Walking in my hometown is good for the body and soul. This seaside Massachusetts village, called Annisquam, is part of the city of Gloucester, America’s oldest fishing port. The village sits on the inland-facing, northwestern shore of Cape Ann and comprises just a few small roads on its own small peninsula, surrounded by the narrow, sheltered Lobster Cove with its wooden footbridge and clustered Colonial houses; the saltwater Annisquam River, where summer boat traffic can stop for snacks at Dirt’s Dogs floating hot-dog stand (run by a local guy named Dirt Murray, who has received a medal for heroism at sea); and to the west, the vast Ipswich Bay, where the Yacht Club stages sailing races and the lighthouse warns boaters off the rocks. Out here, where the Bay opens northward to the Atlantic, winter storms kick up their most dramatic surf and winds and flooding tides—in just the same spot where, at summer’s low tides, you see families walking the long sandbar from Wingaersheek Beach across the way, in the sun.
This December week, the winter light was at its most beautiful. My mother and I walked the village and empty beaches with our dogs, and I photographed as we went. The air was mild and still. Some houses sit empty, their occupants gone for the season. The non-insulated summer houses on the ocean side are battened down and boarded up where it’s needed. Only a couple of cars drove past us. Boats have been hauled off their moorings and stored. Floats are detached from their ramps and rafted together in sheltered water. But there’s still a feeling of life here: wreaths and Christmas lights; occasional other walkers; packages on doorsteps.
By the sea, you feel connected to cycles of nature. The movement of water has its own sense of peace, always changing with the light and wind. It’s a wonderful setting for walking meditation, taking in the sights and sensations, the visual experience, the feel of sand or stone steps underfoot. I’m thankful, also, for a warm house to retreat to, by the fire; the forecast says snow is on the way.
Flooding-high tides at Cambridge Beach and Old Wharf Lot, where we’d walked earlier:
The sunset hour:
A study of points of entry: doorways, stairways, gates, facades; colorful and weathered, portrait of a seaside town:
And here we are at my mother’s Christmas party, a tradition of family/friends/eating/drinking/caroling that was passed down from her mother. This house I grew up in was built in 1720 and is among the oldest in the village. Merry Christmas to all!