Trying To Make A Dollar Out Of Seventy-Five Cents

Favorite spot, favorite moment.

Ahhhhhhhhhh…it’s been WAY too long since I made a blog!  They are becoming more and more infrequent — I just can’t get TWO SECONDS to myself most of the time. 😦  I have to find more time for creating and writing.

Today, I finally sorted through hundreds of photos I took on my vacation about a month ago.  This was, by far, the best vacation/trip I’ve ever taken.  And I’ve seen about 27 of the 50 states already.

I traveled north and east to my favorite part of the U.S., this time hitting spots in the Massachusettes/New Hampshire/ Maine area.  Lots of cool weather, history, and beauty.  I’ve found a place that feels like “home”.  As long as I’m confined to America, I’m definitely a New England girl ❤

Getting there required travel.  LOTS of travel…

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Above:  your vacay just isn’t official until you post your obligatory airplane wingshots.  Flights from Little Rock to Dallas, Dallas to Washington D.C., Washington to Boston.

It’s time for you to say hello to my little friend (below).  His name is Fuckles.  My traveling gnome buddy has been with me for about 15 years, and he has shared in every adventure.  Here, he is flying the friendly skies with me as I compose a poem at 30,000 feet…

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So yeah.

Then there was…MORE travel:

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1,500+ miles, three airplanes, one bus, and one taxi later, I finally arrived at my first destination…a place I’ve been itching to visit for YEARS, and it finally happened 🙂 —  beautiful Portsmouth…

Part 1 — Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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A historic seaport town settled in 1623, Portsmouth is the nation’s third-oldest city. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Portsmouth to its list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, calling the city “one of the most culturally rich destinations in the country, with a stimulating mix of historic buildings, sidewalk cafes, great restaurants, art galleries, jazz clubs and distinctive artisans’ boutiques.” In 2009, Forbes Traveler listed Portsmouth as one of America’s Prettiest Towns.

And they’d be right:

church, night

downtown portsmouth

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I Am The Juicy Center.  Ha ha.

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Above:  feeding a bird some of my crumbs while eating at the famous “Popovers on the Square”.  Ever had a Popover before?  You should – they’re DeLURSHious.
Any town with this much “Old/Unique/Colorful/European Town By The Sea” vibe is definitely MY JAM.  Can I live here, please?  (I’m seriously considering it).

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Above:  writing postcards while enjoying a glass of white at a beautiful wine bar.  Blocked out the address for safety purposes.  Heh heh…

Speaking of drinks…stopped by the famous Portsmouth Brewery my first evening in town .  I tried the “Six Sampler”:

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All was good, until Fuckles decided he was gonna dive in head first.  DAMN IT, I can’t take him anywhere without him acting a fool…

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:-/

Anyway…

more photos of Portsmouth:

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The above ship, The Thomas Laighton, was the transportation to my second destination.  After a great time in Portsmouth (and neighboring Kittery, Maine – I DID cross the border), I boarded the ship and waved goodbye to this charming area for a couple of days/nights, and sailed eastward for about an hour and a half….

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Goodbye Portsmouth.

And goodbye land…

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Nothing but water for some time…until we glanced into the distance, and finally I saw it:  the reason for my trip in the first place, my obsession, the historic place I’d waited so long to visit….

Part 2 — The Isles of Shoals, Star Island

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Off the cost of New Hampshire, about ten miles out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, there is a tiny cluster of nine islands.  They were first settled by Scandinavian fisherman and their families beginning in the 1600’s.  The events that took place on these isles over the next few centuries are the stuff of legend, ghost stories, and history textbooks.

I first learned of the Isles of Shoals when I read Anita Shreve’s novel “The Weight of Water”, and I immediately thought, “I’m supposed to go there.  I felt like I’ve been there.  I need to be there.”  Reading about them triggered something inside me.  They felt…familiar.  As if I’d lived there in another life, I absolutely LONGED for them.  But being a single mother who hardly ever (EVER) has extra money, I wasn’t sure I’d have the chance to see them.

But somehow — through believing, hard work, and perseverence — I did it.

When I first saw the isles from the ship, I was ecstatically happy…and PROUD of myself for making it happen.

Spotting STAR ISLAND and watching it grow larger and more focused was one of the most exciting times of my life.

Land, ho!…

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Above:  The beautiful, mysterious, and historic STAR ISLAND.

