew up.


Bristol made me a small town person.  Main Street, although in Bristol it was Mill Street.  Four blocks of a classic commercial district; we lived in a large apartment over stores owned and rented by my grandfather.  My father worked in a family business, Profy’s  GE appliances, across the street. We shopped in town, on the street. Walked to school, library and church. Total small town.  Bristol recently has been enjoying a type of Renaissance, renewed interest in the waterfront, local businesses, festivals, and the relationships that make it a “hometown.”


Diane and I have had several homes. If I grew up grew up in Bristol, Diane was from Brewster later Carmel, her Dad’s business was in Croton Falls.  All small towns in NY. Our first home together was a third story apartment, Commonwealth Avenue, Cleveland Circle, about two miles from Boston College in Newton, MA.  The Peace Corps was an interlude.  We returned to Bristol, rented a house on Cedar Street.  I thought Tom Wolfe was right, “you can’t go home again.” And here we were in Bristol.  We soon moved to a Yardley canal side house that belonged to Sid Cadwallader who we met at Yardley Friends Meeting.  This was more us.  But not for long.  After a year we moved to Old York Road outside of downtown New Hope.  We rented again, but this time sharing the house with John and Barbara Paglione.  Back to the earth, communes, well, an intentional two couple community.  We had a huge garden, John and I worked on farms in the summer.  We spent some time looking to buy a home together.

John decided to go to graduate school (Ann Arbor). Our New Hope home broke up.  Diane and I began looking for a house; in the interim we returned to my parents.  In the summer of 1976 we went to England telling my father to bid/ buy a house coming up for sale.  On our return, we discovered he had secured the house but, Mom was acting strange. She wanted out of the apartment; she wanted a real home.  I told my father, you buy it.  His condition was that  we would live in the family apartment.  We did.  For about a year.  A strange year.  Jenny was born.  Her first home was my childhood home.  But the local movie theatre had become an adult gay movie house.  Fights erupted between gays and straights every weekend.  “Diane it wasn’t like this when I was growing up.”  But the good news: the Grundy Foundation bought the theatre and created a legitimate local theatre.  My hometown had a renaissance         Going home again, Tom Wolfe. But we moved.  We purchased this time.


Our new home was 121 N. Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough, River Road in front,  the canal behind us, across a small back street and empty lot.  “Location, location, location,” they say.  We’re small town people; we’ve been here 40 years. The house was a vacation cottage.  Quite small, the interior walls and ceiling were covered in tongue in groove boards, stained.  In the early 80s we decided 121 was too small.  But mortgage interest rates were 18%. We decided on an addition.  Construction proceeded for several years, my father and I doing the finishing after the shell was built.  We brought Cordiscos from Bristol for the construction.

We knew our home was in the flood plain (we paid insurance).  Our renovations revealed mud and wracked windows.  But we never thought a lot about flooding.  Ocassionally the river rose, even flooded sections of river road, came up a bit in our backyard. Until 2004, 2005,and 2006.  Although we never took first floor water, the basement flooded, we evacuated, and lost things, electric, heating system damage.  A mess.  In 2007 we decided to elevate rather than trying to sell at a loss.  Cost was $40,000, about the same as the original cost.

Now retired in our 70s, we are in our home.  But the steps seem endless, especially when we have a car filled with grocery bags.  Maybe we’ll move, it’s on the “to do” retirement list but 121 has and still is home.


Since returning from Cape Cod, I’ve been thinking about what makes a house, an apartment, condo, cottage, or shack a “home.”  Somehow it’s become part of us or we’ve become part of it.  I’m, we’re intertwined, connected to 121.  Better or worse.

There are memories:  Jenny playing, growing up with a neighborhood friend Katie.  Jen was a redhead; Katie was blonde.   Such fun strolling them into Yardley along the canal.  Jenny’s high school graduation picnic with our friends and relatives.  Dinners, and parties, in the unfinished addition.  Pickled river herring; Canal walks.  Cold days in front of our Vermont casting woodstove.  Involvement in hometown events, organizations and politics.   Even the floods hold many memories. Neighborhood spirit.


