Friday, August 29, 2008

King Richard's Faire - Carver, Mass.

Tomorrow begins the opening of King Richard’s Faire in Carver, Massachusetts. The knights on horseback shown above are ready to joust. The late summer air is filled with anticipation, excitement, drama, the scent of mulled drink, roasting fowl, and the sound of madrigals. Whether you be a comely wench or a noble squire, come all you down to southeastern Mass. and join the revels.

It’s the 27the season of the annual fair, running eight weekends until October 19th. In keeping with the costumed performers and merchants and artisans selling their wares, many of the fairgoers themselves dress in costume. If you’ve come empty handed, you can always rent one there. One of the sweetest things I saw at this fair, apart from little girls dressed as princesses, was the rough-looking biker dude who pulled off his motorcycle helmet, and plunked on a soft cloth jester’s cap with bells on it before going through the admissions gate. Hail and well met, Sir Biker Dude.

If you’ve ever felt like lustily chomping on a roast turkey leg and being as messy as King Henry VIII, or just enjoy a pleasant afternoon under a grove of trees in New England in late summer, join the peasants and the thieves, and the pirate queens, and the highwaymen, and the village idiots, and the executioner, and mostly, King Richard himself, at King Richard’s Faire.

For more information on the fair, kindly have a look at this website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New London Harbor Light

Above is a photo of the New London Harbor Light of New London, Connecticut. It’s sometimes locally referred to as the Pequot Avenue Light to distinguish it from a handful of other lighthouses in the area. The US Coast Guard Academy includes some material on lighthouse history in its museum in New London, so this city is a good place to visit for lighthouse fans.

The New London Harbor Light was first constructed in the 1760s, and replaced with this structure in 1801. The 1857 Fresnel lens is still in use, and the lighthouse is still active as a navigational aid. The lighthouse tower is off-limits to the public. This beautiful structure can be seen best, as it is here, from the water.

For more information on the history of this lighthouse, kindly have a look at this website, and also this one.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lake and Sea - Block Island

A quiet lake and the open sea co-exist peacefully on Block Island, perhaps because they are ignorant of each other’s presence, lost in worlds of their own, as you will be, too, if you visit the island.

There are some 17 miles of ocean beaches, and some 350 freshwater ponds on this small and lovely most distant corner of Rhode Island. Hop a ferry over and see for yourself. For more information on Block Island, kindly have a look at this website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nauset Light - Eastham, Mass.

Having discussed Highland Light last week, here is a photo of its nearest lighthouse neighbor, Nauset Light in Eastham, Massachusetts. This lighthouse was also moved a decade ago to save it from toppling into the ocean from the eroding cliffs. The Nauset Light Preservation Society saved the light with only 25 feet to spare. Read more on the effort to save the lighthouse here.

Read more about the history of Nauset Light and The Three Sisters lights here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Highland Light - Truro, Mass.

“The Cape is wasting here on both sides,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1855 at Highland Light, noting “Erelong, lighthouse must be moved.” A couple of years later a new lighthouse was built in this spot, right there about 510 feet from the edge of the cliff. In 1996, some 141 years later, Mr. Thoreau’s prediction proved right. The lighthouse was moved.

Above is a shot of Highland Light where it stood, only about a hundred feet away from eroding cliffs in the 1980s, and below, the light where it stands now, moved back to a safer distance of more than 450 feet from the edge.

Not an easy job, shifting tons of lighthouse, rolling it at a snail’s pace along steel rails. Thanks to the Truro Historical Society and the donations of many, the oldest lighthouse on the Cape, Highland Light, also called since 1976 Cape Cod Light, is safe.

Long before the notoriety of its being moved from the cliffs, the Highland Light was mentioned by author Robert Nathan in his now famous novel “Portrait of Jennie” when the scene of the novel shifted from New York City to Cape Cod.

A 45-foot wooden lighthouse, the 20th in the United States, was built some 500 feet from the edge of the bluff in 1797. Because of fears that the light might be confused with Boston Light, Highland Light became the first lighthouse in the nation to have a flashing light. A new brick lighthouse was erected close to the site of the first one in 1833.

