~ Navigating the Narrative ~
|Navigate Home||About Gams & Gamming|
Launched from the Waterside ...
the place we can see our tomorrows dawn
For time immemorial, "The Ship" has literally and figuratively transported people of the world upon missions and mythos of great consequence: The Argo in Greek mythology, launching Jason and the Argonauts on their valiant quest for the golden fleece ~ the Babylonian merchant ships in the Book of Revelation, reviled for fleecing gold and failing good in this World ~ or the vessels on adventures to the New World. Such are the case studies, fact or fiction.
Long before ships set sail for the New Heaven, with passengers who would come to stand upon the New Earth of their so-called promised land --- and long after the astronauts first observed Spaceship Earth from the vantage of their spacecraft --- humanity plots and ponders the course of a continuous journey. To what end these argosies? Toward what destination?
Of all of maritime dramas played upon the stage, Shakespeare's "The Tempest" penetrates to the heart of this question. Its answer --- its revelation --- is one of reconciliation, redemption and renewal. The play was inspired by the Bermuda Island shipwreck of the Virginia Company's flagship Sea Venture, when sailing with its fleet to colonize Jamestown. The Bard's players would take their bows on the Globe stage in London the decade before Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock, and some twenty years before the Arbella would set sail in 1630 with the 1629 Massachusetts Bay Charter in hand --- seeking that City upon a Hill (to quote from John Winthop's homily).
Oh, those gallant ships with brave, courageous adventurers --- with an awesome but imperfect vision of their prospects in "Newe England." Woe betide the pristine shores of their New World destination, for "progress" arrived with those Pilgrims and Puritans. How quickly in deed were Winthrop's words of advice to "avoyde this shipwracke" cast aside as the colonists made their way, seated their plantations and seeded their crops in the New Jerusalem.
Let us travel some five generations from the time those forebears made landfall along this bay which a half century later William Wood described at length the Massachusetts Bay patent in New England's Prospect. Published in 1634 from his personal experiences in this New World territory. "Laying downe that which may both enrich the knowledge of the mind-travelling Reader, or benefit the future Voyager" --- Wood hailed the region of the Merrimack River as "the best" in the country, punctuating his remarks with these words: "To conclude, the Countrie hath not that which this place cannot yeeld ..."
Season after season, planters in this special place called the Waterside would indeed yield bounty from land and water, though the hardships were often more plentiful than the harvest. With forbearance, by the 18th Century Newburyport would become one of the most prominent and prosperous seafaring and shipbuilding communities in New England. But even in the best of times, it became the nature of these people to practice prudence --- with a practicality and dexterity for which the Waterside people became world renowned.
[The tales of Newburyport's legendary "timber ships" best tell of the Waterside people's enterprise and ingenuity ~ albeit something conspired by one Mr. Levy ~ a merchant adventurer who commissioned these crafts at the Waterside shipyards ~ who may well have been "from away."It is said that during the 18th Century --- when timber was floated down the Merrimack River to Newburyport for export --- instead of loading the unmilled lumber onto vessels, the timber was tied together in the form of large rafts conforming to the shape of a ship. With a small center cavity for crews and provisions, adventurous mariners navigated these "timberships" to their destination in London. Despite the many voyages made by this means of transport, nary a timber ship was lost at sea. And while the crafts may not have been as swift as 19th Century clipper ships, the timber ships logged journeys that were respectable for their times. A London paper reported that a timber ship commanded by Captain Rose made passage from Newburyport to London in just twenty-six days --- with craft, commander and crew all hailing from this special place called the Waterside, a new haven called Newburyport. The timber of the shipwrights and sailors of the Waterside who crafted and sailed the timber ships remarked far and wide, the Waterside people made their mark with this amongst other remarkable feats. The mind-travelling reader is encouraged to follow this link within for more insight, hindsight, foresight and "soul sight" about this amongst the "great things" launched from the port of call called "the Waterside" at the Mouth of the River Merrimack.]
Let us count a handful of years after the Waterside was established as the separate town of Newburyport in 1764 when a new "sitteson" arrives on the scene. As a newly freed apprentice with but "8 dolars 20 sents" in his pocket, Timothy Dexter arrived at the Waterside and settled amongst that fourth and fifth generation of the Waterside people, eventually marrying a comfortably situated widow.
Across from Somerby's Landing, the Dexter dwelling house and shopkeep was but a stone's throw from the wharfs where ships were built, equipped and launched. Whilst Dexter dressed leather and plied his trade in this mercantile town, gallant ships would set sail on the high tides of this shallow harbor, to return with the riches from the deep sea and distant seaports. During the Revolutionary War, privateering ships returned to port laden with plundered booty, enriching their investors beyond wildest expectations.