Homes are filled with objects that reflect and recall the past.  From the family room chair where I sit, I see the balsa wood boat, a gift from my parents on trip visiting Marylee in WA state.  There are Mercer tiles, a David Sears “Shad” painting,, a reading stand crafted by Rodney Hamilton, a wooden chest with the date of Lincoln’s assassination painted on the under side of the top, an old school desk (filled with daily journals) purchased at a Brown Brothers auction, pottery, glass, tiles, prints and paintings from many craft shows. A small ceramic donkey and cart planter that sat in my grandfather’s kitchen.  A wall clock my father constructed; a Mike Holman painting.  And this is only one room.


Since I’ve  been home from the Cape I’ve enjoyed garden harvests.  So many beautiful tomatoes this year; lots of peppers.  Fall seedlings are coming up.   Despite the high 90 temperatures, I’ve walked on the canal towpath.  I’ve enjoyed cooking in my kitchen; sitting, reading in my recliner; sleeping in my bed.  I’m home. I have objects and memories that sustain.  Travel is great, interesting, exciting, eye opening, but yes, you can go home, there is no place like it.







“The lobstah will come”


Last night after an eco- boat ride around Barnstable harbor, Sandy Neck and the marshes, we decided on dinner at Osterville Fish Too.  It’s a small dockside fish market, with take out and picnic tables.  Diane and I discovered it on the way home after several days on Nantucket (a post Cape trip).  At the time I had swordfish and commented how much better it was than swordfish I had in a fancy, expensive Nantucket restaurant.



But last night, I went for the boiled lobster with fries and slaw.  I sign priced 1 1/4 lb. at $13.00 /lb.  My platter was $22.  Although I struggled a bit with cracking and spilled the melted butter in the dish, the lobster was fantastic.  I had lobster rolls twice on this trip, at the Guilford Lobster Pound in CN and another at Young’s, Rock Harbor, outside Orleans.  Guilford uses drawn butter; Young’s mayonnaise.  I like both but favor butter.  Most years we have a lobster feast at the house but wasn’t sure it would happen with so few days left.  If it does, I won’t complain.


I had my first lobster on a trip to Maine in the early 1970s.  I don’t recall where we stayed or for how long, but I remember stopping at a roadside stand.  Lobster, corn on the cob and a baked potatoe.  I was hooked, or maybe trapped is the better term.  Another memorable lobster experience was at a private party in Point Pleasant, PA.  The lobster was flown in from ME, one of the hosts, a lawyer was a pilot.  I think I had three lobsters that night.


But probably the best lobster I’ve had was two years ago on Mantinicus Island off Rockland, ME.  Mantinicus is a lobsterman/family Island.  We were visiting friends, David and Judy Sears.  They had ordered lobsters from a lobsterman friend who delivered them to the kitchen door when his boat came in.  Can’t get them fresher.  And as much as you wanted.  Dave has been painting on  the island, the map (left) and stones are examples of his work.

We ocassionally buy lobster in Yardley.  Have even tried the small frozen ones, forget where they are from.  But they never come up to the tenderness and taste of Maine lobsters boiled and eaten in New England.



I just finished reading “The Last Lobster: boom or bust for Maine’s greatest fishery” (2018) by Christopher White.  Read a review and ordered it to read while on the Cape.  Several years ago, I read “Skipjack: the story of America’s last oystermen” (2011) also by White.  Soon afterwards we traveled to Deal Island in MD to see some of the last operating Skipjacks.  We found them including one being restored, it may have been the Lady Katie or Kathryn.  Need to check my journal or photographs.  There is The Last Skipjack Project which promotes restoration and preservation of the boats.

White who is from the Chesapeake turned his eye to lobsters, Maine lobsters to be specific.  His opening chapters are an interesting tour of the culture of the Maine coast.  The lobster fishery has been changing.  Many of the classic, traditional, quaint, picturesque lobster villages have been gentrified. Property prices rise; lobstermen families are pushed back from the waterfront.  Check where lobster traps are stacked.  Fancy restaurants and shops mushroom in the downtown.  Tourists fill the streets.  The traditional character becomes an attraction, a postcard image.