This was replaced with new brick tower built in 1857 with a Fresnel lens from Paris. This Fresnel light made Highland Light, the highest on the New England mainland, one most powerful, and was said to be the first glimpse of America seen by many immigrants from Europe.

But the cliff on which it stood continued to erode at a rate of at least three feet a year until, by the early 1990s, the lighthouse stood just over a hundred feet from the edge. In 1990 alone 40 feet of earth were lost just north of the lighthouse.

The Truro Historical Society and the Save the Light Committee raised funds for the moving of Highland Light, and state funds helped get the project going in 1996.
The foundation of the lighthouse was excavated. The lighthouse was lifted on beams with hydraulic jacks and mounted on rollers, moved on rails, just a bit at a time.

In the summer of 1998 Highland Light was re-opened for visitors, now operated by Highland Museum and Lighthouse, Inc., under a National Park Service Concession contract. The lighthouse is open daily, mid-May through October.

If you’re out and about on the Cape, go have a look at this beautiful lighthouse. For more information on the Highland Light (or Cape Cod Light if you will), have a look at this website, and also this one.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Flowers

All this rain we’ve been having this summer has its advantages. This photo from Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard was taken in a previous summer, but some things, like the sense of quiet comfort we get from seeing such magnificent careless and casual beauty in such a small and orderly place, are eternal.

Some of our fellow New Englanders have put it better:

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature does not complete things. She is chaotic. Man must finish,
and he does so by making a garden and building a wall.” Robert Frost

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.” Edna St. Vincent Millay

“One of the most attractive things about the flowers is their beautiful reserve.” Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 8, 2008

Beach Conditions

Here in the middle of our summer season, we pay homage to the signs which we sometimes ignore. Here on the bay side of the Cape, we are reminded there is no life guard present.

Here on the south side of Nantucket, we are reminded of the treacherous undertow and not to bring our dogs. Reading this incorrectly one might think the beach is unsafe for dogs. Not so. The undertow is treacherous for everybody, whether you have four legs or only two. Maybe it means there are no dogs on the beach because the undertow dragged them away.

Here on Wells Beach in Maine, we don’t need to worry about beach conditions at high tide, because there is no beach at high tide. The ocean sloppily kisses the seawall and you may not bring your blanket and cooler back onto the beach until low tide.

This starfish doesn’t care much about beach conditions. He’s cool with it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scargo Tower - Dennis, Mass.

Here is the Scargo Tower in Dennis, Massachusetts. This Cape Cod town was settled in the 1600s, and this tower, and the hill on which it stands, belonged to the Tobey family. The tower and the hill were given by Tobey family descendents to the Town of Dennis in 1929 as a memorial to their ancestors.

There was first a wooden tower here in the 1870s, and rebuilt after a gale, but when that second one burned, this stone tower built in 1901 stood the test of time. Tower is 30-feet high, and from its top you can see a good part of the Cape, even to Provincetown.

Here is a view from the top, looking over Cape Cod Bay. The lake below, Scargo Lake, is said to feature in the folk tale of a local Indian legend, as it resembles the shape of a fish.

The WPA Guide to Massachusetts, published in 1937, refers to the tower on Scargo Hill as Tobey Tower, but in the decades since has become known simply as the Scargo Tower.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Boothbay Harbor

It’s large and protected harbor was once a spot purely for Friendship Sloops and commercial fishermen, but these days the summer months turn Boothbay Harbor into a haven for tourists. Above is the distinctive Footbridge which traverses one shore of the harbor to the other, and is the perfect site for a lazy sunset stroll.

Many also call to mind the 1956 film “Carousel”, which includes some scenes that were filmed here, notably the “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” sequence. I always found it amusing that the film shows a spectacular setting sun, dropping dramatically into the ocean. We New Englanders know the sun sets over land and rises over the ocean.

June may be past us, but there’s still plenty of summer left if you’ve a mind to head up to beautiful Boothbay Harbor for a sunset stroll. Never mind where the sun sets. It sets over your shoulder.