A Shoaler in the Making, Part 6 by Nelson Linscott
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence, depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen
– William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218 (1850 edition)
I woke slowly and gently, one eye opening at a time and the thin red flame cap of the sun broke the horizon, casting its light though my window painting pink and gold on the wall behind me. I looked down past my rumpled pillow to see Baxter looking up at me with a curious smile. I greeted Baxter and asked if he was hungry, a question I already knew the answer to. I struggled out of bed, my back was stiff as a board and the pain reminded me that I was still alive. I checked my watch. It was 4:12 am.
After feeding Baxter, I threw the curtains open to the glory of Star Island. I opened the door and like he had been living at the room in the motel for years, Baxter limped out of the room and down the stairs to relieve himself. I stood on the porch gazing at the new morning and started snapping photos. Baxter found a spot at the bottom of the stairs to nibble grass and look at his new surroundings.
It was time to explore! After Baxter finished his breakfast, I popped him in the stroller and headed toward the Oceanic. There were a few people, employees and visitors who greeted us as we looked around. Inside the Oceanic, I was amazed at the lobby. Behind the main desk, up on the wall in a prominent place, I spied a clock. It was definitely old and obvious to me it was a Chelsea Clock. Chelsea clocks are high quality clocks, are made to this day as they were in the late 1800’s in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The company is well know for their nautical clocks. I put my camera to my eye and using the zoom lens to it’s maximum, I could see engraving in the brass patina top and bottom of the outer ring. In Memoriam was engraved around the upper radius and below was engraved Ellen Adams. I was instantly very interested. Here it was 4:30 a.m. and I began asking. “Do you know the history of the clock in the Oceanic Lobby?” I received several suggestions on who to ask but at 4:40 am I had only the internet to investigate. I couldn’t find a thing about that clock. I then started examining all the antiques, books and anything I could find. Being a watch collector and sometimes watch and clock repairman, I was still stuck on that clock, but there were people to meet, things to see and breakfast to eat. Breakfast was a ways off so we headed out, Baxter in the stroller and me pushing on rocks, sand and hills, a labor of love. I started taking photographs.
Though I come from poverty, I have always found a way to obtain a camera. I started taking photos in the late sixties on a Yashica TL Electro-X. I have taken hundreds of thousands of photos. I am told I have the knack. Photography, like poetry and writing have come to me by reading. I am a high school dropout. I had learned everything I needed by eighth grade. By reading, I became educated. I have amassed a library of over a thousand books. I hit the road at age sixteen, living in hotels and sometimes wrecked cars and dilapidated buildings. I love exploration, meeting new people, and spontaneity. Bohemian life was my way.
I knew before I won the trip to Star Island that it was a photographer’s dream. Documenting my trip photographically was going to be easy. Caring for a hurt dog and myself, keeping my anxiety, PTSD and other maladies would be a challenge. I also had the innate feeling that there was something uniquely beautiful about the people of Star Island. This feeling was already substantiated waiting to board the Thomas Laighton in Portsmouth.
Down the hill we rolled, heading for the dock to look back up toward the Oceanic as a summer sun rose behind me. A seagull swooped by. The lights of the grand hotel still blazed. I clicked off several photos, let Baxter out of the stroller to sit in the glass. Baxter snuggled against my leg. “I am the luckiest man in the world”, I thought.
Finally we were signaled that breakfast was being served. As I walked in with Baxter in tow on his leash, I scanned the tables to find my group. Every table was buzzing with excitement, every face had a smile. I knew Star Island was more than its man made and natural physical beauty. The people who guided me here despite Baxter’s handicaps and my own made us feel like I always imagined a family would be like. Shoalers are the family I never had. I became acutely aware of every moment, living and loving every minute. I didn’t think of the past or the future. I was busy with now, and now made every event, every new friend and every sky, a moment that stood as unforgettable to a Kittery boy and his dog whose solitary love was about to burst open to include everyone. My distrust of people, the result of being abuse as a child, was gone.
As I ate my oatmeal, I asked if anyone knew about the lobby clock. I knew the Chelsea clock had a story, and I like stories.
Photographs by Nelson Linscott