I never tire of hearing impressions of Cape Ann as told and shared by people who have newly discovered us — and etched us more deeply, more colorfully, more enticingly in the esteem of the greater world.
I knit my brow and chuckle aloud when related stories sometimes seem to find me, when they converge in an interesting pattern, when a domino effect occurs.
This week, I picked up the May issue of "The Noise," a free paper edited by Timothy Maxwell. This smart little publication has given pleasure to readers for over 30 years, filled with reviews of new records (mostly on small, independent labels), live musical performances, and interviews of their artists in the Boston, North Shore, and wider New England area.
Timothy (better known as T Max) and his partner, artist Anne Brown, have recently moved to Gloucester.
T Max began at once to explore the environs on his chief mode of transportation, an old, beat-up old bicycle. He peddled about town in all weather, praising the sunshine, but undeterred by rain, checking in occasionally at his favorite local stores, and mine seemed to be one.
In the early springtime, after a hike took him through Dogtown, he was full of questions about the history of the place, and I was embarrassed to plead "uninformed" to a lot of the specifics.
Having been born and bred here, though, I was, by osmosis, familiar with most landmarks and certainly knew many people. T Max was reading Elyssa East's novel, "Dogtown and Enchantment in a New England Town," based in part on facts surrounding the 1984 real murder of Anne Natti, the paintings Marsden Hartley did of the Babson boulders, and a poem written by Rockport artist Kitty Parsons Recchia.
In this current issue of "The Noise," T Max has written an article describing the fascinating path he followed as his investigation deepened, how it prompted the writing of a song (he's a musician and songwriter himself) based on inspiration he drew from Kitty's 1944 poem titled, "Dogtown Common." It's a song that he's already recorded and performed.
I told him that I used to walk past Kitty Parsons and sculptor Richard Recchia's home on Summer Street in Rockport on my way to school when I was a youngster.
On the same day that I read T Max's article, my old friend, Sewell Hayes, happened into my shop. As he does every once in a while, he gave me a gift for no particular reason (well, I did say jokingly, "Please leave this to me in your will"). I was thrilled to receive Kristian Davies' exquisite book, "Artists of Cape Ann."
In keeping with the serendipity referred to at the beginning of this column, the book included a two-page spread of Marsden Hartley's boulder paintings. In recent years, I had greatly enjoyed the Cape Ann Museum's show of Hartley's striking work. Furthermore, although none of Kitty Parsons' work was included in the Davies book, reference to her was made within the text.
Was "the Babson" of the Babson boulders an old Gloucester name? T Max wondered. I said I suspected it was, and I offered to show him a gently wrapped copy of a magazine that someone had tucked between a couple fire-breaking beams in the walls of our 1885 house, and which our carpenter had discovered when we remodeled the bathroom.
It was the February 1896 issue of "The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine," (price: 35 cents), and inside the front cover was a sign-up sheet of the Pigeon Cove Book Club, on which 11 local ladies' names were printed, noting the week each was assigned to share the publication.
Among them were a Mrs. Wheeler and a Mrs. Babson. I claim the first as my great-grandmother, and there are a few Babsons down the road in Annisquam who I'll bet would claim the second as theirs, or at least her cousin.
Some of us have been here a long time, but we welcome newcomers.
Susan S. Emerson is a regular Times columnist.