I stayed in the Oceanic Hotel (above, building on the far right).  THIS version of The Oceanic is over 100 years old, and I LOVE it’s design and history.  I felt RIGHT at home…

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Above:  side view of The Oceanic and Caswell Cemetery.

And yes, as you might imagine just by looking at it, The Oceanic Hotel has been named one of the most haunted places in America.

Below:  photos of the inside of the hotel…

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Then I went and found my room:  the Oceanic, Room 54.  They even put a little sign on my door, as I was one of the writers/poets visiting the island to attend the WRITELINES conference.

Here is what the inside of my room was like…I absolutely ADORED its age and simplicity!…

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Above:  nothing but hardwood floors, an old dresser, a pitcher of drinking water and a glass, a simple chair, a small bed (and another on the right that went unused – I had my own room…SCORE!), a few simple blankets, and one desk for writing/working on the other side…

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…also, a few hooks on one wall, for hanging a few coats/garments…

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Above:  Damn — even the bathrooms have amazing views here.  Ocean, ocean everywhere.

Below:  our first evening there, the writers met and got down to business.  I had an AMAZING group…and a fun, fearless leader in Dale Slongwhite.  We were given prompts, then we had about 10-20 minutes to write in silence.  Afterwards, we’d each take a turn reading what we’d written aloud to the group.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been given so much to mentally chew on and write about in so short a time.  It inspired some really terrific work.  Some of the pieces MAY show up on the blog at a later date.

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Above:  while writing, you just have to stop and have “the island drink” — the LIME RICKEY, which is made with lime, simple syrup, and club soda 🙂

We had a couple of days/nights of this wonderful prompt-writing.  I mostly wrote poetry, but I also wrote some prose, and part of a funny short story (those damned FUZZY DICE!…heh heh).

In between writing sessions, there was plenty of time to eat, roam the island, explore, and just be at peace in one of the most spectacular spots on earth…

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Above:  one of my fellow writers (Carla, a very talented poet from New Hampshire) watches the sun set from the front porch of The Oceanic.

Below:  the large bell that is rung 3 times daily to announce meal time…

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Meal time, by the way, was amazing and simple and wholesome — just like everything else on the island…

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The above dishes may not look like much, but I’m telling you…it was all GREAT, it was made from scratch, and it was REAL FOOD (made from fresh, quality ingredients).  Star Island even grows a lot of its own produce — hundreds of pounds per spring/summer.  Also, they offer VEGETARIAN options!  STAR ISLAND:  making the move to be self-sustaining, eco-conscious, and animal friendly 🙂

Late at night, I’d walk the island with a flashlight in hand, exploring and enjoying the ocean.  I’d turn off the flashlight and look at the brightest stars I’ve ever seen.  I’d visit the cemeteries, think, and meditate.

By midnight or 1 a.m., when I’d finally tired myself from walking the island, I’d head up to my room, which became a magical place of creation…

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Above:  when I turned off the lights and threw open these shutters over the window, there was nothing but fresh ocean air, bright stars to look at, and the sounds of waves and the lighthouse horn from nearby White Island…all night long.

Bliss.

Below:  Before sleeping, I’d move the chair over to my desk and set up my writing spot for the night, and I’d compose poetry by flashlight in this quaint, historic room in the middle of the Atlantic.  Life just doesn’t get any better…

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Below:  my first sunrise on Star Island.  I sat up and looked out my window, seeing the first hint of light.  I had a view of nearby Smuttynose and Cedar islands, and the Atlantic…

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That meant it was time to get dressed and go down to the front porch, where coffee is served each morning, and rocking chairs offer a place to relax and enjoy the view…

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After some rocking, it was time for some more roaming…

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Each morning, the birds would walk right up to me, curious and trusting.  They’re so adorable.  This one studied me for quite some time…

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Below:  a view of WHITE ISLAND from Star’s shore early in the morning.  The famous poet Celia Thaxter lived here as a child in the 1800’s – her father Thomas Laighton was the lighthouse keeper.

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As a young adult, Celia Thaxter married and moved to APPLEDORE Island (BELOW – visible from the other side of Star Island).  Her father built the very successful Appledore Hotel, which burned down in the early 1900’s.  Celia would have many of her famous artist friends visit her at her home on Appledore over the decades.  A few of these notables included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Orne Jewett, William Morris Hunt, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Childe Hassam…

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Interesting fact:  Celia was living on Appledore when the infamous double axe murder took place on nearby Smuttynose Island in 1873.  She would write about the event in later years.

