Clan Gathering 2019

This year we didn’t go far for our annual family get together…just a few short miles over the state line to York Harbor, a coastal village above the rocky coastline of Maine. The date and general location this year was determined by a granddaughter’s graduation from Bennington College in VT that brought family north and the fact that Portsmouth NH grandchildren were still in school for the year. York Harbor was close enough for a morning commute to Portsmouth and a vacation home was ample enough to house 18 offspring and spouses.

York Harbor is a quiet historic village that bustles with summer visitors but early June is not an ideal time for a New England ocean vacation. There were an abundance of locals taking early walks on the small rocky beach with hardly a glance at the water. We had days of fog and cool weather, days of sunshine and warmth but the Atlantic? It remained dangerously COLD. But that couldn’t keep our family members from taking the short walk to the beach on a daily basis, sometimes several times. Goose bumps could hardly keep the adults off the beach and the hardy youngsters out of the water.

What else is there for a range of ages to do this time of year in coastal Maine and New Hampshire? Plenty and we (semi) locals knew where to go! Hiking always takes center stage with our family. We experienced all the York trails and some of us ventured out to hike nearby Mount Agamenthicus, just a 20 minute drive away.

Shopping was enjoyed by teens and young adults. Kittery ME outlets, Ogunquit ME, Portland ME, and Portsmouth NH were visited. Tennis was a magnet for several young men. And good dining was a magnet for all…. from a feast of lobster over a local river to home cooked meals to wood fired pizza to local bakeries to evening walks for hand dipped ice cream in the village…. and, of course, s’mores at the fire pit for all ages.

I got my garden fix by visiting Stonewall Kitchens where their garden designer keeps visitors enthralled with unusual designs and a wide array of annual and perennial borders. This year they prepared a colorful Farm to Table garden party!

The best part about the gathering of the clan? Bonding moments…

The bittersweet time?  Saying our farewells at week’s end….

Out and About for Art’s Sake

One sister arrived a few days earlier than the other so the two of us ventured out to discover the seacoast together. Since she’s a passionate potter, we spent a half day in Portsmouth visiting galleries and shops where she inspected and poured over local pottery. She’s an excellent potter and really knows her stuff. I found just how good when we were in a little shop with local pottery. She pointed to a container and said, “Now that looks like it was made in North Carolina.” The shopkeeper said, “Yes, that one did come from North Carolina.”  It all looked the same to me. One bowl immediately grabbed our attention. A whimsical bowl decorated with fish… a bit of playfulness that we both love. Sis said, “She’s a talented and creative artist, not a potter.” She could tell by just looking that it was a mold that the artist painted and glazed. We both loved this artist’s free design on the bowl…. and I bought it! That night we Googled the artist, Pat DeGrandpre, and discovered that she lives just across the river in Maine and exhibits in a small artist co-operative called Just Us Chickens Gallery. She makes other pieces of art and she knits. “Let’s go visit Kittery,” I said. We recognized her work as soon as we entered the gallery. We were enjoying her pieces and a multitude of other artists’ creations when the lady behind the desk said, “Speak of the devil…”  We turned and there she was. Pat DeGrandpre. We asked her to hold the little hat she made that we were about to purchase. With a smile, she posed while I photographed her with iPhone. We also learned about the studio of a seasoned local potter, Elaine Fuller, and my sister couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit her studio. We met Elaine at The Red Door Pottery where she and sis talked shop and sis bought too much and shipped everything home to California. Sis was over the moon about the talent she saw and encouraged me to enroll in Elaine’s classes. Hmmmm… While in Kittery, we transported our lunch to historic Ft. McClary for a delightful picnic at the site of an original 1690 defensive fortification, now the site of an impressive 1844 blockhouse that provides a commanding view of the harbor. Not sure if the fort ever saw battle but it was manned during 5 wars to protect the Piscataqua River and US Navy Shipyard. On the National Register of Historic Places, it is owned by the state of Maine.

In love with a bridge…

When a bridge is being repaired or replaced in Virginia, it’s been my experience that locals are unhappy, not over the loss or worry about the bridge, but over the blasted inconvenience. Not so for the 89-year old Memorial Bridge that spanned the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth NH and Kittery Maine. Built between 1920 and 1923, the bridge was dedicated to Americans who served our country during WWI. It supported traffic on foot, bike or vehicle without a toll. Folks around here were very attached to this bridge that served them faithfully for so many years and when it was closed to vehicle traffic in July of 2011 and pedestrians and cyclists in January of this year, it was emotional.

Portsmouth Memorial Bridge via Wikipedia

In October, locals staged a farewell party in a park at the foot of the bridge. Music, food, facepainting, games and more attracted a large crowd of young and old, including the mayor and governor, to say goodbye to a trusted old friend. On January 8, there was a walk, the final walk across the Memorial Bridge. Then the bridge closed.

Last week, crowds gathered on both shores to watch the 2-million pound center lift span disconnected, lifted and lowered onto a barge and floated out to sea, bound for a scrap yard somewhere.  Artists, camera buffs, television stations marked the occasion by jockeying for position for the best shot. The rest of the old bridge will be removed in the coming months with the replacement bridge to be completed by July of 2013.

My daughter was among those who witnessed the first stage of removal and sent the two photos below:

Section being lowered onto a barge


Meanwhile, when the dust and rust had settled, The Portsmouth Herald’s online publication, Seacoast Online, had a little fun with a photo of the gap in the bridge. They ran a great contest for the best “something” to fill the space with a $50 prize going to the winner.

Here are a few of the entries that are sure to break the somber mood locally and bring a smile: