The wheel


Column: Small Pond
Hampton Union, July 31

Becoming a better person

By Amy Kane

Against my will, I became a better person for an hour last Thursday. An involuntary Good Samaritan. It was my husband’s fault.

I wish there were more people in the world who would drop what they’re doing to help a stranger. But, I was thinking as I drove east with the morning sun in my eyes, does it have to be me right now? Before breakfast?

On Route 1A, Ocean Boulevard, just south of the North Hampton/Hampton line, my husband was zipping along on his Gary Fisher Zebrano and came across a fellow bicyclist in distress — a piece of glass had punctured his tire. My husband stopped to lend a hand. Couldn’t be fixed. So he unclipped his cell phone from his waistband and called home.

“I’m with a guy — he’s on vacation — his bike broke. Shredded his tire. I said you would give him a ride back to his rental house in Seabrook Beach. Is that OK? I’m here with him now and I’ll wait for you to get here.”

Problem one: My husband’s pickup truck, with room in the flatbed for a bike, was still hitched to the boat from last night’s fishing trip.

“Take Anna’s car. There’s room.”

Problem two: her old Volvo wagon was running on empty, as usual. The gas gauge is broken and she keeps track of mileage. “Don’t go over 200,” she mumbled sleepily. Better not risk it.

“OK,” said my husband, “bring your car and we’ll put the back seats down.”

Problem three: I don’t wanna.

I have to get dressed, brush my teeth, sort out my hair, then make small talk with somebody new. I have a story I’m working on, and a deadline. I’ve only had one cup of coffee. Drive all the way to Seabrook Beach, through crowded Hampton Beach on a perfect beach day? It wasn’t my idea to rescue some guy I don’t even know. Why should I care?

But, of course, I had to go. What kind of person would say no at this point? I imagined my husband having to turn to the guy with the shredded tire and say, “My wife says walk.”

I think we live in a place where people help each other. As a newspaper correspondent, mom and member of a community, I have sometimes been thrown onto the front lines of helpfulness. Call it peer pressure, raised awareness, following good examples — I feel like there is a standard and, mostly, I want to live up to it.

Surveys show New Hampshire ranks low in charitable giving, but I think it’s because they’re counting money not time. We give time and we give it in small, unflashy ways, to the people around us.

We coach, sort clothes for charity, build playgrounds, read to kids, visit the elderly, ladle soup at the homeless shelter, paint schools, clean cemeteries, plant flowers at the bandstand common, shovel snow, serve on boards, commissions, task forces and committees. When a tree falls on a neighbor’s yard in a storm, we arrive with chain saws and sleeves rolled up.

We are surrounded by small, often uncelebrated, acts of kindness. Some are spontaneous and immediate. Many are because somebody else got us into it. The lazy many are galvanized by the cheerful and willing few.

Later at home my husband said he was sorry he co-opted me into the morning rescue. “The guy couldn’t remember the cell phone numbers of the people he was with. And I thought you were the kind of person who would like a little adventure, meeting someone new, helping out.”

That made me think: What kind of person am I? What kind of person do I want to be?

Gary, the guy with the wounded bicycle, was from Wiscasset, Maine. He was vacationing with family and friends, including his grandchildren. We talked about beaches, places we knew, and summer vacations.

When I dropped him off, I noticed a firefighter sticker on a truck in the driveway. Maybe he was the sort of person who would help a stranger too.

Chin ups


New playground at North Hampton School
Volunteers add fitness circuit

By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — Volunteers got a workout installing a fitness circuit at the North Hampton School playground Saturday morning, beginning at 8 a.m. and finishing at noon — just before the first raindrops of a big thunderstorm.

Dads (and an uncle) in baseball caps and grubby T-shirts dug holes, poured concrete, measured and leveled the bright yellow aluminum components. Temperatures were in the 80s and the humidity made it hot and sticky work. Sometimes shovels hit large chunks of granite hidden below the surface and plans were revised.

Chin up and spring up rails, a curved balance beam, parallel bars, step-up pods, a horizontal ladder and more will now complement the school’s walking track as well as Jaguar Jungle playground.

Physical education teacher Pat Yeaton received grants for the fitness circuit, a school and community health initiative, from the Seacoast Run Pedal Paddle event last October, the Fuller Foundation, and PAL, People Active in Learning, North Hampton School’s PTO.

“People can come exercise out of doors, kids can play on the playground or work out with their parents,” said Yeaton.

Signs explain how to use the equipment and kids will learn in physical education class this fall, said Yeaton. She will also host an information night in September.

Volunteers for the Saturday installation were organized by PAL co-chairwoman Margaret Allen. She supplied refreshments, e-mailed reminders to bring shovels, sunscreen and bug spray. Allen also, along with Yeaton and co-chairwoman Kathy Scheu, rolled up her sleeves to lug bags of concrete.

“We are so excited. We worked hard to get this,” Scheu said.

Scheu said parent Victoria Kilroy was responsible for bringing the idea to PAL and Yeaton, as well as researching equipment and playground surface material.