More photos and moments on STAR…

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Above:  nothing like a cuppa joe while relaxing and writing next to the Atlantic.

Below:  views of (and from) the BACK porch of The Oceanic…

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Below:  same spot, three different times of day…

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View of the Front lawn on a beautiful afternoon…

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Below:  the monument to the famous Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame).  In the early 1600’s, he saw Star and the other islands, and he declared them the most beautiful land he’d seen in his life.  He even claimed the Isles for himself, naming them “Smith’s Isles”.

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This is Conrad (pictured below).  He’s one of the people I befriended on Star.  He’s from New York, and I’m guessing he’s in his 70’s.  He has a Kurt Vonnegut face and a heart of gold.  Conrad traveled to Star to paint with the art conference group.  He said he’d never tried watercolors before he visited the island, and he’d just painted his first.  When the painting group had a showing/art sale on the front porch, he put his first few watercolors up for sale.  He was sweet and humble about his paintings, and he asked only ONE dollar for the one I was interested in — I gave him twenty.  I just adored this sweet man!…

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One of my favorite photos:

Conrad in a rocking chair one morning, enjoying a peaceful moment…

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Some beautiful spots

and random shots:

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Above:  a photo of the historic Gosport Chapel on Star Island (built in 1800).

Below:  our writers/poets group collected lanterns and joined the Goddess group for a late-night walk on the island and a trip to the chapel, where we recited our poetry for those in attendance, then stayed to write some more by candlelight after the others had gone.  An amazing experience…

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Below:  the same photo that opened the blog — my favorite spot, on the southeast end of the island, and also my favorite moment of the trip.  Early one morning after a storm had just passed, I watched the sun rise while sitting on this cliff (you can’t see the drop-off here, but it’s fairly steep).  No one else was around — just me, seagulls, beautiful light, and ocean stretching forever towards Europe.  Photos can’t do the place or the moment justice.  I just cried.

Favorite spot, favorite moment.

Also, I almost cried when I saw this —

the boat coming back to pick us up and take us away on the last day…

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Below:  Saying goodbye to Star 😦

I believe this is the ONLY photo anyone took of me

while I was on Star Island…

Me, Star Island, 2013

Back to land we went, and then I jumped in a car and headed south for the last leg of my vacation…

Part 3 — North Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

North Hampton, a popular historic vacation/surfing town on the east coast, has tons of charm.  I landed right in the middle of “the strip” to enjoy more beach and ocean…

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Below:  my hotel was right across the street from the Atlantic.  This is the view I had from my balcony (you have to forgive Fuckles — he’s showing off again)…

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Freakin’ diva.

More beach moments…

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Above:  Man and his best friend enjoying a cotton-candy-colored sunset on the Atlantic.

Below:  Walking the beach late at night — always magical…

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Above:  crawling around the more remote parts of beach at dawn.

Below:  enjoying someone’s man-made monument as the sun rises from the ocean…

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Above:  washing seashell pieces in my hotel kitchen sink.

Below:  here comes the sun.  This sight could NEVER get old…

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Above:  the beach has a lot of traffic.  Caution — birds crossing!

Below:  tiny tributaries in the sand…

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Okay, I could post dozens and dozens more vacay photos, but I’ll quit here.

I stopped in several other towns on the way back, including Newburyport, Massachusetts (charming!) and Boston (exciting!), but it was finally time to head back home.

I didn’t want to leave, but THIS pretty little lady was waiting for me back in Arkansas…

Lana and I, 9-13-13

The Lana, my little BOO FACE! ❤  🙂

I may be stuck in the south for the time being,

but New Hampshire, Portsmouth, and Star Island, I promise…

I WILL BE BACK.

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Here’s hoping all of YOU had an amazing summer, as well…

Until next time,

Jenn xo

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4 thoughts on “Trying To Make A Dollar Out Of Seventy-Five Cents

  1. It really does look like a great trip, and opportunity to write. I like the simple room too. Hopefully you had no computer with you to distract you. There is nothing quite like a clean table and no electronics to concentrate. I honestly haven’t given much thought to the United States having islands in the Atlantic, or have ever talked to somebody who went to them. Interesting.

    1. I didn’t take a computer – I wanted no distractions, as you say, and I wanted to feel as though I’d stepped into centuries past…and I did! It was magnificent. There are such wonderful treasures lying in quiet rooms and the stillness of the mind…

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