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Ken at Newburyport Map, Newburyport, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

After my afternoon of visiting Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Amesbury, and Salisbury, I drove up the New Hampshire coastline to see the sights that I’d always wondered about. It’s only about 18 miles from the Massachusetts to the Maine border, but I took my time, stopped on the ocean and got stuck in traffic at Hampton Beach with all the ice cream, fried dough and all the other stores that had mobs of flooding the place with bikinis and testosterone. I finally made it to Portsmouth and checked out the harbor and the downtown, but I was on a mission today. I soon got back into my car and got on I-95 to head back to Newburyport for dinner.

I’ve been to Newburyport many times in my life. In the summer, they have a big festival called Yankee Homecoming and there’s a big road race that I used to compete in all the time. They’re a lot of really great homes this used to be a big trading and whaling city, and the homes lining Route 113 were massive like when families had 8 kids each and you had to have space for the servants to live. The downtown are is mostly brick and was one of the first cities to actually restore their architecture instead of knocking it all down. It’s right where the Merrimack River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, so the river is quite wide at this point.

There were plenty of people around, and everyone was shopping, eating, and having a good time. I got a great meal at The Purple Onion and then went down to the waterfront to just enjoy the calm of it all. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was starting to set in the west, so I just enjoyed the people watching.

As it was warm, I also moved to a shadier spot on a lawn by the riverfront and noticed all the people having a picnic, playing frisbee, or just lying in the grass. As those who know me well can attest, I’m not one to normally just sit and contemplate. I’m an active guy. But between the activities of the day and my being slightly under the weather, I really enjoyed just hanging out. This was a new learning for me. I’ve got to do this more often.

Newburyport Harbor, Newburyport, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

So, when have you gone someplace and learned something important about yourself?

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Ken at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

After leaving Amesbury, I want to head over to the coast to see the ocean, and then head up the New Hampshire coast to Portsmouth before driving back down to Newburyport for dinner. As this was a last minute trip, I didn’t think all the logistics through before I made it. Here I was on the first warm Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and I was headed toward the most popular beaches north of Boston. I soon realized what I had gotten into by the time I hit the center of Salisbury.

Salisbury is the most northerly municipality in Massachusetts, and while there are a few towns east of it on Cape Ann, it’s the most northeasterly town in the Commonwealth.  I’d gotten to the extremes!

Route 113 goes into Salisbury from Amesbury with an exit off of I-95, and it’s full of strip malls and chain stores. It ends at Route 1 in Salisbury Center, and there were a lot of cars trying to get to or from the beach. I was headed over the the shore (Route 1A) and traffic was pretty heavy. The last time I was at Salisbury Beach was during a summer evening about three years ago when 5 guys and 2 women went as a bachelorette party to go play skee ball and other games at the arcade (that’s the type of friends that I have!) This time it was in full summer mode with lots of people and not a lot of parking. After taking a quick picture, I figured I would continue north and stop somewhere were the parking was better.

I drove a bit further north toward the New Hampshire border, and there were signs for many access points to the beach, so I got out to view the beach.  There were lots of people there enjoying the beach, but the one thing that surprised me was the emergency warning sign on the way into the beach.  I had forgotten that the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant just just over the boarder in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and that if something happened there, it would be chaos to get out of the area. There are very few roads, and I know how difficult it was for me to drive there on this day.

Emergency Sign at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

The beach was beautiful, as was the weather, and I decided to move on and travel up the coast to Portsmouth before heading back to Newburyport for dinner.  I got caught in a lot of traffic in Hampton Beach, but the rest of the trip was really beautfiul. I had never been on the NH seacoast, and it’s very pretty (and rugged!)

So, where have you found a paradox of beauty and danger?

Ken at Mural, Amesbury, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

After leaving the cute town square of Merrimac, I continued eastward on Route 110. I managed to have a phone call with a prospective client (I have a hands free phone system in my car, don’t worry!) and managed to follow the signs on Route 150 until I found myself in the “Town of Amesbury“. (I mention this as Amesbury is officially a city, but it is one of about 15 municipalities in the Commonwealth that have city government but wish to be officially called “The Town of”.