There are other forces of change.  Warmer waters have pushed the lobster north.  Decades ago there were lobster in Long Island Sound.  They are gone, north; the fishery in CN and NY collapsed. Harvest is limited in Cape Cod waters.  White explains how the center of the lobster industry has crept north.  For his research, he wants to settle in a “traditional” town with an active fishery.  He tours the coast. Some towns are familiar to me, in the south, Boothbay Harbor, Port Clyde, and  Searsport.  Others furthur north, Beal and Cutler are places I’ve never visited.  Hopefully in October we will visit the Sears (they have a winter home in Cushing) and we’ll do a lobster village tour.


White decides to settle into Stonington on Deer Island, south of Acadia and Bar Harbor, off the Blue Hill peninsula, east of Penobscot Bay in what’s known as the Down East area.  Furthur out are the Isle Au Haut and Vinalhaven Islands.  Mantinicus Island where the Sears summer is even farther southeast.  All of this area is prime, is the current center of the lobster fishery.  At least it was, annually global warming pushes lobster furthur north.  Eventually White predicts American lobster men may be in deadly competition with Canadians.

Diane and I first visited this area with John and Barbara Paglione in the early 1970s.  I had read “The Maple Syrup Book” and “Living the Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing. Scott, an economist was fired from University of Pennsylvania for communist leanings.  He and Helen began homesteading in Vermont in the 1930s.  When the ski industry transformed VT mountains, they moved to the Blue Hill village of Harborside.


Scott was in his 90s when we visited, building a new stone house.  We spent an afternoon touring the property, talking, helping to stack firewood and gather seaweed for fertilizer.  The Nearings had become gurus of the back to the earth movement and their homestead was a Mecca.  About ten years ago we were back on the Blue Hill pensiula, we drove to the Nearings, now The Good Life Center, but staff were all at the local festival, where our son-in-laws band, Cabin Dogs was playing.  A house on the property is rented; would be a historic rental for us.  Did we eat lobster or either or both trips.  Maybe.  (More about traveling in ME, checkout my blog, Maine on my Mind.)


White and his companion settle into the Stonington community.  They meet lobstermen and their families.  Go out on boats.  Haul traps and document their experience.  They eat lobster and try to learn about the boom several years ago.  The catch and price rose.  Will it last or will the bubble bust. I found it interesting that so many lobstersvwere shipped to Asia, especially China.  Trumps recent tariff policies may have dented that market.


I won’t try to repeat the arguments, concerns, and theories about the boom and bust. Time will tell.  It seems lobster catches have gone down in the past few years.  White’s “The Last Lobster”  is an interesting read.  He covers the life of the lobster, the ins and outs of the fishery, including family holdings, competition, marketing, distribution, the boom smiles and bust scowles.  His reporter/journalist style leads him to meet people.  He frequently becomes a friend of the family.  And it seems, so do we.  White (and his readers) experience everyday life;  the community rituals and festivals.   I’ve read other books about lobster and Maine but I recommend White.  Not only do I  want to eat lobster, I want to explore the culture.  I’m hoping it’s not the last lobster. Most lobstermen are confident, “the lobstah will come.”

Some photographs mine; some from the Internet.









The Beach


What are you memories of the beach?   Where did you go?  Where do you go now?  We are drawn to water; we are drawn to beaches.  The intersection of land and water.


Growing up outside of Philadelphia (as I did), “going to the beach”  meant the Jersey shore, the Atlantic Ocean and bay.   For Philadelphians that may have been Atlantic City or Wildwood.  Bristol people went to Long Beach Island, for my family, specifically Beach Haven.  There are many other towns on LBI, and many more along the Jersey shore from  New York, south to Cape May.  Communities, neighborhoods, families, we find our favorite. Jersey beaches can have slight differences; and Jersey beaches can be quite different from beaches north in New England or in the South.

Beaches on oceans, bays, rivers, ponds, marshes.  Some beaches are smooth, flat, light sand; some are steep sloped, with high dunes; some are muddy; some rocky.  Some beaches have surfer waves; some have none.  Seaweed?  Beach grass?  Shore birds? Seals? Are there boats off shore?  In common is that connection of land and sea.  Like the moon and tides; we are drawn to the beach, the waters edge.


