Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Hill by the Sea

I took this photo just below the summit of a hill I often climb, on my regular cycling route:

Maybe it's my imagination, but the sun always seems to shine brighter at the top!

Here's the view from the same location, looking back to where the steep road drops off from sight. It eventually leads down to the place the hill begins, at the edge of the sea...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beyond the Horizon

The clear line of the horizon influences everything along the coast.

Cycling past the boats in the marina...

... I always feel a strange sense of suspense, as if the ships are silently focused on one thought alone: getting back out there.

Looking across the harbor to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (the black and white building on the left)...

...I'm reminded of how the sea inspires so many great visionaries, how its endless expanse makes the impossible seem possible.

And as the wind blows through the coastal trees and across the saltmarshes and coves...

... it's as if that wind originates from some faraway place. Maybe it blew in from the Canadian maritime provinces, or past remote Sable Island or the Labrador shore. One thing is clear though: it's not of this place alone.

It only takes a few colors out of my paint box to depict the sea...

But within that horizon lies a limitless world -- if only in our imaginations.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Inspired by Stage 8 of the Tour of California -- which ended in a multi-lap circuit around Thousand Oaks -- I decided to create my own circuit route here on Boston's South Shore. For my 5:00 a.m. rides yesterday and this morning, I rode a circular course through the neighborhoods of Wollaston and Merrymount in Quincy, Mass. -- round and round a ring of seaside roads.

It took me along the bay...

...and up into the small hills and marshes of Merrymount:

Many, many ghosts inhabit Merrymount. Its unique story probably would have disappeared if it wasn't for Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used it as the subject of his short tale The Maypole of Merry Mount.

In it, Hawthorne writes of the fun-loving 17th-century colony of Merry Mount, which dedicated a tall pine tree as its spring maypole. The colonists decorated it with flowers and ribbons, crowned a lord and lady of spring, and happily danced around. All was well, until the neighboring colony of Puritans found out what was going on. I won't tell you the ending, but it isn't pretty.

In reality, this part of Quincy was settled by the very colorful Englishman Thomas Morton, who arrived here in 1624 and called his new home Ma-re Mount. Officially, that meant "Mountain by the Sea", but Morton also knew it could easily become "Merry Mount", which was fine by him ... because that's just what he intended to establish -- a merry, Utopian society. He got rid of some guns by trading them with the Native Americans for furs, established equal-rights among former indentured servants, and basically set up a free-spirited society that integrated with the Native American population -- and yes, set-up a maypole, around which he led some pretty wild drunken celebrations, mixing pagan elements with classical mythology.

Here's my abstract depiction of the mystical maypole at night, deep in the Merrymount forest:

Merrymount got to be such a popular place, that residents of nearby Puritan settlements soon began joining Morton's little hippie colony ... all of which angered Puritan leaders, in their usual self-rightous and violent way. It wasn't long before Morton's experiment came to an abrupt end when Myles Standish of the Plymouth Puritans (a.k.a. the Pilgrims) invaded Merrymount and banished Morton to the Isle of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast. The maypole was no more.

Thankfully though, the Puritans never counted on Hawthorne writing about it 200 years later. So the story of Merrymount's maypole lives on ... even on the Merrymount Homeowners Association webpage:

Merrymount remains an integral yet unique part of Quincy, MA – minus the Maypole, but filled with warm and friendly neighbors, friends and families.

Nicely put. They should also add that it's a great place to ride a bike! I rode three exhilarating laps through Merrymount each morning ... all in the shadow of its incredible story.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cycling Past the Twin Lights

Whenever I visit Cape Ann, I'm always fascinated by the twin lighthouses that sit off Gloucester and Rockport, Mass., on uninhabited Thacher Island. Here's a photo that's also on my May 29th post, from the route of the Tour de Cure:

The lights are so inaccessible, and often so beautifully dark and gloomy ... as seen in this photo I took on a ride last September (described in my North Shore Adventure post):

But on the Tour de Cure ride, it was all bright sunshine as we pedaled past Good Harbor Beach with the twin lights off in the distance. The following watercolor pastel is not an exact depiction of Good Harbor Beach, but just something I created quickly last night...

As you can see, we cyclists are only visitors in this incredible landscape ... just blurs against sea, the rocks, the sand, and the endless sky.