parish mapping and the love song of plum island



A few weeks ago at a workshop I learned about what a parish map is, and during Julia Shipley's wonderful class I spent a lot of time musing not only on past addresses, but especially on the place I call home today.  I realize now, that over this past year of shedding, a huge journey into this idea of home has emerged for me.  It's been a year of digging into the ground right beneath my feet, inviting people in, and not looking too far past my own front door for a place to create and connect.  Home is becoming the space that now is nourishing my creative life, a new pivot point of longitude and latitude both for the interior and exterior of my world.  Maybe it began with finally naming this house after living here for almost 6 years, back in the spring.  Like so many of the other personalized and claimed houses here on Plum Island, ours is now aptly called "gone wishing", part of what began the deep plunge into the heart of this place I call home.

There is something about showing someone around your own neighborhood and seeing it from an outsider's perspective that gives you new insight and appreciation for all and little things in your immediate world you might usually take for granted.  Yesterday I did just that, spent the day exploring my little island, the beaches and small nearby town, hoping to woo Elizabeth with a little Island song.  It wasn't hard.  This place sings with life and light and is deeply attuned to its own unique vibration with Mother Earth.

So fresh off that little tour, I wanted to share with you a bit of writing I did in my mapping workshop to give you a flavor of this beautiful place as well.  It was an exercise of noting points on a map, not for directional purposes, but to tell the story of a place with reference to my own orientation within it.  Here is a bit of what I wrote...

Things to do on Plum Island (and just beyond):

1.  Rent a bike and take a ride out to Sandy Point.  Bring a little bottle with you so you can collect some of the beautiful garnet sand, a tiny treasure and memory of the raw beauty there.

2.  Walk the Dune Loop trail and see the unassuming plum bushes that have given this island its name.

3.  Spy the cormorants wobbling on the telephone wires over the bridge at dusk when the light is melting into the horizon like orange and pink sherbert.

4.  See the news trucks jammed into the tiny beach parking lot during every storm, waiting for the sea to claim another house from the shores of this ever changing barrier island.

5.  Walk the beach on the northern side at low tide, and out onto the twin sandbars that formed last year from all the winter erosion.

6.  Visit the lighthouse on posted visitor days, and climb up to the top, but only if your are 4 and older!

7.  Make way for the plovers nesting all summer long, closing the southern beach at peak season and turning away tourists and sunbathers in favor of piping plover love.

8.  Watch the marsh grass grow tall and green, then fade to yellow, and then get cut and bailed into blocks or big rolls of hay dotting the open landscape like a big rural plain somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.

9.  Head into Newburyport for the local farmer's market with the best Red Gravy, my favorite shop Red Bird that I could simply move into, the yummiest grilled salad you won't even believe until you taste it, and so many little corner cafes and shops to explore and treat yourself to your heart's content.

11.  Learn to fly.  Take helicopter or an airplane flying lessons at the tiny island airport.

12.  By handmade French butter cookies, fine soaps and beautiful art, made right here on the island and inspired by locals with a passion for this place.

13.  Throw a fish trap into the basin to catch minnows and crabs who knows what else?

14.  Take a lazy walk to Mad Martha's for homespun hospitality and a delicious breakfast in a cozy little cottage style diner by the sea.

15.  In early spring, walk along where the Merrimack River meets the sea, and if you're lucky enough you might find seals basking there in the sunlight.

16.  Stay indoors the last week of July lest you become a feast for the greenhead flies that peak during that time.

17.  Watch the tide ebb.  Watch the tide flow.  Watch the sun rise.  Watch the sun set.


Maybe someday you will come visit me here!  I'd really love that.

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