How many people are on the beach?  What are they doing?  Along the ocean and bays, many sit under colorful umbrellas blocking the sun.  Beach chairs or beach blanket. For the past few years I’ve been useing a higher director’s chair.  Suntan lotion.  Sometimes bug spray.  Ocean beaches have an anatomy, dunes, wrack, berm, breakers, trough.  Many hours can be spent, sitting, looking into the horizon, reflecting, dreaming.

For young kids, the beach is usually buckets, shovels, and other toys.  Sand, more sand, dredging rivers, building castles.  As I kid I remember enjoying burying each other in sand.  Have a catch; pass a football.   My grandson has spike ball — a net and ball game for several to compete.  Maybe volleyball. There are boogie boards and blow up floats.  In the 1950s, we had flat rafts.  Today there is a wider range, my grand daughter got a huge pink floating flamingo this year.  If the ocean waves are big enough there may be surfers.


Which do you like better ocean or bay?  Ocean beaches usually have bigger waves.  Sometimes a swift under tow.  “Beware of rip tides”  Maybe sharks.  Bays are usually shallow, gentler. Rivers and marshes offer totally different environments.  On Cape Cod there are many kettle ponds. Great for swimming, boating, some with docks.

There are beaches known as being good for birding.  On Nantucket we had several we visited with binoculars and scope.  Many shore birds are big, easily identified, fun to watch.  Some fish, ocean casting, bay, pond, river fishing.  Grandson Eli has caught Bass on Pilgrim Lake where we’ve stayed on the Cape  (they were delicious) and has done some morning ocean casting.  I have been considering buying a bay or ocean pole but haven’t acted yet.


For some, like my Washington state sister, Marylee, a beach is a place to launch a kayak.  Not many days pass between her bay or ocean kayak trips.  She has two beautiful, hand made wooden kayaks.  The first year of retirement I bought a small L.L. Bean kayak, to replace or add to a very tiny green one we always took to Nantucket.  We bring it to the Cape and use on the Lake or Pond.  Since my surgery it’s not been easy getting in and out but there is still the draw to be on the water.  This year everyone except me took a guided kayak trip in Nauset Marsh.  Today we’ll take an eco-tour boat to a sand bar, the kids will scavenge sea life, small fish, crabs, shellfish.  Always fun to watch them and see what the sea has to offer.

When we go to the beach we can cross into the water wading or swimming.  We can enjoy the rush of ocean waves; or the calm of a bay.  The grandkids always enjoy swimming on one of the Capes kettle ponds.  Growing up in Bristol, PA, the 1950s-60s, I swam in the Delaware river, Maple Beach was one destination.  Recently a friend posted a picture on Facebook of kids jumping off a river piling near the Bristol Wharf.  Some swam across the river to beaches on Burlington Island.


Some love the beach during the day with the full sun.  That can be too hot for me.  I’d prefer a shady porch with a water view.  Some of my most memorable beach experiences have been early morning or evening walks? Walking and photographing in the sunrise and sunset.  It might be Long Beach Island, the Chesapeake, Nantucket or Cape Cod.  A favorite is the rocky coast of Maine, or the drift wood beaches in Oregon and Washington,  again walking, with a camera, tidal pools filled with sea life.

Although there are many beach experiences etched in my memory, one of the best was a trip with my brother-in-law Norval to Neah Bay, in the northern tip of Washington state.  We left in the dark and arrived on the shore of the bay before sunrise.  As the sun came up we walked on the beach, the fog was thick and for a time we couldn’t see anything.  Then slowly like a curtain the fog began to lift, as we looked out onto the ocean, immense sea stacks began to emerge.  Crazy towers of land left from erosion.  Where the sea and land meet.  In full sun we continued down the beach, an eagle flew directly overhead.  Seemed we could reach out and touch it. The tidal pools were alive with seaweed, small fish, crabs, urchins and starfish.  An amazing beautiful morning.

When I wake early many mornings but don’t want to get up, I day dream about sitting or walking on a beach.  My beach memories wash over me like waves.  And I give thanks for the edge.


Some photographs from the Internet; others mine from Cape Cod, 2018.