On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 4

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 4 by Nelson Linscott

“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.” William Shakespeare

Across the dock to the gangplank, I pushed Baxter in his stroller toward the good ship Thomas Laighton. I now had a posse of well wishers, friends and helpers, when I had just one when I arrived to the dock, Ally my point of contact from Star Island . The crew helped lift my most precious cargo Baxter, strapped into his stroller, wide eyed and wondering what this was all about. I visualized a rumpled, dirty bag of anxiety left on dry land on the bank of the Piscataqua River across from my home in Kittery. Soon the boat was filled with Shoalers going to their promised land. I was swept away with them without effort, without plans other than to let it be. I carried in my heart a seed of hope that I was going to plant on that little island ten miles out to sea. The boat’s engine rumbled to life. The passengers also sprang to life. Baxter let out a few sharp barks. He realized he was in for a ride. The ropes were thrown and we pulled into the fast moving river. The Memorial Bridge center span began rising. We were on the way!

The day was perfect – warm, but not hot, a few wispy clouds and light breezes. I turned back to look at the city of Portsmouth and my home of Kittery as we left the mouth of the river and entered the Atlantic Ocean. To see the landmarks I was so accustomed to on land, now the vantage point of the sea side was thrilling. Baxter was enjoying it too as a stream of well wishers scratched his head and welcomed him aboard. Then, my eyeglass lens fell out.  Sure enough the tiny screw that tightened the eyeglass frame around the lens was missing. I thought , I hope this isn’t a sign of how this trip will go. On my hands and knees I searched for the tiny screw to no avail. I explained to a young lady sitting on the deck below me what I was looking for. After picking the screw up off the rough deck she looked at me with a smile and said, “Is this it?” I was elated! “Thank you!” Maybe this is how the trip was going to go. No matter what happened there was someone there who had your back. With the point of my little jackknife, I replaced the screw tightly, cleaned the lens off and was completely sure this was going to be a trip to remember.

I have been taking photographs since the 1960’s. I was slow coming around to digital photography, but when I did, I knew it was going to change my photography completely. I had learned from old school 35 millimeter cameras with out light meters. I knew how to control depth of field, light, speed. Having that prior experience on old school equipment made digital photography easy. Instead of technical concerns, I could pour my energy  into the creativity part of photography. I had plans of photographing this trip with many people who couldn’t wait to see them. I started clicking away at the dock in Portsmouth. I also planned to keep a journal. I started it from the day I was informed that I won the Veteran’s Raffle. 

Baxter, getting a bit nervous, needed to mingle. Mingle we did. Though I didn’t know a soul on the boat, I felt like I have known many forever. Though Baxter wasn’t 100% physically, he was into the mingling. Before long, the Isles of Shoals were clearly visible. I could sense the excitement on the Thomas Laighton. I looked up at the clear blue cap over planet earth and Wordsworth’s “Prelude” floated like a cloud into my head. “There are in our existence spots of time which with distinct preeminence retain a fructifying virtue, whence, depressed by trivial occupations and the round of ordinary intercourse, our minds, especially the imaginative power, are nourished, and invisibly repaired.” This trip would provide spots of time, not one, but many. They began as distinct as the sky was blue, as the Island Star is beautiful and as Shoalers are Shoalers. 

On the trip out, the smell of the ocean, the gulls and the fast disappearing mainland kept me busy, not only looking but taking photos. I picked Baxter up and let him wander around. I looked at his right rear leg sticking out at an unnatural angle as he limped painfully. “Oh Baxter”, I thought. “I hope you will be OK.” That worry set off the anxiety, but I took advantage of a trick a therapist had taught me. I said aloud, “Stop!” and changed what I was thinking about. It worked and I picked Baxter up so he could see the water. With Baxter in my arms, a stream of well wishers welcomed us. Baxter was loving it. I was a little tentative. Soon the Star Island was in sight. The trip was shorter than I anticipated. I carefully put Baxter in the stroller to his disappointment. Looking over the bow, I gazed at our destination. I was immediately surprised by the buildings standing so tall and stately against a perfect spring sky. My heart was pounding. We were almost there.

We bumped the dock and the ropes were tossed. On the dock, young people grabbed the ropes, working in unison like they had done this a million times, but it was the smiles and the enthusiasm that piqued my inquisitiveness. These people loved their work. To my right I heard jubilant singing. Due to my deafness, I could not pick out the words, I knew this was a welcome song. I stared in amazement at the smiling faces in unison singing to us. I had to ask a friend for the words and now that I know them I am even more enamored of the song, the Shoalers and the Island.  

S-T-A-R, S-T-A-R, Oceanic, Oceanic, ra, ra, ra – you DID come back, you DID come back, you DID come back!

With much help from the crew, and Baxter in his stroller, we departed the Thomas Laighton. I walked the down the dock, the paved path, past the blooms, the gazebo, and the flag. I stood in awe at this grand hotel, the Oceanic, all painted white, proud, and majestic. I felt small in many ways. People causally walked by enjoying the day. I looked down at Baxter who was busy looking and taking it all in. As I was nearing a trance-like state of meditation, a voice broke the spell. “Let me show you your room, Nelson.”  It was Ally. We had arrived.

Photos by Nelson Linscott