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Sacred and Profane


The weather is good, and I have taken up walking again—extended forays through neighborhoods and along the rocky shore. I have been blessed in the places I’ve lived. In Brooklyn I power-walked along the shady boulevard that borders Prospect Park, up to the triumphal arch at Grand Army Plaza (pretending I was an exchange student in Paris), returning by way of winding paths inside the park. Before that I lived in rural bliss north of the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey—my walks were jogs in those younger days. (Remember jogging? In nylon gym shorts?)

Since 1992 I have lived here, tight to the Atlantic Ocean, taking my walks on Gloucester’s Back Shore, which is surely a microcosm of our split life as humans: On one side of the road, Nature unabated—the strewn granite and basalt of eons past, lapped by waves throwing popples of saltwater and foam into the air, under a sky so big it used to frighten my toddlers. And on the other side, turn-of-the-century shingled “cottages” with cobblestone drives and neat flower gardens. This morning I realized that I spend more time studying the man-made landscape as I amble: Who is renovating now? Wow, look at that swath of fescue!

Home again, I heard over coffee a story on the morning shows about researchers discovering the physiological verity of “the blue mind.” Gazing at water and sky, enveloped in primal blue, our cortisol levels go down and dopamine picks up. I made a rueful mental note to turn my head the other way when I walk.

Still, after 20-odd years, I remain intrigued by the mortal side of the road. I memorize the details of two houses built as Swiss Chalets, and take notes passing a picket-fence garden that looks like a painting. It’s heartening to think that we can be moved by that which shows the hand of man, even when God is calling from across the street. And isn’t that the
underpinning of Arts & Crafts?

Patricia Poore,Editor
10 Harbor Rd., Gloucester, MA 01930

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