The equipment was purchased from O’Brien & Sons in Medfield, Mass. Sales consultant and unofficial “playground builder” Joel St. Pierre was on hand to help get everything in the right place.

The playground and fitness circuit will receive a new surface Aug. 6, when a springy poured-in-place rubber surface is added. Dedication will take place at the Back to School picnic Aug. 23.

In an e-mail, Allen thanked the volunteers for their work installing the fitness circuit, calling it a “huge surprise for the kids” and a “huge gift to the community.”

Volunteers were: Mike Ambrogi, Dave Bednarek, Tim Choate, John Fenlon, Ronnie Gourgeot, Walt Havey, Xavier Kawula, Peter Philbrook, Dale Rochford, David Sarazen, Peter Scheu, Ray Sullivan, John Trott, Mike Whittier.

. . .

Also in town news today…

No. Hampton families to receive kindergarten survey

No. Hampton treasurer reports to selectmen



Turnips from the garden

The blush of purple is where the turnip grows above the ground.

I said, “Do you know what the purple reminds me of?”

Husband replied, “The inside of a quahog shell?”

“How did you know I was going to say that?”

“It seems like something you would say.”

Green grass growing in water


Boat ramp at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Massachusetts

John is backing our boat down the ramp, at 9:30 a.m. The marsh grass is reaching it’s peak of summer green. At high tide it sways with the current. The boys on bikes were speaking Russian to each other.

Off in the distance: Newburyport. This ramp gets us into a marsh creek leading (on the left) into the striper and bluefish rich waters of the Merrimack River.

We rub on the Coppertone, slap at a stray greenhead, hang on for dear life cresting waves and sloshing through wakes in the choppy river mouth between the jetties. Then we cut the engine and drift in on the still rising high tide.


Northern end of the Great Marsh

I cast for bluefish while John rigged a couple of lines for stripers. We used clams on one and herring on the other. We drifted over a bar and could see, with our polarized sunglasses, tons of sand eels and small shrimp-like creatures in the water. Terns dove around us, or bobbed on the water and dipped their beaks for shrimp snacks.

Our sandwiches, in my canvas bag, were flat and warm by the time we ate them.

No fishing luck, except for a sea robin for John and a skate for me. When you flip the skate to the pale underbody, you see it has a mouth eerily like a human and there’s the hook through its lip. Sometimes I don’t like catching things I’m not going to eat.

Back on the ramp some guys said they didn’t have much luck either. They thought the recent heavy rains affected the fishing – too much freshwater coming down the river maybe. Still, a beautiful summer day on the water and that’s a catch.

Water temps were 60 to 65. The air was warm and humid and blossoming with cumulus clouds.

. . .

Dear sister Ann, I picked six cups of wild blueberries from our yard this afternoon and started the liqueur.

I macerated some of the berries and put the rest whole into the Skyy vodka. It’s in the fridge and I will shake it now and then for three months. Strain and add sugar syrup to taste on Oct. 29. Let age for one more month. Sip essence of summer’s best berries in December.

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

– Henry James

Pie chart


Summer is a blueberry pie; I left it on the windowsill to cool and now it’s half gone.

Kids finished school 6 weeks ago and are off to high school and college in just 5. My 4 least favorite words in the English language: back to school shopping. In 3 weeks, high school preseason soccer starts. In 2 weeks, UNH fall tuition is due. Countdown to good-bye summer.

In one way I have made better use of my summertime than in the past. I have not watched one minute of television since early June. And I haven’t missed it at all.

I’ve watched Netflix rentals, been to the movies a couple of times, but mostly read books and magazines, surfed the ‘net to satisfy curiosity, blogged, and squeezed in time between newspaper pieces to write a magazine article which will appear in the September issue of New Hampshire magazine.

This guy is making really good use of his tv-free time…

How Dumping TV Allowed Me to Quit My Job, Create an Online Business and Fund My Retirement Account

It’s amazing the amount you can accomplish when you find an extra 3,285 hours to work on something you enjoy doing rather than vegging in front of the TV.

. . .

Here is a young man making very good use of his time and Typepad blogging: William Kamkwamba’s Malawi Windmill Blog

Pond life





Snapped around 5:45 p.m. out back. Weather rather pleasant after all. Sultry but not stifling.

Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by someone I do not know…. I admire lolling on a lawn by a water-lilied pond to eat white currants and see goldfish: and go to the fair in the evening if I’m good. There is not hope for that—one is sure to get into some mess before evening.

– John Keats (1795–1821), British poet. Letter, August 28, 1819, to his sister Fanny Keats.

Invasive species Jabberwocky

Beware the Mitten Crab, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Rock Snot, and shun
The frumious Water Chestnut!

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

Update 7/27: Scientists search Hampton Harbor for invasive species

Beautiful, but dangerous
Invader organisms threaten marine life

Art Mathieson, a seaweed specialist from the University of New Hampshire, held up a 3-foot-long strand of native seaweed as if he had caught a trophy-winning bass. The strand was beautiful, with brilliant shades of orange and red, but the bright colors were a bad sign, a symptom of invasion.