Marblehead or San Francisco - Which is Best?

Is California So Great? Maybe Not: Compared to Marblehead - Impressions of My New Home

Another month has passed (Click Here for my reflection on the first 30 days), taking me to 60 days now in Marblehead, and still impressions are flooding in.

My notes here are driven by contrasts, and say as much about my last bayside home in San Francisco (Tiburon) as it does Marblehead, so you may take away a sense of northern California as well as things you, local inhabitants, experience here every day, but which for me are the contrasts of transition.

It all began by getting here – we drove.  In California, driving is competitive, in Boston, combative, but here -  it is collaborative.  Drivers actually stop if I am anywhere near a crosswalk.  Even when no crosswalk, I will shy away to let them pass, but no! They will still yield despite my best efforts to let them on their merry way. This genteel nature is reinforced, noting that many stop signs read: “STOP Please”. Please? Never saw that before. Or this one: “Slow – Whale Crossing”

From my perch overlooking the harbor, as the day yields to dusk, the five cannons of yacht clubs ignite, and seagulls burst into flight. What do they make of all of this, and even though it happens every night, they jump to the sky in fright.

Sensing the close of summer, (early October, on a day when in Bay Area it was approaching 95) I realize there is a tempo here, which all of you know so well, but which highlights a passage I need to brace for. Used to running every month of the year in shorts, the chill of the early morn hints this may be a dashed hope. So what will I do instead?

Now anchored in a sailing haven, with choice out of my hands, I recall an ancient navigational system from Polynesia. They believed in their outriggers to be fixed in place, with the world passing them by, as I am affixed in Marblehead, with the seasons about to pass me by. Somehow I sense I will not be running in shorts in January.

On another course, one of humankind, the sea of cultures is more singular here. The Bay Area, opposite the Asian coast, is afloat with Oriental faces, a culinary explosion, a linguistic jungle, a quilt of culture, expression of lifestyles, a dizzying elixir of humanity not to be seen here.  On the other hand, the collection of Colonial homes, the irreverent labyrinth of streets, the fortitude of tradition, brings me back to the comfort of a “I am home” harmony.

Being quite partial to views, we cannot fail to note, that regardless of where we are, half the view is of the sky. And here we have a difference, as in California, say summer, the sky is blue, and only blue. For except early morning fog, the skies present a simple desert of cerulean luminosity. To many, this justifies exorbitant real estate prices (twice that of Marblehead), but upon arrival here, I realize the shortsightedness. Being a photographer in love with sky, in California, I snap a luxuriant sunset every month or so. But here, it seems, every morning a flourishing sunrise jolts me from sleep, or, every evening, the raking sunsets cast brilliance on harbor craft. I am running out of film fast!

To be clear, with no summer clouds in California, you do not have this: summer rain.

Here, the soft sound of summer rain - rhythmic on the redolent leaves of maples, drops piercing puddles, prancing on pond tops, glistening my ears with soft velvet of sound, dithering my ear drums, like a sonata of memories from time past when I first heard these sounds as a boy, on some spring morn when I awoke to the sounds of nature.

I have come home.

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Mary Lou Grinnell October 30, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Mary Lou Grinnell I do hope to read more articles from Mr. Vandersteel. He has captured the true Marblehead that I have always felt was magical.
Stoddard Vandersteel November 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
It has been such a rich experience to come to a new locale, so different from my California years. Just walking the town, chatting with locals, brings so many surprising distinctions that jump out at me. But most of all it is the realization that I now live in a small village which wants to remain a Cornwallean harbor town, rather than the vast impersonal "machine living" I just left.
Ben Doornbusch December 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Hi Stoddard, Has been a very long time since we spoke! I accidentally (!?) see that you have moved to Marblehead and found a place that fits you like a ... Please be so kind an send me your new address, since I've only got your old and business addresses. You still have my email addresses I hope. Hope to hear from you soon! Ben Doornbusch
Ben Doornbusch December 23, 2012 at 08:14 PM
As you can see: Marblehead Patch is also being read in The Netherlands!! I live there.
Stoddard Vandersteel March 31, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Ben, and as in Holland, Marblehead is one of the prominent sailing towns in the US, and like Amsterdam, full of historical charm


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