I’ve heard of Amesbury before, but have never had the occasion to visit, and was pleasantly surprised. It has a nice center with your standard New England style white churches, but it doesn’t have a common, but a downtown intersection. Upon walking around, I could see that Amesbury was also proud to be a carriage manufacturing town (which shouldn’t surprise me as Merrimac was a part of Amesbury before becoming its own town.) There were murals of some of its famous ciitzens (Abolitionist and author John Greenleaf Whittier and Cartoonist Al Capp), and they had a really cool reconstructed mill complex with an amphitheater next to the Powwow River. It wasn’t really busy, but not many towns were very busy on this Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

I was getting hungry, and as a vegetarian celiac looking for food to buy, I’m a little leary of getting glutenized by contaminated food. I managed to find the Maggie Sundae Ice Cream Parlor next to Amesbury Town Hall, and got a really good blackberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt. Highly recommended.

Ken with ice cream at Amesbury Town Hall, Amesbury,Massachusetts, 26 May 2012 

Powwow River Falls, Amesbury, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

It was a beautiful sunny day, and I just tried to take it all in. It was to be a big change from the calmness of Amesbury to my next destination of Salisbury.

Al Capp Amphitheather, Amesbury, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

So, what is it you’ve found special joy in lately?

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Ken in front of Merrimac Town Hall, Merrimac, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

In my further adventures of the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge, after visiting Newbury and West Newbury, I set off to visit the third of the six towns I planned on visiting on this day. I crossed over the Merrimack River and soon found myself in the town of Merrimac (I don’t know where the “k” went between the naming of the town and the river!)

What I was most surprised about was that when I came into the town center, almost all the buildings were brick and at least four stories tall. Whereas most towns have a town common or a rotary or something in the middle, this was sort of an open square where cars from four different roads all raced through. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon, so there wasn’t much happening here. There was a bank and a pizza shop (there always seems to be one in every town!) as well as a couple convenience stores. On walking around town, I found out that Merrimac was known for carriage making in its early history, but for the most part manufacturing died out here when most factories moved to the South and Midwest somewhere around the late 1800’s. Since then, the town has gone from agricultural to a bedroom community.

I walked around a few streets in the center trying to drink in the essence if the place (hence the meditation part if what I’m trying to do here!) and I ran into a pottery shop in a side street. I thought that this is like the small scale manufacturing that used to be here. People were craftsmen (trying to think of the non-sexist way to say this here, but failing!) back then, and it seems that in many ways those that remain still are.

After this brief stop, I was on to Amesbury.

Buildings in Town Square, Merrimac, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

So, where have you found remnants of former glory still living today?

Ken at Post Office, West Newbury, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

After visiting Newbury, I decided to head west into West Newbury as the next on the marathon of towns that I would visit before I headed up the New Hampshire coast. After leaving Newbury, I used my handy map feature on my iPhone to find the back roads to make my way to West Newbury Center.  It a pretty rural area and I found myself soon driving through the Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area, and I was delightfully surprised that there was a section of the road that was unpaved.  It certainly wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to pave it, but that it would help the ecology of the marshland.  I liked it!

Houses on Route 113, West Newbury, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

Upon finally reaching the center at Route 113, I stopped and got out to take a walk.  Whereas Byfield felt more like an out of the way village, West Newbury was a wide place in the road.  There were a lot of really nice houses in the colonial style, and a few other business such as a gift shop, a barber shop, and a pizza place but for the most part it was just a more filled in part of the rest of the road.  From what I’ve read and what I experienced, the people of West Newbury have been trying to keep the town from being too built up, and that they way they like it.  There are other bigger towns (notably Newburyport) in the area, and they didn’t have a need to make it more that it is.

I saw people working on their houses and gardens, but there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic!

It was a nice stop, but I had more places to visit.  Onto Merrimac.

So, when do you know when to accept things as they are?

Ken in Byfield village, Newbury, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

I was hoping to go to New York City for Memorial Day weekend, but as I had been hit with this terrible spring flu that was going around, I decided that I better not do anything too strenuous and stay at home for the weekend. That being said, I didn’t want to just stay in the house the whole time, so I decided to think of places that weren’t too far away that I’ve never been to and wanted to experience. What came to mind was that I had never driven up the New Hampshire Seacoast (it’s only 18 miles!) so I figured that I’d also try to hit a whole bunch of towns off the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge while I was up in that area. It was a beautiful warm late spring (more like early Summer) day, so I thought that I could visit a whole bunch of towns in the northeastern corner of Massachusetts, as I don’t make it up there too often. This would be a marathon day, as I had plans to make it to six (yes six!) different towns. I packed my lunch and headed up I-95 and got off at Newbury.

