This year I finally made it back to Star Island, a speck of rock amidst other specks of rock off the coast of New Hampshire in the northeastern corner of the US. Past entries with photos from weeks of meditation on this island have explained its place amongst earliest permanent European settlements in North America, and its importance at one point in setting the commodity price of cod internationally. This time, I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I got out by kayak and rowboat a few more times than in past years, and our meditation week was later in the season than past years. These two facts meant that 1) was able to explore the Star Island rocks more than usual, because the seagulls were not in nesting season, and therefore were NOT dive-bombing all mammals that came close anywhere near the rocks; and 2) I explored Smuttynose Island more, finding that spiders can ingeniously spin webs anywhere even on apparently barren rock. (See a photo in the gallery just below, for an example.) The minute I started stumbling over spiderwebs in all corners of the rocks, I realized it made perfect logical sense: where birds poop there will be bugs. Where bugs congregate, there will be spiders to feed on them. Where there are spiders, there will be webs upon which to tangle one’s legs in unpleasant messes. Yuck.
But such is life, and such was my week of reflection and gathering myself again after the important family milestones which immediately preceded my week on Star – as documented a bit in the last post. I hope before too much longer to post from other outings and trips in recent months, both here in California and in Europe. Then, at some point, I’ll start posting again from a field assignment for which I am leaving shortly. Thanks, as always, by expressing your support by reading (and often commenting on) this long-lasting little blog project o’ mine 😊. Peace.
An explanation: the bridge passes over Badger Island (home of the houses with the floats hanging from them) then on to Kittery, a town in Maine. Which is famous for blueberries, and has a lovely Mexican restaurant which serves, as you see, colorful blueberry margaritas where I passed time until my boat – yes, that very same boat seen waiting to pass under the bridge – left for the island. I just loved the colors! And the taste was fine, too…)
Eight miles into the Atlantic from the mainland coast at the border between New Hampshire and Maine lie the Isles of Shoals, a small cluster of windswept rocky bumps in the ocean which housed some of the earliest long-term European settlements in North America. Ample cod fishing fueled the economy, a legacy you’ll see reflected in the weathervane on top of the old stone church which now serves as non- or multi-denominational chapel for the many conference-goers who enjoy week-long conferences and other retreats at Star Island, which has served as a base for Unitarian-Universalist retreats and conferences for more than 100 years. I’ve just been out there for a week of meditation, my third such outing since 2009. I’ve deeply relished and valued all of these meditation weeks, the intensity with which they permit to settle into the moment and clear my mind and emotions of plans, of worries, of day-to-day “reality” and just be for a bit. In essence, meditation – especially when I’m on Star to do it – takes me to a mental and spiritual place which evades intellectual and verbal description. That said, this time more than my two past such retreats, I was intensely drawn all week to attempting to photograph & record the magnificence of that which is small, the perfect beauty and reality of this physical world, its tides and seasons and flowers. And though I’m working with a very basic pocket-sized field-appropriate camera, I think my results were reasonable. Hopefully you’ll find at least some of these images as lovely as I do and maybe they’ll take you into a quieter place for at least a breath or three. Peace, enjoy.
Star Island is the most actively used/inhabited of the Isles of Shoals, a handful of islands 7 or 8 miles out to sea off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Located in the heart of coastal North America’s prime cod-fishing grounds (cf photos of Provincetown below; for those who hadn’t pondered it, there’s a REASON the colonists named Cape Cod as they did!), these rocky, windswept isles were among the earliest European settlements on this continent – they sported active year-round fishing villages in the 1600s, I believe. In the photos below, you’ll see indicators of a few small graveyards scattered around Star Island; none of the islands ever supported large populations (they’re small and rocky, and mighty cold and windy in the winter!), so we’re talking small little family plots or memorial stones scattered here and there, more picturesque than spooky or overwhelming.
Anyhoo, so I decided that en route to LA to touch home base before heading out again, I might as well check in with parts of New England I’d not seen in more than a decade – a week’s meditation on Star, and a sadly short stop at Provincetown. On Star, which I’d not visited since a day trip in the 1970s, I found beauty, good company, mental and spiritual renewal through a very enriching program of morning meditations and quiet afternoons walking the island or reading a book, and social evenings with my partners in meditation. I won’t bother saying much more about it all; group meditation can’t be described but only experienced, and the pictures demonstrate Star’s uniqueness far better than anything I can write. Only one small story: sometime in the late 1600s or early 1700s, New Hampshire – which, along with Maine, was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – split off to become New Hampshire colony on its own. When that happened, Appledore Island (photos below) lost most of its inhabitants to Star: Appledore (then called Hog Island) remained in Mass Bay Colony (now Maine, which split off after independence), where the taxes were higher, so the fisherfolk left for the attractively lower taxes of the new colony of New Hampshire. The first instance of Americans moving to lower their taxes?!