Sometimes, people imagine that all I do is bop around, occasionally doing paintings. Most of my trips are actually pretty hard work.
Last spring, I promised my friend in New Jersey that I’d stop after Rye and visit her. Of course, when Rye ended, I was anxious to head back to Rochester and finish my job there. However, a non-refundable ticket is a wonderful spur to keeping one’s word.
Every year, when September and October are so warm and bright, I fall under a spell. I believe that somehow, winter will bypass us this year. Being soaked last weekend made me face reality: I cannot go any longer without warm clothes.
I have two friends who can drag me out shopping—Jane Bartlett, who is a textile designer, and this New Jersey pal, who is a retired painter. Needless to say, both of them have a great eye, because both are concerned with pattern, cut and color. New Jersey is a discount shopping mecca, and my friend was having none of my usual balking and whining about spending money.
I walked away with a new painting fleece, two merino wool sweaters, two sleeveless shells, two pairs of jeans and a white dress blouse—all for less than I paid for my rain-suit last week. St. Nicholas, patron saint of compulsive shoppers, is very, very pleased.
After shopping, we went to Sandy Hook, which is part of Gateway National Recreation Area. This is a long barrier spit of soft sand. It has a seven-mile bike path running along sand beaches, sedges marshes and scrubby woodlands. It ends at Fort Hancock.
The fort is home to the oldest working lighthouse in the United States, built in 1764 to aid mariners entering New York Harbor. It has been used by armies since the American Revolution, when it gave the British control of the approaches to New York. It was decommissioned in 1974, although many of its buildings are still used by marine-related agencies.
In most forts, Officers Row faces the Parade Grounds. At Fort Hancock, they were reversed to face the sea. Sadly, most of these turn-of-the-century buff brick buildings were horribly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Progress on repairing them has been agonizingly slow, and it seems inevitable that weather will claim them before they’re ever nailed back together again. A real pity, that.