While that’s technically true, I actually got off the exit for the village of Byfield. Newbury was one of the first towns in the area, and many of the more populated parts of it broke off and became other towns (such as Newburyport and West Newbury), so Newbury is really a bunch of small villages without a discernable center. I was there before in Byfield a number of years ago when the New England Sacred Harp Singing Convention was held there in 2009, and I stopped at the same venue this time. Byfield is basically an intersection with some official building (post office, churches, a few stores, etc.) but it’s really pretty quiet. It’s only 1/4 mile off the highway, but it’s not on a numbered route and it’s not on the route to any major destination.

After staying for a bit, I looked at my map and started heading off to West Newbury.

So, when have you been in a quiet place just around the corner from a busy place?

Ken at Grafton Common, Grafton, Massachusetts, 20 May 2012

I hadn’t visited any other towns on my Meditate Mass 351 Challenge for a few weeks as I was really behind in my posting of the towns I had visited. I’ve recently gotten a bit caught up and as I was schedule to an event at my friend Maureen’s in Grafton, I figured i should pass up this opportunity to add it to the list.

I’ve been in Grafton many times visiting Maureen, but it’s also the next town to Upton where my brother lives, so I’ve driven through it many times when we’ve left from there to go to other places. I had been dealing with a really nasty Spring flu, but I could take a few minutes to check out the cute town center. I had seen the many businesses on Route 122 that comes from Worcester and goes by the Massachusetts Turnpike and through the town on its way toward Providence, but there was the cute town center I had never stopped in and that was my destination.

There were signs there for the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor, and it explained that this was an example of a “hilltop center” where the town center was higher than the surrounding town, which I think would make sense when most of Massachusetts was deforested and you could see for miles. It has a cute gazebo and a number if churches, including the UU Church where my friend Roger is the minister. There are a couple of stores, but they all just meld into the architecture of the surrounding buildings. Not a McDonald’s to be seen.

It reminded me a bit of Sturbridge where the commercial area of town was long moved to a different part of town. This town center wasn’t trying to be anything that it wasn’t. I know there are other villages in the town, and I remember them to be the same.

Gazebo, Grafton Common, Grafton, Massachusetts, 20 May 2012

Old Storefronts, Grafton Common, Grafton, Massachusetts, 20 May 2012

So, where are those areas of your life that you strive to be more, and where are those areas you are content?

Ken at the Foxborough Common, Foxborough, Massachusetts, 22 April 2012

On the way home from the New England Folk Festival in Mansfield third day, I was tired, but determined since I had driven a long way that I could get another town in the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge.  It was a rainy day and I really wanted to get home since I was tired from three days of singing, dancing, and hugging lots of friends, but since I don’t get down to this area of the state often.  Therefore, I looked at the map and it seemed like Foxborough would be the easiest one for me to go to.

Most people around the country have heard of Foxborough as it’s the home of Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution play.  I also went to Foxborough many times when I was first developing as a career consultant as I participated in the WIND Networking group.  It’s also been in the news lately as there was just a vote by the town board not to allow casinos in town (they were being promoted by the Kraft family to attach to Gillette.  Also, Route 1 goes through Foxborough and that’s a big commercial area.

I instead went to the town center and got to see what that was like.  It is sort of a rotary around the town common, and it was really nice.  I hadn’t been there before. It reminded me a little of Westborough in that there was a major commercial route nearby and this had all the local stores. There looked like there was  nice theater there, and I wish I had had more time to spend.  I’ll have to see if I can go back when it is sunny!

So, where have do you want to go back to?

I was at the New England Folk Festival, and did this video blog!

Ken at the Burlington Mall, Burlington, Massachusetts, 15 April 2012

After visiting Concord, Carlisle, and Bedford, I was tired, but I decided that I wanted to finally get my iPad, and when you are in this area and you want to go to a place with a lot of shopping, you usually head to Burlington.

I have many past experiences in Burlington.  I worked there for a short time, and my former partner grew up there, so I have been there many times.  Burlington is sort of known for a lot of stores and a lot of traffic.  It seems that if there’s a possibility of putting up a store or an office building, it goes up there.  I’ve heard some call Burlington “bad urban planning personified”.  I just know that in many ways I try to avoid going there as much as possible. I could be part of my trying to simplify my life too.

I went into the mall, fighting the traffic getting there, and found the Apple Store.  As they didn’t have what I wanted, (I had to order it on line), I just roamed a little bit and left.  It had been a long day and I didn’t want to deal with the crowds.  I know a little bit more about what I can handle and what I don’t need to bring into my life, and crowds and shopping are some of them.

So, what are the things you know not to invite into your life anymore?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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