New Hampshire

Adrift on the Ruins of History in New Castle

The ruins of history lie all around us. Sometimes we build over them, sometimes we forget them, and sometimes we don’t.

On the island of New Castle, New Hampshire, the ruins of a colonial fort guard the Pisquatua River at its outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. Across the river, through the mist, you can see the coast of Maine.

Originally called “Fort William and Mary” or simply “The Castle,” it was renamed “Constitution” after the Revolutionary war. It stayed in active duty until after World War II.

Now its ruins are guarded by a chain link fence and an overgrown tangle of foliage. In sympathy with the dying structure, the grass remains brown and autumnal even in the height of summer.

Following the fence, we found a gate and a sign. The gate was open, the sign told us to stay on the blue line, all other areas were off-limits. There was a good reason for this. The fort cuts right through the middle of an active Coast Guard base, effectively splitting the present in two.

Walking the line brought us to a forbidding gate with portcullis raised. We walked through it into the heart of the fort.

To our left was a sentry room. Once it was certainly the resting place of soldiers, now darkness and spiders are its only tenants.

Following the wall we found a stairway. Nature is slowly reclaiming it, sending up battalions of weeds to recapture land  stolen by human hands and stacked into unlikely towers.

At the top, we found a ghostly view and a room with a platform that might once have supported a large gun of some sort. What battles were fought here?

Downstairs again, Lucinda explored a passage through the wall. Its sharp corners were probably meant to slow invading forces, allowing the defenders to pick them off one by one as they emerged to the level of the ground.

Everywhere we looked history rose like mist from the stones of the place, making us wonder if ghosts still stand sentry duty along her tumbling walls.


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Maine

Day and Night People at the Unattended Carnival

In Maine in the summer, there’s a carnival or country fair pretty much every weekend. Blank fields sprout tents like mushrooms. Rides land like flying saucers overnight.

Even in daylight, there’s something creepy about an unattended carnival.

The rides seem to be drowsing, like big cats, ready to spring to life at any moment. You get the sense that a misplaced step, a magic word, will set the whole thing in motion.

You are almost certainly being watched. The carnies go about their work quietly, but you can see them moving among the machines. At least, you hope it’s them.

On the Carousel, Lucinda found a horse that was just her size. I tried not to imagine the giant rooster coming to life. It would be angry after all those years running in circles for children.

In darkness, the carnival takes on a new life. But it’s an artificial one, called into motion by calliope music and blinking lights. It will die when they do.

The games and the rides all call to you, saying isn’t this jolly, isn’t this fun. Don’t worry, everything is fine. No need to think. You can stay here as long as you like. Stay forever. We don’t mind.

But perhaps the strangest thing about an unattended carnival, is the people you may meet there.

 

Maryland · Uncategorized

Drowning in History on the Streets of Ellicott City

There are places that punch a hole through time and leave an echoing gap where past and present face each other.

Historic Ellicott City, Maryland is one of those places.

Walking the streets there, it’s hard to remember what year it is, and who you are, and that there’s a world outside this valley.

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A year ago, most of the downtown was under water. An unprecedented rainfall caused a flash flood that decimated businesses in the deep valley on the shores of the Patapsco River.

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Many of those businesses have recovered, and new ones have taken the place of those that wouldn’t or couldn’t come back. Most of the city is as beautiful as ever.

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Walking around with Lucinda, it was possible to forget that the world had ended and been reborn here.

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But as night crept down the hill, it got easier to imagine the city underwater, mud and silt blanketing everything, cold, darkness filling buildings and cars and lungs.

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I think Lucinda might have stayed there forever if I let her. She even attempted to make some friends with the locals.

Creepy Lucinda meets some dolls in a window.

But welcoming as historic Ellicot City was, we had our beds to go back to, and more adventures to look forward to in the morning.

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