Meanwhile, Dexter methodically invested a comparable pittance in the depreciated public securities --- a speculation that would eventually secure his wealth when the new republic's treasury system was constituted. Thus and so, less than a quarter century after he traveled to Newburyport (arriving in Waterside) --- Dexter was to purchase the State Street mansion of a ruined privateering magnate and would himself become shipowner of two merchant vessels, the Mehitabel and the Congress.
Evermore adventurous than even his famous argosies to the West Indies, Dexter's figurative "Ship" sailed off to new horizons on a course plotted in his enigmatic anthology, "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones." In his missives, Dexter the Poet deployed "the Ship" and "the Anchor" as metaphors for his successful private ventures --- and used the same imagery for the public enterprise of Newburyport's "Ship."
An alluring figurehead, Dexter was to capture and captivate the fifth generation of the Waterside people as his fellow voyagers on a new thoughtway --- conscripting those wights with wisdom enough to become one of "the Knowing Ones." His Lordship would often offer to "take the helm in love" and steer the "cors" of the Ship, the flagship, the lightship, the dresship of Generations Onward Bourne. Yet, unlike Shakespeare's weary Merchant of Venice, this merchant adventurer's mind was not tossing on the ocean with his argosies of portly sail for the better part of his affections would be with hopes high hopes for a better tomorrow ... in every port of call ... for every generation.
Inspired by this motif, Lord Timothy Dexter serves as the citizen-exponent for the Waterside movement, and in a Motion of Comity helps keep the Plan in Motion in Absolute Balance. And Wonder of Wonders! From time to time, Lord Tim physically "comes back toue see houe you all goue on" remarking milestones of history and history in the making.
For example, Newburyport marked the 150th anniversary as a city form of government in 2001, which would coincide with America's 225th Anniversary of Independence and the beginning of a New Millennium. On June 24, 2001 --- at a Sesquicentennial event called Inaugural Sunday --- a re-enactment of the first inauguration took place on the steps of Newburyport City Hall, construction of which was completed to coincide with Newburyport's incorporation in 1851. Prior to and after the re-enactment, a procession of today's generations of the Waterside people was led by the Official Whiffler, Lord Timothy Dexter. With flagship in tow, a large body of the Waterside people carrying banners proceeded from the Cushing House Museum on High Street, down Green Street to City Hall for the ceremonies which included period music and speechifying by the first mayor "Caleb Cushing" and then present-day Mayor Lisa Mead. The Honorable Mayor Mead delivered a keynote address with the hindsight, foresight, insight and soul-sight to lead the community into the New Millennium. Thereafter, the procession was led down Green Street, past the venue where Dexter's shop once stood, over the gravel NRA lot --- the place once Somerby's Landing --- for a multi-generational concert upon the Waterfront's Market Landing Park. It was a Banner Day!
That year remarked the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Moby Dick" made this a rather convenient time to launch the concept of the Waterside community "gam" in conjunction with the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities "Ends of Civilization" reading and discussion program, which culminated with the Waterside's "Once in a Blue Moon Opportunity" milestone that November. (No doubt, Dexter was there in spirit during that discourse held in the library's Tracy House annex program room, like some Dragonfly on the Wall ~ and there with another urge to Awaken the Spirit surfaced the following year.)
And so, as ever, "The Ship" is Ready to embark on another leg of the journey, into a New Millennium. The "historic wayes" to the Waterside are laid1 and the reference to Somerby's Landing has been officially restored by the Trustees of the Newburyport Waterfront.2 And with the past as prologue, the Waterside people's present and future is history in the making. Marking time and progress on the course ahead.3
The completion of the historic wayes to the Waterside (Somerby's Landing
and Custom House Way) along with the restored boardwalk promenade between
them (re)marked with a dedication held on
May 18, 2002.
2 At a meeting of the Trustees of the Newburyport Waterfront held March 10, 2002 the board unanimously voted to restore the name "Somerby's Landing" to the westernmost of the five "historic wayes" to the Waterside. Coincidentally, their landmark decision fell on an anniversary, of sorts. At their annual town meeting held March 10, 1751/2 the inhabitants of the Waterside Third Parish of Newbury officially accepted and recorded Somerby's Landing --- as granted to the township "to lay for ways and landing ... forever ..."
However, on June 19, 2006, a quorum of the board of the Newburyport Waterfront Trust decided to retain the reference "Railroad Avenue" to the other "historic waye" situated beside Market Landing Park and the Firehouse (once the Middle Shipyard) ~ however expressed their support of various ways and means to remark the historical and generational milestones in history and history in the making ~ this, the Year of Common Ground, including:
of the ongoing dispute between the newly organized town of Newburyport
and Newbury proprietors over common grounds within the bounds of the
newly organized town of Newburyport (once the Third Parish of Newbury,
established as a separate town in 1764), which commenced in 1766, and
took two generations to resolve, coming to resolution in 1826 with an
enforceable public trust for common grounds alongside the Waterside's
bodies of water.