Friends know that I become a little antsy mid-summer, wanting to get away to another venue. (Fifty-six images of the Holyoke Avenue jetty are quite enough). I find these trips to be good for both my sensor and my psyche. And though I live at the shore for the summer months I’m also drawn to other shores. Last summer was great on Cape Cod; this year Cape Ann bubbled up out of my considerations and it, too, was pleasant and productive. It’s certainly a different kind of shore.
Cape Ann is located about thirty miles northeast of Boston, and is probably best known for the commercial fishing port, Gloucester, made famous by the book and movie, The Perfect Storm. My destination, however, was out at the eastern end of the Cape, the less busy village of Rockport, an art colony and a home for lobster fisherman, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, and loaded with charm. We discovered it a good many years ago when I was stationed in my navy days at Quonset Point, RI, from which we frequently explored New England.
The name is derived from its 19th century granite trade, and the harbors and beaches confirm that stony life. Beginning in the mid-1800s, however, it morphed into more of an art colony planted amongst large estates and summer homes. The winding, hilly roads, the New England architecture, the flower gardens and the spectacular views are irresistible. It is certainly a Norman Rockwell kind of place. Here is one of the granite sea-walled harbors from which lobster fisherman go forth daily. (Note to colleagues: this is a five vertical image pano.)
The harbor is best known, however, for this 1840 fishing shack which came to be known as Motif #1, said to be the most painted building in America. It was considered such an important element for the town’s commerce that when it was blown down in a winter blizzard in 1978 the town rebuilt it as it had been.
The focal point of tourist activity is a section called Bearskin Neck. This is a 0.2 mile long peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic from the largely residential area. It’s lined with art galleries, artist’s studios, gift shops, clothing from T-shirts to up-scale, and eating places including Roy Moore’s lobster store. Pick one out and they’ll cook it on the spot and you can eat it overlooking the harbor. Here’s a view early in the morning before the tourists arrived. Turning left, there is a short walk to the tip on the Atlantic. There is also a splendid premier restaurant out there, My Place By The Sea, which I’ve enjoyed over the years, and did again while overlooking the harbor and the sea.
The back street behind the stores to the right includes a row of charming one-time fishermen’s cottages.
Along the way, one of the more colorful spots is the kayak rental business. I photographed this scene fifteen years ago and there were two dozen boats there. I gather that the business has done well.
A charming doorway invites us in to the store but, notably, it’s the rear entrance from a back street reserved for residents’ parking. One sees the flowers everywhere!
But, it was to the harbor that I returned many times from sunrise to sunset. This scene is from the T-wharf looking out to the harbor entrance, an area that seems to be reserved for pleasure craft rather than lobstermen. Here, in the words of Parish Kohanim who spoke to us at the Rehoboth Beach seminar last spring, I sought “to offer an expanded awareness of the beauty in the world around us.” I tried to do that as well in the images that are shown in the related gallery (see below).
I recently purchased a Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens. This is designed to yield soft, ethereal images with only a small center section in somewhat sharper focus. As I have said elsewhere, we spend shocking sums to acquire high quality sensors and lenses and then we spend more money to soften things just a little bit.
The result, for me, was dramatic. Again, I thought of another of Kohanim’s admonitions: “Seek to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.” Here, a lobsterman slowly moves out of the harbor for his day’s work. Two accompanying seagulls can be faintly seen. The image is suggestive of watercolorist James Sessions whose work included scenes of nearby Gloucester’s fishermen. We purchased two of his prints in our first year of marriage and one still hangs in my shore house.
Finally, even the night offers magic. I was blessed to be visiting during the recent blue moon. The first night of it was a washout because of cloud cover. The second night — my last at Rockport — was a fulfilling event as were all of my harbor visits.
On one of our visits over the years I was in a funk over career issues. I fantasized about dropping out and getting a little shop on Bearskin Neck in which I would make and sell driftwood lamps. Fortunately (I guess) it never happened. However, it’s never too late. If you visit Rockport please look me up. I’ll be wondering up and down the Neck taking souvenir family portraits.
There is a gallery of more images of Rockport from this trip. To visit it, click here.